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Google have now finally unveiled their new cloud gaming service named Stadia, offering instant access to play games in Google Chrome.

What they joked was the worst-kept secret in the industry (no kidding), sounds like quite an interesting service. Certainly one that could eventually end up redefining what gaming is. A little hyperbolic maybe? I'm not so sure considering how easy this should be to jump into a game. On top of that, they very clearly talked about how it's built on Linux (Debian specifically) and Vulkan with custom GPUs from AMD.

Something they showed off, was how you could be watching a game trailer with a button to play it on Stadia and (supposedly within a few seconds) you would jump right into it. That's quite en exciting idea, one that would easily pull in quite a lot of people I've no doubt.

As for resolution, they said it will support 1080p and 4K around 60FPS at release with 8K being worked on as well but that sounds further out if anyone even cares about 8K right now.

They also showed off their new controller, with a dedicated Google Assistant button and a button to capture video immediately for YouTube:


While Google are making their own dedicated gamepad, they did say it will be compatible with other devices too.

They also announced partnerships with both Unity and Unreal Engine and Stadia will "embrace full cross-platform play" including "game saves and progression". They also had id Software, talk about how it didn't take long to bring the new Doom Eternal to Stadia, thanks to how they made the previous Doom game with Vulkan.

This means, that development for Linux is suddenly going to become a priority for a lot more developers and publishers. I don't want to overstate how important that is, but it's a very exciting prospect. This doesn't suddenly mean we're going to see a lot more Linux games on the desktop, but it's entirely possible after they go through all the work to get the games working on Linux with Vulkan for Stadia.

Stream Connect is another service they talked about. They mentioned how developers have pushed the boundaries of gaming but often local co-op is left out, as doing it multiple times in top-end games can require really beefy hardware. With Stradia, each instance would be powered by their servers so it wouldn't be such an issue. They also talked about how if you're playing some sort of squad-based game, how you could bring up their screen to see what they're doing which sounds very cool.

Google also announced the formation of their own game studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment, to work on exclusive games for their new service.

As for support from more external game developers, they mentioned how they've shipped "development hardware" to over 100 developers. From what they said, it should be open to smaller developers as well as the usual AAA bunch.

Stadia is confirmed to be launching this year and it will be first available in the US, Canada, UK and "most of Europe". One thing wasn't mentioned at all—price, but they said more details will be available in the summer. The official site is also now up on stadia.com and developers have their own website to look over.

Google also posted up some extra information on their developer blog:

Google believes that open source is good for everyone. It enables and encourages collaboration and the development of technology, solving real-world problems. This is especially true on Stadia, as we believe the game development community has a strong history of collaboration, innovation and shared gains as techniques and technology continually improve. We’re investing in open-source technology to create the best platform for developers, in partnership with the people that use it. This starts with our platform foundations of Linux and Vulkan and shows in our selection of GPUs that have open-source drivers and tools. We’re integrating LLVM and DirectX Shader Compiler to ensure you get great features and performance from our compilers and debuggers. State-of-the-art graphics tools are critical to game developers, and we’re excited to leverage and contribute to RenderDoc, GAPID and Radeon GPU Profiler — best of breed open-source graphics debugging and profiling tools that are continually improving.

There's probably plenty I missed, you can see their video on YouTube here.

As exciting and flashy as it sounds, it's obviously not Linux "desktop" gaming which is what the majority of our audience is likely interested in. However, things change and if it does become a huge hit we will cover it more often if readers request it. Linux gaming can mean all sorts of things from native games to emulators, Wine and Steam Play and now perhaps some cloud gaming so I don't want to rule it out. However, I can't see this replacing Steam, Humble, GOG, itch.io and so on for me personally.

Obviously there’s still a lot of drawbacks to such a service, especially since you will likely have zero ownership of the actual games so they could get taken away at any time when licensing vanishes. At least with stores like Steam, you still get to access those games because you purchased them. Although, this does depend on what kind of licensing Google do with developers and publishers, it might not be an issue at all but it’s still a concern of mine. Latency and input lag, are also two other major concerns but given Google's power with their vast networks, it might not be so bad.

Also, good luck monitoring your bandwidth use with this, it's likely going to eat up a lot all of it. YouTube and Netflix use up quite a bit just for watching a 30-minute episode of something in good quality, how about a few hours per day gaming across Stadia? Ouch.

That doesn't even address the real elephant in the room, you're going to be giving Google even more of your data if you use this service, a lot more. This is the company that failed to promptly disclose a pretty huge data leak in Google+ after all. I don't want to be some sort of scaremongering crazy-person but it's something to think about.

As always, the comments are open for you to voice your opinion on it. Please remain respectful to those with a different opinion on the matter.

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310 comments
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Ehvis 20 March 2019 at 5:05 pm UTC
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Shmerl
EhvisI'm going to buy some bread at the supermarket. When I finished it, I can't use it anymore. It's not DRM free!

What, the store enforcers run after you and grab your bought bread away on a whim? Or the bread has a self destruct trigger attached that can be activated by the store? What kind of bread do you buy??

Hint: be careful with analogies from physical merchandise to digital goods. They are not always matching one to one. But if you are using one, at least find something close enough.

You completely missed the point. Yes, it doesn't work for physical merchandise. It could work for renting if the data that is sent to you is mangled in such a way that it is useless to you. Which is actually fair in renting since you don't pay to own it. However, if this last one doesn't apply here since nothing is mangled in any way because nothing that is transmitted needs to be protected. So all that's left is arguing that you don't like renting game time. Which is fair enough, but don't call it DRM. That only pollutes the arguments again actual problematic DRM.

I'll end this with my opinion with technical reasons. I don't think this service will provide the best experience. Since lag is a problem with any on-line game, it will also be problem here. I have no interest in paying for a service that delivers a subpar experience.


Last edited by Ehvis at 20 March 2019 at 5:05 pm UTC
Dedale 20 March 2019 at 5:07 pm UTC
From what i gather you could run the service from your computer. Even without their controller. Their controller offers perks like uploading to youtube at the pressing of a button.

This will be better clarified in the coming days i guess.
Shmerl 20 March 2019 at 5:08 pm UTC
EhvisSo all that's left is arguing that you don't like renting game time. Which is fair enough, but don't call it DRM.

Call it what you want, I don't call it DRM-free since it very clearly doesn't fit the definition and has all the common flaws of any other DRMed store, and it's enough for me to avoid it. So please stop the pointless demagoguery which only derails this thread.


Last edited by Shmerl at 20 March 2019 at 5:12 pm UTC
NeptNutz 20 March 2019 at 5:11 pm UTC
"Stadia - Your Penny Arcade In The Sky!"
Maath 20 March 2019 at 5:18 pm UTC
Oh, that's my mistake. They were talking about the backend server's power, not whatever you use in your home. I didn't think that was what they were talking about, because of course the backend would be powerful. It needs to be very powerful to support everyone using it at the same time. That backend power seems mostly irrelevant to me.

hagabaka
MaathNow, didn't they say the console itself is more powerful than an Xbox and a PS4 combined? Do they need all of that power just for streaming? Perhaps the console will be able to run programs locally.
I was under the impression that it would not be a console, but just a controller which works with a computer/smart phone or ChromeCast and a cloud platform.
Shmerl 20 March 2019 at 5:21 pm UTC
Going back go ShabbyX's question about how this could actually be implemented DRM-free. To add to the above, about services that sell and allow streaming as an option. One issue with that could be that one time fee might not be sufficient to cover expenses on perpetual streaming availability for those who bought some game. I.e. running the infrastructure can end up being more expensive than profits from one time sale.

To address that, paying a subscription fee for streaming is not a bad thing. I.e. those who want streaming can pay a monthly fee for it. It doesn't preclude being able to buy and download the actual game in the same store. This way it can remain DRM-free and offer sustainable way of providing infrastructure for streaming at any time for those who want it.

I.e. the DRM-free streaming store can offer such features:

1. You pay for the game - you get it and can download the DRM-free package.
2. If you want to be able to stream any of your purchased games, you can pay some monthly fee for the service.
3. If you want to be able to stream any of the games in the catalog without buying (i.e. just renting), you can pay somewhat more than for option #2, while avoiding paying #1.

So this will cover all use cases, and still be DRM-free.


Last edited by Shmerl at 20 March 2019 at 5:31 pm UTC
Nevertheless 20 March 2019 at 5:32 pm UTC
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Ehvis
Shmerl... and surely not going to use even more DRMed Stadia for same reason.

As I wrote above, Stadia is by its very design DRM free.

Yes, of course it is! DRM is used to limit what you can do with goods you "have", but don't own. You never even get to "have" a game you are allowed (by the owner) to stream for a time. DRM is useless in such a situation, because you cannot capture the game by streaming it. You also cannot lose what you never had. I think it's even more honest than the restricted use of a DRMed software, that you only seem to own.
If you don't like the idea playing games you don't have, then simply don't do it!
eldaking 20 March 2019 at 5:38 pm UTC
I don't think DRM depends on whether it is bought or anything. It is "Digital Rights Management" (or "Digital Restrictions Management"), or a digital system ostensibly to prevent people from making unauthorized copies. You could rent a physical DVD with copy protection, and that is a form of DRM. You could stream videos with DRM, some software, that prevents you from making a copy of that video, or without any DRM and people can just download it and keep a copy.

If game streaming prevents you from making copies of the game, it is DRM. You could use game streaming to restrict your users from having copies, both legal and illegal, of your game, so DRM. And that is bad because there are obvious use cases that are completely legitimate and require having a local copy - for example, "I don't have unlimited bandwidth all the time" or "preservation of games". You are allowed to play that game, but the system is (to borrow EFFs slogan) defective by design.

Renting DRM-free digital media is a silly idea because of how digital files works (copying is so intrinsic that you can't transfer it without making a copy). There is nothing to be returned after the rental, nothing stopping the person from keeping a copy forever. It makes no sense... unless you start to use DRM. Which is terrible and shouldn't be done. So, don't "rent" digital goods. If you want a subscription-based service, rely on something else - on continued access to your hardware, on getting new content - but not on the person having to pay again and again for the same thing.
Shmerl 20 March 2019 at 5:53 pm UTC
eldakingRenting DRM-free digital media is a silly idea because of how digital files works (copying is so intrinsic that you can't transfer it without making a copy). There is nothing to be returned after the rental, nothing stopping the person from keeping a copy forever. It makes no sense... unless you start to use DRM. Which is terrible and shouldn't be done. So, don't "rent" digital goods.

That's what my initial thought was as well, renting of digital goods is just pointless. But the reason for it can be economical. I.e. renting something is expected to be cheaper than buying. So in theory, renting digital goods can be an OK approach, when it charges less. However as you said, it quickly turns sour if renting starts enforcing limited usage through DRM (which it practically always does, in cases like Netflix, Spotify, and Stadia here as well). I.e. as long as you don't have unrestricted access to downloaded digital files (after you already authenticated and paid something naturally) it's DRMed.
skinnyraf 20 March 2019 at 5:58 pm UTC
eldakingUgh, gaming "as a service". Frankly, this is worse than games not supporting Linux. Games might be developed for Linux (servers)... but then we can't buy the games to run in our Linux systems. This is the antithesis of FOSS - we don't even have the freedom to run the software ourselves. It's like the most intrusive always online DRM ever coupled with the least software freedom technology allows.

On the other hand, it's a way to check games which could otherwise end up on the Steam pile of shame.
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