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I've been chatting to the founders of Parsec, a new game streaming service that allows you to stream games from any cloud machine to your desktop. They just released Linux support and apparently it even works on streaming to a Raspberry Pi.

You might remember I checked out another recently called Snoost, but I was sadly left unimpressed as it just didn't work properly.

I actually love the idea of game streaming services. As a fan of TV/Movie/Music streaming and a subscriber to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Google Play Music I can certainly appreciate the appeal for games as well. Running a game your computer perhaps cannot handle or from a different operating system (like Windows games for us) is certainly an interesting and useful idea. Sadly, it never usually works well. Enter Parsec, which has genuinely blown me away.

Note: The actual Parsec client is free to use, you only pay for the cloud hosting at whatever provider you want.

It works by streaming games from services like Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud, their partner Paperspace and others. It seems they will also launch their own managed service for the actual hosting of the PC that does the rendering for you, but that's not open to the public right now. Although, if you own a Windows license, you can actually host a server yourself too at home.

It uses a Windows host machine, with clients connecting from Linux, Mac or Windows to it. I appreciate plenty of you won't be interested, especially considering the host machine is Windows, but for me it's actually quite exciting tech. I'm a tech enthusiast who loves Linux, not a Linux zealot, so using things like this doesn't massively bother me. I'm not about to go and buy a bunch of Windows games to play in it, but I find it very cool anyway. For those of you who have some Windows games you really can't be without or various other reasons this just might be your thing.

Note: One drawback to how Parsec works, is that it requires games to be in Windowed or Fullscreen Windowed Mode for it to work properly. Some games can be a little tricky to get into those modes, so certain games may have issues.

What I really like about this service, other than the fact that you can use plenty of different cloud hosting providers is that it's not tied to Steam, like Snoost is. It will work with Blizzard, Steam, Origin and pretty much anything.

Another highlight of this service is that multiple people can connect to the same cloud server, so you could potentially split the cost with a friend, or play a game that only has local multiplayer with a friend in a different location.

The developers set up an Amazon AWS instance for me to play with for a while, so play I did, and play some more and some more and so on. I was utterly amazed at just how buttery smooth the experience was. I played Overwatch, on Linux, without feeling like there was a drawback.

You can read more about the technology behind Parsec in this detailed blog post by the developers. They tell me a lot has changed since then, but that should give you a reasonable idea.

Here's a short video to show you that it really does work:

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I really need a mousepad, my mouse keeps sticking to the desk making FPS games a nuisance.

You might notice a slight bit of blurring, which can be adjusted. They have some advanced settings you can manually adjust like a "Encoder Video Output Quality" option which auto adjusts based on your network, but you can set it manually for a super clear picture. I tried adjusting it manually myself and it seemed to work fine with an ultra clear picture too.

I also enlisted the help of our streamer, who happens to dual boot for the sole purpose of playing Overwatch. They tried out a game and loved it, to quote "I'm impressed, it really works! I would actually pay for this to not have Windows!". Well, that's pretty high praise.

The problem is as always though, pricing. All providers I looked up for the actual cloud hosting weren't exactly cheap. When you take into account you're buying the games, then paying the hourly fee for your time spent connected to your live server then it can end up costing a bit. Since you can run your own server for Parsec, that might not be an issue for everyone. Pricing is gradually coming down, since competition is increasing in this space.

Interesting stuff, but personally I have too many Linux-native games as it is to enjoy with my time. However, hopefully some of you found this interesting. It was certainly fun to give it a try and tinker with it. Check out the Parsec official website if you're interested in more.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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48 comments
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Mal 24 May, 2017
  • Supporter
The streaming concept is cool. But this implementation is not very interesting for me.

The formula that makes streaming services popular is pay a monthly fee in exchange to the access to a vast library. Get the service without the hassles. Sony does it for instance.

This implementation is instead a pure desktop hosting service. Not dissimilar to the AWS we use for CI at my office. And whilst at work is very good to have control on the environment since ti gives you power, at home if I pay for a service I expect it to remove some hassles or other costs. But here I have to buy my game licenses, install them and (very bad) I have to buy a windows license as well. I'm basically exposed to all windows flaws and limitations and I'm even paying a fee for that. The only advantage is that I don't have to invest in hardware but for me this is still a weak formula. I would not dump my current rig for this.

The only use case I find for myself is when I'm travelling around the globe. But even in that case some Netflix is sufficient and probably more reliable (you never now the WIFI you find).
Liam Dawe 24 May, 2017
Quoting: Samsai
Quoting: DolusThe streaming itself is functionally DRM. Not to get all Stallmanist about the matter, but if you're running things from the cloud, and it's not your cloud, it's basically an unbreakable form of DRM.
You need to have access to those games before you can play them with Parsec, so I just don't see the point you are trying to make. You could download a bunch of GOG games onto the cloud PC and your DRM-free access to those games doesn't just disappear. Plus, regarding the "your cloud" thing I quote the following from this very article:

QuoteSince you can run your own server for Parsec...
This.

Dolus you're confusing terms here.

You "own" the games, that's all there is to it. They are the same games you can install locally as you can on the cloud install. It is not even remotely a form of DRM. Don't spread FUD.
Maki 24 May, 2017
Quoting: MalThe streaming concept is cool. But this implementation is not very interesting for me.

The formula that makes streaming services popular is pay a monthly fee in exchange to the access to a vast library. Get the service without the hassles. Sony does it for instance.

This implementation is instead a pure desktop hosting service. Not dissimilar to the AWS we use for CI at my office. And whilst at work is very good to have control on the environment since ti gives you power, at home if I pay for a service I expect it to remove some hassles or other costs. But here I have to buy my game licenses, install them and (very bad) I have to buy a windows license as well. I'm basically exposed to all windows flaws and limitations and I'm even paying a fee for that. The only advantage is that I don't have to invest in hardware but for me this is still a weak formula. I would not dump my current rig for this.

The only use case I find for myself is when I'm travelling around the globe. But even in that case some Netflix is sufficient and probably more reliable (you never now the WIFI you find).
I think the cloud service you may want to use for Parsec handles the Windows environment licensing on the cloud side...?


Last edited by Maki on 24 May 2017 at 2:25 pm UTC
tosemusername 24 May, 2017
Quoting: liamdawe
Quoting: bubexelResume: you rent a computer with windows to play with latency....
So stupid...
I bet people said similair stuff about music/tv/movie streaming, now they're massively popular.
I scrolled down to the comments to see if anyone had already mentioned what liamdawe did, and created an account to point out that what you said is, I'm sorry, kind of ridiculous, especially because of the game choice for the demonstration. This comment clearly shows that you probably don't play competitive games, and definitely not competitive FPS's. Or perhaps you do, but not seriously or you suck at them. Dismissing potential net and input latency issues really makes it hard to take you seriously.
I won't say that it's completely stupid like liamdawe did, but it's a really tough sell. For every benefit it provides, there are better and often easier ways.
Nanobang 24 May, 2017
Quoting: liamdawe
Quoting: bubexelResume: you rent a computer with windows to play with latency....
So stupid...
I bet people said similair stuff about music/tv/movie streaming, now they're massively popular.

While I wouldn't go so far as bubexel and say Parsec or the user is "stupid," I can't see it as a very worthwhile option, not over time at any rate.

Please, correct me if I misunderstand how Parsec works; I'm trying to suss out the "wow" factor here. So, it sounds like Parsec is simply a streaming service from one machine (virtual in the cloud, or physical) to another. Like the Steam Link, but over the internet, right? Also, unlike Netflix et al., Parsec isn't a simple, easy-to-use, point-choose-click-play sort of service.

Quoting: liamdawe... with my average game time over say 30 hours a month. A cloud provider would cost around $17 a month for one that handles the games properly from one of the services.


$17 per month for 30+ hours of gaming seems like a reasonable price, but there's simply not much of a service there. I would save that payment, plus the money on what ever Windows games I'd been wanting to play, and build a reasonably priced Windows machine ... I can't imagine the quality would be worse than playing over the internet. And I could upgrade a Windows machine over time, whereas I'm already paying for my area's fastest (yet still crappy) dsl service, which isn't going to get better any time soon.

All that said, It's an interesting idea. We are still in the infancy age of the Internet, and things like this are going to become ever more common and accessible over time, I'm sure.
Zelox 24 May, 2017
Omg parsec + gog games = ❤️❤️❤️
No need to use the steam client to be able to stream gog games :)
Salvatos 24 May, 2017
Quoting: liamdawe
Quoting: Samsai
Quoting: DolusThe streaming itself is functionally DRM. Not to get all Stallmanist about the matter, but if you're running things from the cloud, and it's not your cloud, it's basically an unbreakable form of DRM.
You need to have access to those games before you can play them with Parsec, so I just don't see the point you are trying to make. You could download a bunch of GOG games onto the cloud PC and your DRM-free access to those games doesn't just disappear. Plus, regarding the "your cloud" thing I quote the following from this very article:

QuoteSince you can run your own server for Parsec...
This.

Dolus you're confusing terms here.

You "own" the games, that's all there is to it. They are the same games you can install locally as you can on the cloud install. It is not even remotely a form of DRM. Don't spread FUD.
I think the point Dolus is trying to make is that if your ability to play games depends on the cloud server, whoever controls the server, or your ability to connect to it, controls your ability to play and can monitor your activity. Server down? No games. Provider goes out of business? No games. Provider increases prices? Pay up or find a new provider. I wouldn't call it DRM, but it's true you're giving up on some of the agency you have when you install software on your own hardware. However since you still own the game licenses independently and you can host your own cloud or switch servers anytime, I don't really have an issue with it myself. Though I still wouldn't use it because renting a Windows system totally defeats the purpose for me.
Liam Dawe 24 May, 2017
Quoting: tosemusername
Quoting: liamdawe
Quoting: bubexelResume: you rent a computer with windows to play with latency....
So stupid...
I bet people said similair stuff about music/tv/movie streaming, now they're massively popular.
I scrolled down to the comments to see if anyone had already mentioned what liamdawe did, and created an account to point out that what you said is, I'm sorry, kind of ridiculous, especially because of the game choice for the demonstration. This comment clearly shows that you probably don't play competitive games, and definitely not competitive FPS's. Or perhaps you do, but not seriously or you suck at them. Dismissing potential net and input latency issues really makes it hard to take you seriously.
I won't say that it's completely stupid like liamdawe did, but it's a really tough sell. For every benefit it provides, there are better and often easier ways.
You're really confusing me right now. Especially since you named me in that last bit as if you've quoted the wrong post or something.

Who's dismissing anything about latency and input here?

My comment about other streaming was a throwaway comment, partly a joke. I am absolutely well aware of the latency involved in using such a service. I was actually a person who never "got" things like Spotify for quite a long time and when I did I loved it.

My choice of game was just a small test, a bit of fun. That said, as stated, I got our streamer iAlwaysSin to try it (who plays competitive Overwatch, a lot) and she couldn't tell the difference. I tend to trust her judgment seeing her play it first hand on it. Shes been playing Overwatch since day 1 of release FYI.

Feel free not to take me seriously, your loss.

I like the tech and think it's a fun idea. It obviously has ways to go.

Kindly take the attitude and can it please.


Last edited by Liam Dawe on 24 May 2017 at 4:41 pm UTC
Purple Library Guy 24 May, 2017
Quoting: DolusUh... correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't "game streaming" basically the most potent form of DRM that currently exists? I can't really get behind this.
What makes it not DRM is that the people who control whether you have access to the game (the cloud providers) and the people who have Digital Rights over the game and might want to Manage them (the game company) are different people with no particular point of contact. So while there might be concerns (privacy, control, reliability) with cloud computing in general, which could apply to playing games on the cloud, those are distinct from concerns with DRM even if there are some similarities between the two problems.
So for instance, moving outside of games for a moment: Say you had bought Orwell's "1984" from Amazon on Kindle. If you had that Kindle copy of 1984 hosted on a cloud for some reason, you would be neither more nor less vulnerable to Amazon disappearing that copy of 1984 down the memory hole the way they did one time.
You would be vulnerable to the cloud company going out of business, sharing your taste in games with marketers, having their server hacked and losing all your saved games, or otherwise deleting your stuff or invading your privacy. But it wouldn't be DRM.

In general, this (and other cloud services, and for that matter given the choice streaming media services) don't grab me. Am I the only person left who has a preference for owning my own stuff and having it be under my personal control?
crt0mega 24 May, 2017
It's basically some sort of Steam In-Home Streaming without being bound to Steam and a client which even runs on a RasPi? Now that's interesting!

Edit:
Quote*In order to host a server, you must have Windows 8.1+
Dammit. I hope they'll release some *nix server software in the future.


Last edited by crt0mega on 24 May 2017 at 5:54 pm UTC
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