Steam Play thoughts: A Valve game streaming service

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With the talk of some big players moving into cloud gaming, along with a number of people thinking Valve will also be doing it, here’s a few thoughts from me.

Firstly, for those that didn’t know already, Google are testing the waters with their own cloud gaming service called Project Stream. For this, they teamed up with Ubisoft to offer Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on the service. I actually had numerous emails about this, from a bunch of Linux gamers who managed to try it out and apparently it worked quite well on Linux.

EA are pushing pretty heavily with this too with what they’re calling Project Atlas, as their Chief Technology Officer talked about in a Medium post on how they’ve got one thousand EA employees now working on it. That sounds incredibly serious to me!

There’s more cloud services offering hardware for a subscription all the time, although a lot of them are quite expensive and use Windows.

So this does beg the question: What is Valve going to do? Cloud gaming services, that will allow people with lower-end devices to play a bunch of AAA games relatively easily could end up cutting into Valve’s wallet.

Enter Valve’s Cloud Gaming Service

Pure speculation of course, but with the amount of big players now moving into the market, I’m sure Valve will be researching it themselves. Perhaps this is what Steam Play is actually progressing towards? With Steam Play, Valve will be able to give users access to a large library of games running on Linux where they don’t have to pay extra fees for any sort of Windows licensing fee from Microsoft and obviously being Linux it would allow them to heavily customise it to their liking.

On top of that, what about the improvements this could further bring for native desktop Linux gaming? Stop and think about it for a moment, how can Valve tell developers they will get the best experience on this cloud gaming platform? Have a native Linux version they support with updates and fixes. Valve are already suggesting developers to use Vulkan, it’s not such a stretch I think.

Think about how many games, even single-player games are connected to the net now in some way with various features. Looking to the future, having it so your games can be accessed from any device with the content stored in the cloud somewhere does seem like the way things are heading. As much as some (including me) aren’t sold on the idea, clearly this is where a lot of major players are heading and Valve won’t want to be left behind.

For Valve, it might not even need to be a subscription service, since they already host the data for the developers. Perhaps, you buy a game and get access to both a desktop and cloud copy? That would be a very interesting and tempting idea. Might not be feasible of course, since the upkeep on the cloud machines might require a subscription if Valve wanted to keep healthy profits, but it’s another way they could possibly trump the already heavy competition.

Think the whole idea is incredibly farfetched? Fair enough, I do a little too. However, they might already have a good amount of the legwork done on this, thanks to their efforts with the Steam Link. Did anyone think a year or two ago you would be able to stream Steam games to your phone and tablet?

Valve also offer movies, TV series and more on Steam so they have quite a lot to offer.

It might not happen at all of course, these are just some basic thoughts of mine on what Valve’s moves might be in future. It's likely not going to happen for VR titles, since they need so much power and any upset with latency could make people quite sick. Highly competitive games would also be difficult, but as always once it gets going the technology behind it will constantly improve like everything. There’s got to be some sort of end game for all their Linux gaming work and not just to help us, they are a business and they will keep moving along with all the other major players.

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mylka 2 Nov, 2018
steamplay installs directx and .net and some other stuff from MS. i still believe, that MS can chance the license of this software and charge everyone who uses it outside the windowsworld and MS gets the fee

but of course game streaming is the future, but first we need failsafe internet
elmapul 2 Nov, 2018
a couple of things may happen.

valve may try to stream, but i dont think they have enough infra structure to do that.

servers are different from desktop computers, servers has an ridiculous ammount of ram and most of the time they are just copying/moving data instead of processing it, so their current infra structure will not fit.

google is trying to enter the desktop operating system market and they will have an bad time convincing people to buy their games all over again, so they might make an partnership with valve to solve that, or just make it easier to install steam on chromeOS so they solve the problem with old games while still try to stream new games.

we can bet that the google streaming service will be linux based instead of windows based and if valve ever enter this market, it will be linux based too.

valve has some streaming capability since they use it for home streaming and their video service, so they may try it solo instead of with an partnership

in any case the good news for us is, linux is better at servers and developers may target servers since they will be able to sell their games for windows, mac, linux and android all at one shoot.
they may have an backup plan with an native version for those who dont want "online only" games, but at least they will have an big incentive to adopt vulkan.
xbox is more profitable than mac and linux, so they may still have an DX version, but xbox didnt sold so well this generation.

the future looks promissing, but i will not create to much hype just now, i was burned over and over again in the past.

the government of my country (Brasil) tried to push linux, i got excited, but it failed, and all those cheap computers sold with tax incentives (in case they came with linux) and for cheaper since they didnt include the price of an windows licence, became , instead, windows machines and linux reputation got burned in the process (since the games werent there back then and the distro that the oems chose was really bad)

android promissed a lot, but android apps and games were not compatible with desktop linux neither the opposite, and most android games are crap anyway.

then valve promissed the steam machines, i got hyped all over again, only to get disapointed again.
no marketing for it, no exclusives, no reason for the average joe to buy one, and the killer feature that may help it sell at least a little bitch was also avaliable on another product: steamLink.

html5 promissed a lot of things, but instead of geting good games on the browser, all i found is a bunch of crap games (at least sketchfab was borned), the games from the flash era were much better, back then it was possible to fund good games with only the budget from the ad's.

web assembly promissed a lot, but i still dont see the fruits of it, i know it takes time, but i got over excited, game developers will not port their game to it no matter how small the performance hit may be, it still there and they arent willing to sacrifice having the best graphicss to sell their games in order to gain more market selling for mac and linux.

valve made proton and it is great, but only for old games, we still have to wait to play an game, and the average user will not switch to linux unless he can do everything he could on windows or almost it and have something exclusive on linux (theming is not enough)

now this, streaming, its my last hope to see things change for better.

but even if that happens, it will not be without an cost:
we can say good bye to piracy and mods.
you may be against piracy but its the only way to make sure an product will never disapear without legit consumers having anyway to acess it.


Last edited by elmapul on 2 November 2018 at 4:59 am UTC
popsulfr 2 Nov, 2018
Quoting: liamdawe
Quoting: Guest
Quoting: liamdawe
Quoting: stanThis is just shit.
Solid feedback, thanks.
He's right, tho.
Very helpful.

I feel sorry for you. If it helps, their comments look a bit embarrassing among all the other more constructive posts :)

I thought your speculations were quite interesting and companies are continually trying to push the envelope in this regard (see Onlive, Parsec, Sony's streaming to desktop ...)
The biggest hurdle is always the internet speeds and their reliability in offering fast response times.

I made my own ventures into personal cloud gaming by using steam in-home streaming and Wireguard. I'm quite in awe in how finely optimized the streaming part of the client is, even in 4G most titles are still quite playable. FPS games are still a bit too much though for such a loose connection. Also seriously impressive how fast and how much data Wireguard can push securely to make this possible, we got one impressive vpn on our hands there.
It would be great if the streaming client could be open-sourced or they at least get out a client for popular arm boards like the raspberry pi.
A bit of a shame that moonlight seems to be the only option while requiring nvidia and windows. Yet Steam's in-home streaming seems even better than nvidia's solution.

But yeah, I don't know how many people make use of the in-home streaming but I'm seriously impressed that it also holds up over the internet.
buono 2 Nov, 2018
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While I hold reservations about this possible future like many of you here. My immediate worry is about trying to keep net neutrality rolling and a free internet. I would hate to seen valve lobbying to end net neutrality.
stretch611 2 Nov, 2018
Quoting: elmapulservers are different from desktop computers, servers has an ridiculous ammount of ram and most of the time they are just copying/moving data instead of processing it, so their current infra structure will not fit.
This is not true at all. In fact I would argue there are only 3 markets for high-end processors... gamers, developers, and servers; and not necessarily in that order.

Quoting: elmapulvalve has some streaming capability since they use it for home streaming and their video service, so they may try it solo instead of with an partnership
Yet the second line of your same post said "valve may try to stream, but i dont think they have enough infra structure to do that."

Quoting: elmapulin any case the good news for us is, linux is better at servers and developers may target servers since they will be able to sell their games for windows, mac, linux and android all at one shoot.
As much as I would like to agree with this, I doubt you have real data to back it up. In most cases, businesses will deploy servers based on their existing support people and availability of additional personnel if needed. i.e. windows shops generally deploy windows servers, linux shops deploy linux servers, mixed development shops truly look at their needs and make a determination based on how well the hardware/software fits their needs. What client platform they are targeting may make a impact in that decision based on protocol support, but in general does not matter. e.g. Webservers are more likely to be linux(around 80% last I checked), yet they serve web pages to mostly (over 80%) windows clients. In fact I know that a few of the large stock trading companies use mainframes (OS/390) to serve webpages and I doubt many people surf with a mainframe client.


Quoting: elmapulandroid promissed a lot, but android apps and games were not compatible with desktop linux neither the opposite, and most android games are crap anyway.
Trying to compare this seems meaningless... Due to limitations with you phone, the games are much different. Phones do not have the processor, RAM, or storage capacity of your computer... heck the first few years of Android, GPUs didn't exist. Tablets came in, but they just seem to be a large phone... with possibly more RAM, CPU, screen size, but even they can not compete with an actual computer. The biggest distinction between Android and a computer is the input method. Android primarily uses a touchscreen interface (including tablets) and have a limited screen size as well. In order to control a game, large portions of the screen must be allocated for the player to hit with their fingers, which in turn leaves less of a screen available to show game information. Can you even imagine playing a game like Civilization on a phone? You would never be able to see all the information you want to at once, let alone be shown all the options available to do on your turn for a unit/city. That is why casual games are much more popular on android, and while hardcore gamers use computers/consoles. It is also why certain games do well on Android, like tower defense games.. which you usually only need to select tower types and upgrade them; something that can fit on a small screen.

Quoting: elmapulgoogle is trying to enter the desktop operating system market and they will have an bad time convincing people to buy their games all over again, so they might make an partnership with valve to solve that, or just make it easier to install steam on chromeOS so they solve the problem with old games while still try to stream new games.
Actually Google has already taken strides to allow linux programs to run on Chromebooks. I am not sure what the exact status is because I do not have a chromebook.


Quoting: elmapulhtml5 promissed a lot of things, but instead of geting good games on the browser, all i found is a bunch of crap games (at least sketchfab was borned), the games from the flash era were much better, back then it was possible to fund good games with only the budget from the ad's.
If HTML5 is going to take off as a gaming platform, it will only be with the success of cloud gaming. A web browser is another layer between programs and access to the hardware on the computer. Right now, I have only 8 tabs open on my browser. It is using about 2.5GB of memory. I use scriptsafe to whitelist javascript and I am primarily uses sites that are mostly text based. USA Today, Soylent News, NPR News, Gaming On Linux, and the Humble Store (which is probably the biggest memory allocation.) That is a huge amount of memory for just a bunch of text. It adds an extra layer of bloat to any game that you may want to play making it slower than a native game. I am a web developer... trust me, you do not want to program any complex game in those languages. I have built complex web applications, but other than some simple javascript, I do not need to deal with real time feedback like a game. Unless games are streamed from the cloud, the HTML 5 games will never be on par with native. Flash and Java games can be played in a browser but they are sandboxed as well and can usually be played without the browser as well.



In short, don't plan on anything replacing native games anytime soon. While older games can work in certain situations or through emulators, as computers get more powerful so do the expectations of the gamers and native gaming gives them the most to work with. Casual games can easily be found on lesser platforms but anything needing raw horsepower will stay native until it is so old its system requirements become an afterthought.
Nanobang 2 Nov, 2018
Quoting: beniwtv
Quoting: NanobangI'm no fan of "the" cloud in general as it continues the trend of further eroding control of what otherwise would be one's personal property.

Just quickly want to chime in here: Games/software are not your personal property. You may own a physical medium the game/software is on though, which is your property. But you still need a license to use that copy.

So, games and software are licensed. Even FOSS software. Otherwise, you would own the right to them, which you do not.

I get what you wanted to say here, though. And I agree, when owning a physical copy without DRM probably nobody is gonna bother you in the future, to take it away or prevent you from playing it.

Yeah, I know, but I appreciate your taking the time to offer some guidance on the matter. :)

Looking back, I think it would have been better, more accurate, had I written I'm no fan of "the" cloud in general because---like EULAs---it continues the trend of further eroding control of what otherwise would be one's personal property. The way I see it, FOSS and GPL types of licensing are much more in line with copyright than the paranoiac greed underlying the legalese of the ubiquitous EULA. And I'm not saying you do or don't agree (though I imagine you might) I'm just taking the opportunity to expand upon a topic near and dear to my heart.

Peace :)


Last edited by Nanobang on 2 November 2018 at 3:17 pm UTC
beniwtv 2 Nov, 2018
Quoting: NanobangYeah, I know, but I appreciate your taking the time to offer some guidance on the matter. :)

Looking back, I think it would have been better, more accurate, had I written I'm no fan of "the" cloud in general because---like EULAs---it continues the trend of further eroding control of what otherwise would be one's personal [i]property.[/i] The way I see it, FOSS and GPL types of licensing are much more in line with copyright than the paranoiac greed underlying the legalese of the ubiquitous EULA. And I'm not saying you do or don't agree (though I imagine you might) I'm just taking the opportunity to expand upon a topic near and dear to my heart.

Peace :)

Fully agree - I don't like them taking away more control, also game preservation for new generations / gamers that like to re-play games / gamers that never played these games but would like to in the future is very important in my opinion (see my other post for more detail).

Anecdotally, I recently got into some retro game stuff - playing games I did not have the chance to when I was younger - and some games it's really though to get hold of - you can't find them new or used, they simply "vanish" from the market, which is a great shame.
slaapliedje 3 Nov, 2018
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All I want is a Steam Link app on my Nintendo Switch and I would be set for Life.
elmapul 3 Nov, 2018
Quoting: stretch611This is not true at all. In fact I would argue there are only 3 markets for high-end processors... gamers, developers, and servers; and not necessarily in that order.

i watched an entire conference about it, i'm just quoting what was said.
servers are an different beast.

Quoting: stretch611"yet they serve web pages to mostly (over 80%) windows clients. "

that is the issue, dont matter what the audience will be using, they can use wetever they want on their servers.

". Phones do not have the processor, RAM, or storage capacity of your computer..."
neither did the gameboy and yet it had fun games, contraty to android that aside from ports all it have is crap pay to win "games".

having an weak hardware is not an excuse for crap games.


Quoting: stretch611. The biggest distinction between Android and a computer is the input method.
that is literally my area of study, you dont need to teach me this.
i was just quoting how many disapointments i had in the past.

Quoting: stretch611I am not sure what the exact status is because I do not have a chromebook.
eat your own food, stop promoting something before you try it yourself.

EposVox did an video about this issue, its called "Why I WON'T switch to Linux for video production.. ever?"

as for me, i didnt tried chromebooks (i need an new computer and barely can afford it, much less risk an chromebook, i need an destkop powerfull) but i saw videos about then, reviewing what they are capable of, so at least i'm a bit informed.

Quoting: stretch611If HTML5 is going to take off as a gaming platform, it will only be with the success of cloud gaming...
flash was sandboxed but was an security nightmare since adobe didnt planned ahead and didnt made any money on the player, only on the authoring tool.
html5 is much better in that regard, contraty to flash the bytecode isnt tied to x86, and we have a lot of companies making "players" (browsers) so even if the security is not perfect, at least we have competition on the providers instead of an monopoly and monoculture.
the same goes for the authoring tools.

as for performance, epic showed what html5 is capable of with some unreal demos, but the issue is , no one adopted it.
its quite capable, but there is no good reason for it, if you want impress the user, an native game will do an better job on a weaker hardware.
and if you dont, well, we should expect at least games as good as in the flash era in theory, but in pratice all i found is a bunch of crap, maybe i'm looking at the wrong place, but in that case, were should i look?
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