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post #1 of 19 Old 05-03-2014, 12:43 PM - Thread Starter
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In an exclusive report, Reuters says Comcast seeks to stream video games from Electronic Arts' catalog to customers via it's cloud-enabled X1 cable box. 

 

Could a partnership between EA and Comcast succeed in bringing on-demand streaming games to cable TV subscribers?

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"After two years of testing, Comcast and EA, are close to reaching an agreement to stream video games such as "FIFA" and "Madden," into the living rooms of some of Comcast's more-than 22 million customers across the United States, said the sources, who declined to speak publicly before a deal had been struck." – Reuters

 

Comcast's move comes on the heels of Amazon's new Fire TV, a platform that adds robust support for gaming to the usual mix of content streaming apps found on similar set-top boxes. Apple is widely expected to add gaming to its Apple TV product. Furthermore, Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox 1 both enjoyed better-than-expected initial sales. Even with all the new hardware on the market, software sales have lagged for EA—one of the largest video game publishers in the world. 

 

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"For Electronic Arts, a deal with Comcast could represent an important new revenue opportunity. The video game industry has yet to see a sustained recovery in sagging software sales despite robust hardware sales driven by the November launches of Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 consoles." - Reuters

 

With its commanding lead as the nation' top cable and Internet provider, is it possible that Comcast can carve a profitable slice out of the online gaming pie? 


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post #2 of 19 Old 05-04-2014, 07:28 AM
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I'm surprised by the fact there is no mention of Steam boxes or Sony's Playstation Now service, which will allow owners of new Sony displays to rent or purchase a wide variety of Playstation games and play them without the need of a separate console. Obviously, the games will not be up to PS4/Xboxone standards, but then neither are the games on devices like Amazon's FireTV and Roku players. My guess is that the same will be true of the games that will be available to play on Comcast's X1 operating system and the new AppleTV.

Personally, I'm not sure that there is enough room for all of the different players fighting over this emerging low-end gaming demographic. I have a feeling that several of these low-end gaming platforms will not survive more than a year or two.
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post #3 of 19 Old 05-04-2014, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post

I'm surprised by the fact there is no mention of Steam boxes or Sony's Playstation Now service, which will allow owners of new Sony displays to rent or purchase a wide variety of Playstation games and play them without the need of a separate console. Obviously, the games will not be up to PS4/Xboxone standards, but then neither are the games on devices like Amazon's FireTV and Roku players. My guess is that the same will be true of the games that will be available to play on Comcast's X1 operating system and the new AppleTV.

Personally, I'm not sure that there is enough room for all of the different players fighting over this emerging low-end gaming demographic. I have a feeling that several of these low-end gaming platforms will not survive more than a year or two.

 

It's not clear to me if what Comcast is proposing has much to do with running "lightweight" or low-end games on a set-top box. From what I gather, it will operate similarly to Gaikai, with two-way streaming to servers that run the games. If true, there's no limit to what games could run on the system.


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post #4 of 19 Old 05-04-2014, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
 

 

It's not clear to me if what Comcast is proposing has much to do with running "lightweight" or low-end games on a set-top box. From what I gather, it will operate similarly to Gaikai, with two-way streaming to servers that run the games. If true, there's no limit to what games could run on the system.

 

Yep. One of the initial selling points of streaming games was that you'd be able to playing super high end games without having to lay out $2000 for a gaming rig.  

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post #5 of 19 Old 05-04-2014, 10:12 AM
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You are OBSESSED with streaming.
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post #6 of 19 Old 05-04-2014, 10:20 AM
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LOL. I can't even play EA's Battlefield 4 multiplayer without rubber banding. Good luck with that.
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post #7 of 19 Old 05-04-2014, 10:22 AM - Thread Starter
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LOL. I can't even play EA's Battlefield 4 multiplayer without rubber banding. Good luck with that.

 

Actually streaming games should have less issues with rubber-banding because players with slow connections won't be a weak link, since the gameplay would all occur on a server—not on distributed systems.


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post #8 of 19 Old 05-04-2014, 10:48 AM
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Wow, two of my FAVORITE things, Comcast and EA!
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post #9 of 19 Old 05-05-2014, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by bd2003 View Post
 

 

Yep. One of the initial selling points of streaming games was that you'd be able to playing super high end games without having to lay out $2000 for a gaming rig.  

 

At this point in time, streaming graphics quality is no where near what you could get out of a $2000 gaming rig, so if that is your point of comparison, you should forget about streaming and pay the $2000.  If you check out the FAQ on Gaikai's (now owned by Sony) website, and various other articles on the subject, they are pretty clear that the graphical quality will be comparable to PS3 at best (i.e. a $300 game console).  While their game servers are likely capable of processing the graphics at higher resolutions without any problems, getting those graphics to you without significant latency is still a concern.

 

Unlike pre-recorded video, which is often stored in a compressed format ready to stream on demand, video game graphics are rendered in real time.  If the game runs at 1080/60p (assuming 8-bit 4:2:0), we are talking about a bit rate of 1.49 Gbps (Gigabits per second) or 186.62 MBps (Megabytes per second) uncompressed.  Obviously, the vast majority of people do not have a fast enough internet connection to support this, so the video then needs to be compressed in real time by the servers.  High quality compression can reduce that to a more realistic 5 MBps without significant loss of detail (think iTunes/Vudu HDX quality) but to do so takes time.  We're talking about video games here, so time is a luxury we don't have.  Gaikai claims to be able to reach that magical 5 MBps bandwidth requirement without significant latency, however, they admit that they had to resort to a quick and dirty job as far as the compression goes.  You will see compression artifacts in the video.  Also, like video streaming services, the resolution of the video will often times be below 1080p.  I imagine that they will make use of the same technology video streaming services use for detecting the ISP bandwidth and latency from the server to the client and adjust the graphical quality for optimal performance.  Another thing to keep in mind, unlike video streaming servers, game streaming cannot make effective use of a buffer to prevent temporary hickups from affecting your game play, as this would mean introducing significant latency between the time you press a button on the controller and the time you see the result of your action.  Even more critically, it would result in a delay between the time something actually happens in the game and the time when you see it.  By the time you see what is happening and try to react, you are already dead.

 

Like anything else, I expect there to be some issues when these services go live.  For games where latency is not a major concern (i.e. turn-based games), they could probably boost the graphical quality up a few notches without much trouble.  For twitch reflex type games (i.e. FPS, sports games, etc.), the graphics will likely have to degraded from what you would get if you actually played the same game on a $300 console in your own house.

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post #10 of 19 Old 05-05-2014, 08:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
 

 

Actually streaming games should have less issues with rubber-banding because players with slow connections won't be a weak link, since the gameplay would all occur on a server—not on distributed systems.

 

While technically this is accurate, it does not mean that there will not be other issues as a result of latency/lag between the server and the client's PC/console.

 

Rubber-banding occurs when there is a mismatch in the data between the client's PC/console and the server hosting the game.  Because the client's PC/console is rendering the graphics and processing some of the game's mechanics, your avatar will appear to move and initiate actions on your screen despite a momentary instance of lag.  However, because the client and server are out of sync, once the data is received by the server and the results of your actions are reported back to you, you may find that the PC/NPC you were interacting with was not actually where you thought it was.

 

In the case of streaming game-play, the graphics are rendered on the server side, so all your game platform (whether that be a console, set-top box, or even the display itself) is doing is receiving and displaying video as well as acting as an interface between your controller and the server the game is being hosted on.  Therefore, it is impossible to see something on your screen that has not already been processed by the server.  Latency or lag is still certainly possible.  In fact, it is likely to be even more of an issue since streaming video uses more bandwidth than the fairly limited amount of data being passed back and forth between the client and server in an online game for which the graphics are rendered on the client's side.  It would merely be manifested differently.  Instead of rubber banding, lag will result in choppy video where the frame rate could drop down into single digits.

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post #11 of 19 Old 05-05-2014, 09:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
 

 

Actually streaming games should have less issues with rubber-banding because players with slow connections won't be a weak link, since the gameplay would all occur on a server—not on distributed systems.

 

While technically this is accurate, it does not mean that there will not be other issues as a result of latency/lag between the server and the client's PC/console.

 

Rubber-banding occurs when there is a mismatch in the data between the client's PC/console and the server hosting the game.  Because the client's PC/console is rendering the graphics and processing some of the game's mechanics, your avatar will appear to move and initiate actions on your screen despite a momentary instance of lag.  However, because the client and server are out of sync, once the data is received by the server and the results of your actions are reported back to you, you may find that the PC/NPC you were interacting with was not actually where you thought it was.

 

In the case of streaming game-play, the graphics are rendered on the server side, so all your game platform (whether that be a console, set-top box, or even the display itself) is doing is receiving and displaying video as well as acting as an interface between your controller and the server the game is being hosted on.  Therefore, it is impossible to see something on your screen that has not already been processed by the server.  Latency or lag is still certainly possible.  In fact, it is likely to be even more of an issue since streaming video uses more bandwidth than the fairly limited amount of data being passed back and forth between the client and server in an online game for which the graphics are rendered on the client's side.  It would merely be manifested differently.  Instead of rubber banding, lag will result in choppy video where the frame rate could drop down into single digits.

 

That's assuming Comcast tries to do this over the public Internet, my guess is it is not going to be the case. There is still very little outgoing data, and the incoming video will play like an on-demand movie from Comcast—running through Comcast's cable pipeline.


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post #12 of 19 Old 05-05-2014, 09:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post
 

 

That's assuming Comcast tries to do this over the public Internet, my guess is it is not going to be the case. There is still very little outgoing data, and the incoming video will play like an on-demand movie from Comcast—running through Comcast's cable pipeline.

 

As you mention, Comcast does have somewhat of an unfair advantage over other game streaming services in that they can prioritize their game streaming traffic, or even separate it from internet traffic completely by giving it its own bandwidth along the cable running to your house.

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post #13 of 19 Old 05-05-2014, 01:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post

That's assuming Comcast tries to do this over the public Internet, my guess is it is not going to be the case. There is still very little outgoing data, and the incoming video will play like an on-demand movie from Comcast—running through Comcast's cable pipeline.

The problem with streaming games goes beyond just the internet delay, there's also the video encoding and decoding to deal with. There's creative solutions to those problems though. Some games are more suited for it than others, and fast paced multiplayer is at the very bottom of the list.

I think we're still quite far from it being an adequate replacement for most gamers, but it'll get there eventually.

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post #14 of 19 Old 05-07-2014, 09:05 PM
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COMCAST already offers fast internet speeds in most areas, Many don't even realize they have services like 100/50 down/up because they don't advertise it much and the costs are higher. I am pretty sure that if an ISP as big as Comcast wanted to make sure there was enough bandwidth for gaming they could make it happen without much effort. Why criticize the effort without any data it won't work or will suck ? I personally hate comcast, not super huge fan of EA either. These are two perenial winners of most of the "most hated companies" lists by consumers in their market segments, and actually any market segment. But I am still inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I read this story and thought "that's kind of cool"

I am not sure why the reaction would be, or should be so negative. I'm a gamer and a PC guy too. I have a nice PC rig, but I see no reason to just put the hate on autopilot here guys. Let's wait to exclaim that.

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post #15 of 19 Old 05-10-2014, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post

I'm surprised by the fact there is no mention of Steam boxes or Sony's Playstation Now service, which will allow owners of new Sony displays to rent or purchase a wide variety of Playstation games and play them without the need of a separate console. Obviously, the games will not be up to PS4/Xboxone standards, but then neither are the games on devices like Amazon's FireTV and Roku players. My guess is that the same will be true of the games that will be available to play on Comcast's X1 operating system and the new AppleTV.

Personally, I'm not sure that there is enough room for all of the different players fighting over this emerging low-end gaming demographic. I have a feeling that several of these low-end gaming platforms will not survive more than a year or two.

Agreed, Just look at past low end console attempts like the Ouya, Gamestick, Mojo and Zeebo, all have failed miserably. Same goes for all of the game streaming services, because the public internet is too slow and the latency is to high.

 

The only way streaming works well is the way Valve is doing it for SteamOS, which is streaming locally across your home network so that you can use a small fanless HTPC frontend system in the living room that connects back to your 1kW drawing 8 core, quad GPU behemoth in the basement so you don't have to hear it rev it's engines for takeoff every time you an to play a game. Over a 1Gbit home network it's the same as if you where playing on the big rig, without having to be in the same room with it.

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post #16 of 19 Old 05-10-2014, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by intok View Post
 

Agreed, Just look at past low end console attempts like the Ouya, Gamestick, Mojo and Zeebo, all have failed miserably. Same goes for all of the game streaming services, because the public internet is too slow and the latency is to high.

 

The only way streaming works well is the way Valve is doing it for SteamOS, which is streaming locally across your home network so that you can use a small fanless HTPC frontend system in the living room that connects back to your 1kW drawing 8 core, quad GPU behemoth in the basement so you don't have to hear it rev it's engines for takeoff every time you an to play a game. Over a 1Gbit home network it's the same as if you where playing on the big rig, without having to be in the same room with it.

 

Even that had more lag than I was comfortable with. A few long HDMI runs solved that. Instead of spending all this money on consoles and PCs for every room, I just put it all into one mega PC and serve multiple rooms.


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post #17 of 19 Old 05-10-2014, 11:22 AM
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Eh, I already had most of what I needed in place for it, just switched to a 9w draw AMD Kabini APU system for $30.

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post #18 of 19 Old 05-10-2014, 01:03 PM
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Eh, I already had most of what I needed in place for it, just switched to a 9w draw AMD Kabini APU system for $30.

Did they work out most of the kinks? I haven't tried it in a while. Does it work with non steam games?

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post #19 of 19 Old 05-11-2014, 02:07 AM
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It's still in beta, so theres still many kinks to hammer out.

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