Ever since November 9, 2019; all eyes have been on Stadia, Google’s streaming-based games service. A service that promised so much in its earlier iteration as Project Stream, the global coverage on Stadia was all but negative and shrouded in a mist of disapproval so thick that even the most optimistic gamer would stay away.
As we all re-evaluate our hype and enthusiasm and balance our collective disappointments, it is necessary to take a step back and examine the Stadia’s launch in its entirety. In principle, the idea of streaming games on the cloud where the computing happens on remote servers such that gamers don’t need to be concerned about their hardware is an industry-changing development.
Gaming has always been a power-hungry activity as the latest and greatest games often need the best hardware in order to run optimally, separating this requirement from the experience is almost like traveling fast without an automobile. Stadia is a service that hopes to achieve the same someday and greatness unlike merely goodness always takes time, patience and perseverance.
However, what services like Stadia want to accomplish isn’t a radically novel thought either. Platforms like Adobe or even the simple Google Docs achieve the same on a daily basis but most of them do so on a bandwidth far less than running a flagship game without the necessary hardware. While Project Stream ran smoothly in the testing phase with a single game that had no multiplayer components, Stadia was simply trying to accomplish too much in less than a year.
The catalogue of games, the discrepancy in internet service is just too many for Stadia to have been anything but disappointing at launch.My concerns with the platform however don’t just stop with the dropping of frame rates, or the failure to deliver 4K gaming consistently. The central premise of gaming on the cloud implies that inputted data is now not only just transmitted across the server but is now recorded, translated and factored in before a possible output for every in-game action.
Something that compounds several-fold in multiplayer games, almost re-defining gaming as we know it because where a player’s act ends and where AI or the cloud’s computing takes over will be difficult to ascertain. Services like Stadia in a way are likely to push the boundaries of what human-compute interface can achieve.
It could be quite possible not too far away into the future to map how a player plays a game and correspond it with their level of skill so that replicating their style and approach to play will enable a bot to takeover when he/she disconnects suddenly. However, is that something we need; and make gaming as an act more mechanical is a question we all need to ask ourselves.