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Microsoft xCloud Game Streaming - now powered by Series X


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Just now, rafaqat said:

 

Yup. Can't believe that's literally the only form factor they're going to allow for streaming.  Madness!

 

Don’t worry they’re supporting the iPad Pro 12.9” too, it’s being bundled with a special xCounterweight.

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7 hours ago, MattyP said:

As network speeds increase all the the time

 

Bandwidth will keep increasing (albeit very slowly in some regions), but latency will never be as good as we'd like for this. There's simply too much contention now as so many are online these days; too many foreign hops for any company to overcome alone. My half-meg ping times were as good as my 60Mb pings today.

 

That said, I don't think anyone's against this as a complement to home consoles. And if Sony or Microsoft did go all-in, they'd do so with the door left open. As for the tech, I'd like localised inputs as a minimum, even though that'd cause discrepancies with the visuals at times. Your device'd have to be strong enough to run whatever you control natively, and I'm sure there are lots of other problems I haven't thought about.

 

Games already stream data, and if a disc-read's slow enough for us to notice pop-up occasionally... But for portable gaming on any old cheap tablet or laptop (at the right price), sure. Gaikai's ten years old, though, and hasn't been able to jump the latency hurdle in that time. Throwing more bandwidth at it isn't a solution.

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Seems nice, but need to see it in practice. Slick adverts made the old Kinect look cool and responsive and the actual unit was anything but. That said if MS have pulled it off and one can play games with XBox One S style graphics on any sort of android device, could be a very big deal.  

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I watched the trailer on Eurogamer and you can see how they play Halo on a phone and tablet. The tablet controls are on-screen, so is this then up to the developers to fine-tune game controls for all sorts of devices? If so that might never work. Even Sony's PS4/Vita remote play was quite an exclusive thing...

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10 hours ago, Escaped said:

Bandwidth will keep increasing (albeit very slowly in some regions), but latency will never be as good as we'd like for this. There's simply too much contention now as so many are online these days; too many foreign hops for any company to overcome alone. My half-meg ping times were as good as my 60Mb pings today.

 

That strikes me as very unusual, regardless - network latency isn't really the issue - fibre pings are generally under 10ms to a nearby server which is more than acceptable for gaming. My understanding is the main issue lies with the latency inherent in encoding video which is fixed at 3 frames (100ms at 30fps). This is far from ideal for most shooters and racing games. 

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7 minutes ago, petrolgirls said:

 

That strikes me as very unusual, regardless - network latency isn't really the issue - fibre pings are generally under 10ms to a nearby server which is more than acceptable for gaming. My understanding is the main issue lies with the latency inherent in encoding video which is fixed at 3 frames (100ms at 30fps). This is far from ideal for most shooters and racing games. 

I thought MS was working on something other than just sending video - something like running a lightweight version of the game locally and streaming the results of more complex stuff that is computed remotely?

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12 minutes ago, Pob said:

I thought MS was working on something other than just sending video - something like running a lightweight version of the game locally and streaming the results of more complex stuff that is computed remotely?

 

Yes but they still need to encode the additional remote footage which incurs a minimum 3 frame penalty. There doesn't seem a way round that. 

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I can't see this working out for certain game types, obviously. 

 

The problem for those of us who see response time as an issue is how successful this could be. 

 

If the majority of the games business revenue goes to streaming services, will the remaining slice of the pie be big enough to support the games that don't play well on streaming services?

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3 hours ago, petrolgirls said:

 

Yes but they still need to encode the additional remote footage which incurs a minimum 3 frame penalty. There doesn't seem a way round that. 

 

Im going to need some help to understand all of this, but apparently they havent revealed all aspects of the tech yet. Something about predictive algorhithms and interpolation of 'big data' in the xcloud.

 

The old thread on this has resurfaced since this new information, maybe someone smarter than I can make sense of it.

 

Sounds like they have some way to mask the latency? I have a ping of around 35-50 ms when playing any multiplayer game from home - if they could bring the streaming latency down to around 75 ms +- I would be happy with that.

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https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2018-project-xcloud-can-microsoft-make-a-streaming-platform-that-works

 

On latency:

 

Quote

So how can xCloud improve on existing streaming technology? Firstly, the implication seems to be that Microsoft has respun the Xbox One S silicon to facilitate lower latency access to the framebuffer. This allows Microsoft to grab the latest video data as quickly as possible before beaming it out over the internet. Systems like Nvidia GeForce Now and Blade's Shadow already do this. Microsoft's video also talks about new video encoding and decoding techniques, but fundamentally these will be based on standard formats - h.264 and HEVC being the most likely - in order to retain compatibility with phones, tablets and indeed smart TVs (hardware over which Microsoft has no control). There are latency savings to be made by scraping the framebuffer sooner, and video encoding speed is far faster than it was in the OnLive days. In theory at least, these two aspects of the process should be much faster than they were.

 

Beyond the servers themselves, Microsoft is banking on the sheer vastness of its infrastructure to reduce latency further. With its Azure set-up covering 54 regions and 140 countries, the Xbox cloud is indeed 'uniquely positioned', as Phil Spencer puts it. In terms of shaving off the milliseconds and ensuring a good experience for the majority of users, the amount of datacentres and where they are located is key - reducing the proximity between server and user is likely to be Microsoft's 'secret weapon' here. Only Amazon and Google can really compare in terms of the sheer amount of datacentre hardware it has out there.

 

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Yeah it's an exciting space at the moment. I'm glad Amazon are seeing some serious competition.

 

4 hours ago, Wahwah* said:

If the majority of the games business revenue goes to streaming services, will the remaining slice of the pie be big enough to support the games that don't play well on streaming services?

 

It'll be interesting to see how popular this actually is. If Sony and Microsoft both announce their new consoles and they end up being quite expensive, but bring a paradigm shift in terms of capabilities, I can see the offer of streaming being quite persuasive for a lot of people. Keep your existing console, pay £15 a month or whatever (if the consoles are £400+ and the games £60+ then that's quite a value proposition), and play the new games on it. This is with the caveat that I don't see how streaming can support VR, shooters, MOBAs, etc well - even in countries with great fibre rollout. I can see it being niche at the start of the next generation and local gaming being the norm, but the situation reversing over the next decade. No-ones preferred way of gaming is being threatened I don't think though, more choice is usually a good thing. I'll celebrate anything that can lower levels of e-waste too.

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22 hours ago, JPL said:

Yeah, this is the same thing that you thought would enable Sony to 'check-mate' MS the other day.

 

Sony's solution to streaming their games:

 

Quote

 

Sony's engineers were able to mitigate both issues by shrinking the equivalent of eight PS3s onto a single motherboard, housed in a slimline server cabinet.

 

The second reason for the all-new PlayStation 3 server design is that it allows Sony to make hardware changes to the PS3 configuration that claw back a few vital milliseconds here and there to lower end-to-end latency.

 

 

Compared to the Microsoft solution to streaming their games:

 

Quote

We’ve enabled compatibility with existing and future Xbox games by building out custom hardware for our datacenters that leverages our years of console and platform experience. We’ve architected a new customizable blade that can host the component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles, as well as the associated infrastructure supporting it.

 

Spot the massive difference. Though I didn't realise people actually thought PSNow needed to be countered in the first place, given the lack of discussion or marketing of it by Sony.

 

As to your dig, how much do you want to bet that Sony aren't planning to counter one of the few Microsoft USPs that some people think is a killer app?

 

 

22 hours ago, TehStu said:

So this lends credibility to the much earlier thing about the "Scarlett" devices, which suggested a streaming only console as well as a standard console. 

 

The xCloud seems slightly separate from the claims made for Project Scarlett, as that is meant to make streaming games better, which the xCloud alone cannot do as none of the target devices shown so far have any latency lowering special sauce.

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12 minutes ago, mushashi said:

As to your dig, how much do you want to bet that Sony aren't planning to counter one of the few Microsoft USPs that some people think is a killer app?

It wasn’t a dig really. It was more that you seemed excited that Sony had announced some game changing tech, when MS have been talking about it for ages.

 

I’m not really sure what the differences are from your examples there either, but it seems like they’re both exploring similar avenues. I would say that MS are probably better positioned to deliver on it though, because of their infrastructure. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out either way.

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46 minutes ago, mushashi said:

Spot the massive difference. Though I didn't realise people actually thought PSNow needed to be countered in the first place, given the lack of discussion or marketing of it by Sony.

 

Any sort of lead is helpful though. I think this is the sort of market where you want to be there when it's niche, sorting out the teething issues, before it hits massmarket scale and is impossible to compete in without investing billions upfront.

 

It's going to be interesting, each company has a number of different competitive advantages. Microsoft already have a massive cloud platform, with customers who will still want to pay to use all this gaming hardware when it is not being used by gamers, so there is little risk to them if they invest massively. Sony have much better IP though (indeed it seems they're more about content than hardware these days), and any streaming service without exclusive games will be easily undercut by competitors. Where are Valve in all this? I can't help but think that their attempts to reduce their reliance on Windows and Microsoft is laying the groundwork for a move into this area. Being able to launch games streamed from the cloud within the Steam client would be fantastic, and it seems to me that they already have a lot of the parts in place. They need to get a move on though, other companies are already offering similar services and they could get left behind.

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The whole PS Now thing has been a damp squib anyhow, regardless of how well it worked technically. I get the impression it's more an albatross around their neck than some sort of head start. And their latest wheeze is for you to just download the games.

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1 minute ago, SozzlyJoe said:

The whole PS Now thing has been a damp squib anyhow, regardless of how well it worked technically. I get the impression it's more an albatross around their neck than some sort of head start. And their latest wheeze is for you to just download the games.

The ones that are already available to buy and download on PS4, or does that also work with PS3 stuff? Just curious, I haven't tried the Now service since it launched.

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Just now, TehStu said:

The ones that are already available to buy and download on PS4, or does that also work with PS3 stuff? Just curious, I haven't tried the Now service since it launched.

 

Just the PS4 stuff. So it's kind of going like Netflix in reverse, turning from streaming to renting. I expect they'll offer to post you out disks next!

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I don't really understand this focus on streaming games from everyone. Everyone thought home consoles were dead at the start of this gen, so I'd sort of understand why they'd investigate it, but then both PS4 and Xbox have sold shit tons. Are there realistically people who want to pay £x a month to stream games, but don't want to have a console and have great internet? It seems an odd sector to go for.

 

I sort of get why a Google might look at it, but not that actual console firms. Just make a decent console and market it well.

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