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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.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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56 comments
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Purple Library Guy 1 November 2018 at 4:18 pm UTC
beniwtv
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.
I disagree. What you don't own is the copyright. What FOSS software licenses license, set conditions on (or rather, mainly explicitly remove default conditions from), is the copyright. When you buy a game, a copy of the game IS your personal property. You do not hold the copyright so you don't have a right to copy it.
It's true that software companies have been trying hard to make the situation ambiguous and fuzz the law with their EULAs and so forth, but in most countries if it came down to a court case it would turn out that the purchaser of a thing owns it, even if it's a digital thing.
Purple Library Guy 1 November 2018 at 4:33 pm UTC
Julius
dvdCloud gaming will never become a thing. It's just like VR. When people have thousands of dollars worth of computers, people won't tolerate latency, and fiber is not really a reality even in the oh-so advanced North America and Europe.

Cloud gaming is mainly a drive to expand the market to the millions of people out there who either can't effort a gaming PC, or decided since they don't play very often that it is not worth it to buy a fast enough PC. For both groups a cheap streaming flatrate for games that works "good enough" is definitely interesting.
First, a cheap streaming flat rate for all games does not seem to be on offer. Rather, what we're discussing is you buy a game, and then you access it via the "cloud" instead of actually downloading it, and presumably you pay a subscription fee for that because hosting costs money. Second, those millions of people you are pointing to are precisely the people who are likely to have either lousy internet because they're in countries where the internet infrastructure is lousy, or lousy internet because their internet providers are predatory and they can't afford a good plan and so they have usage caps which would be crippling for such a service.

A cheap streaming flat rate for all games might be attractive to many consumers, but how do the game companies make money? What's their incentive to hand the rights to do this over for what would have to be a pittance? I don't think it would be practical.
beniwtv 1 November 2018 at 4:33 pm UTC
Purple Library GuyI disagree. What you don't own is the copyright. What FOSS software licenses license, set conditions on (or rather, mainly explicitly remove default conditions from), is the copyright. When you buy a game, a copy of the game IS your personal property. You do not hold the copyright so you don't have a right to copy it.
It's true that software companies have been trying hard to make the situation ambiguous and fuzz the law with their EULAs and so forth, but in most countries if it came down to a court case it would turn out that the purchaser of a thing owns it, even if it's a digital thing.

But that's exactly what is said!

You don't own the copyright, you don't own the work. You may own the physical copy the work is on though, but that still does not make you own the work. You own a license to use the work (described in the license / EULA).

And FOSS licenses do not remove copyright. They just make some exemptions to it, see:
https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-howto.en.html

Copyright isn't just about "copying" the work.
Purple Library Guy 1 November 2018 at 4:57 pm UTC
beniwtv
Purple Library GuyI disagree. What you don't own is the copyright. What FOSS software licenses license, set conditions on (or rather, mainly explicitly remove default conditions from), is the copyright. When you buy a game, a copy of the game IS your personal property. You do not hold the copyright so you don't have a right to copy it.
It's true that software companies have been trying hard to make the situation ambiguous and fuzz the law with their EULAs and so forth, but in most countries if it came down to a court case it would turn out that the purchaser of a thing owns it, even if it's a digital thing.

But that's exactly what is said!

You don't own the copyright, you don't own the work. You may own the physical copy the work is on though, but that still does not make you own the work. You own a license to use the work (described in the license / EULA).

And FOSS licenses do not remove copyright. They just make some exemptions to it, see:
https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-howto.en.html

Copyright isn't just about "copying" the work.
I think you are having a fundamental misunderstanding, based perhaps on the currency of the deliberately misleading term "intellectual property". Let's take it away from digital for a second, because the lack of a physical thing tends to confuse people. If I buy a book, like go into a bookstore, pick up a paperback, give a store clerk some money in return for the book and leave the store with the book, I own the book. I can do almost anything I want with the book; I can shred it, I can lend it to a friend and so on. I cannot legally bludgeon someone to death with it, but that isn't illegal because I don't own the book, it is illegal because it's murder. Another thing I can't do is publish it. That is not because I don't own that book, the one I paid money for, it is because just as murdering someone violates criminal law, violating an author's copyright violates copyright law. You could say the author in some sense "owns" "the work", but the author does not own the copy I bought. If the author showed up on my doorstep and wanted my copy, I could say no. If they took it, that would be theft, theft of my property. Note that if I published the book that would not be theft, it would be violation of copyright.

If I buy a game, I also own a copy. I paid money for that copy and the situation was framed as "buying" it, so it is mine. The fact that the copy is digital does not in itself change this. It does make certain legal uses impractical, or their legality difficult to verify, since it can be hard to distinguish between moving a file and copying it, and it does make it possible for the seller to include some practical barriers (such as DRM) to actually treating it as your property. But none of this makes a thing you bought not a thing you legally own.
Doc Angelo 1 November 2018 at 5:02 pm UTC
I'm interested in the experience of playing a game. I'm not interested in owning either a physical box with a DVD or a digital license in a digital library. I want to experience the game itself.

It's pretty much the same with music. I'm not interested in owning the physical media. I want to listen to the music. With all the music streaming services I can do that. I can listen to everything. I don't have to choose or sample a bit before buying an album. I just listen to it. When I like it, I listen to it more, or more of the same artist, or more of the same genre... regarding music, it's just awesome that these borders are not there anymore. You don't have to think about which album to buy - you can just listen to and experience ever more and new music.

I'd honestly love that for games. Of course, I wouldn't want for games to appear and disappear from being playable. Video game conservation is also an important topic. For titles with tight controls, the technology needs to be stepped up quite a bit. Counter Strike over streaming for example isn't possible - at least right now. But when game streaming becomes more common, I think it might be possible that the dedicated hardware gets more evenly distributed and will therefor be nearer to the gamer, and the latency will decrease. I've used Playstation Now for a bit, and for some games the latency right now is OK. Not impressive, but usable.

I don't need beefy hardware with costly cooling equipment directly beneath my desk. Most of what I do with my PC can be done with a way worse computer. The only thing I need a big computer for is gaming (and video compression a little bit... and Boinc...) But... honestly? I think it would a good thing if you don't need to replace your system every few years. Saves money and resources.

If the problems above are fixed, I' welcome a well made game streaming system. Absolutely.
vulture2 1 November 2018 at 5:16 pm UTC
cloud gaming = nonsense for most game genres. board games, yes... something like soul calibur? not. that would be worse than playing laggy network session

unless someone invents faster network than it is currently. that is not really easy as MB/sec doesn't matter. what it would need is increase in data transfer speed from x to y location. currently that is limited to speed of light which means that in perfect conditions lag would be 140ms. sadly, that number is not even remotely everything. you have to add lag on all routers, server and client processing...

most action games are barely playable even if you try playing with bluetooth controller which by itself has lag around 100ms.

the big clue that people miss is that they equate game with video on youtube which is plain wrong. video can be buffered, game cannot unless someone perfects future prediction. while video starts with delay, game cannot and as such every action you do is countered by full amount of lag from network, computer and input.

it is enough to watch NVidia Grid presentation where presenter plays racing game and be a little bit cautious on hw screen and his input are desynchronized. while game seems to run smooth, input insanely lags. and the catch is that servers and client were practically at the same spot for that. now imagine playing from home
mortigar 1 November 2018 at 5:24 pm UTC
Cloud gaming, worst thought up DRM that will probably ever exist. R.I.P gaming if it becomes a thing.
beniwtv 1 November 2018 at 5:28 pm UTC
Purple Library GuyI think you are having a fundamental misunderstanding, based perhaps on the currency of the deliberately misleading term "intellectual property". Let's take it away from digital for a second, because the lack of a physical thing tends to confuse people. If I buy a book, like go into a bookstore, pick up a paperback, give a store clerk some money in return for the book and leave the store with the book, I own the book. I can do almost anything I want with the book; I can shred it, I can lend it to a friend and so on. I cannot legally bludgeon someone to death with it, but that isn't illegal because I don't own the book, it is illegal because it's murder. Another thing I can't do is publish it. That is not because I don't own that book, the one I paid money for, it is because just as murdering someone violates criminal law, violating an author's copyright violates copyright law. You could say the author in some sense "owns" "the work", but the author does not own the copy I bought. If the author showed up on my doorstep and wanted my copy, I could say no. If they took it, that would be theft, theft of my property. Note that if I published the book that would not be theft, it would be violation of copyright.

If I buy a game, I also own a copy. I paid money for that copy and the situation was framed as "buying" it, so it is mine. The fact that the copy is digital does not in itself change this. It does make certain legal uses impractical, or their legality difficult to verify, since it can be hard to distinguish between moving a file and copying it, and it does make it possible for the seller to include some practical barriers (such as DRM) to actually treating it as your property. But none of this makes a thing you bought not a thing you legally own.

I agree with you, and it's also what I said. I think we just define "to own" in the context of software differently.

You yourself said you own the physical book, but can't publish it, because you'd violate copyright, as you do not own the work. Software is similar, you do not own the work, but you may own the digital (or physical) copy.

I would just argue that "copyright" is like a license; further restricting what you can do with your "owned" item. Be that a game or book, doesn't really matter, thus not really fully owning it.
NeptNutz 1 November 2018 at 5:43 pm UTC
schidinI think cloud gaming is the future. I would like to just have a small, passive cooled thin Client running Linux at home and stream AAA title through the Internet. This is ecologically much more desirable for me.
Doc AngeloI don't need beefy hardware with costly cooling equipment directly beneath my desk. Most of what I do with my PC can be done with a way worse computer. The only thing I need a big computer for is gaming (and video compression a little bit... and Boinc...) But... honestly? I think it would a good thing if you don't need to replace your system every few years. Saves money and resources.
Okay, this fallacy needs to stop.

Just because you don't consume the energy locally does not mean that the energy isn't being consumed at your request. Pushing movies and games from massive data centers through the internet is vastly more energy exhaustive than having a disc at your disposal.

https://data-economy.com/data-centers-going-green-to-reduce-a-carbon-footprint-larger-than-the-airline-industry/

Pushed wirelessly, the energy consumption is ten-fold.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228774201_Power_Consumption_in_Telecommunication_Networks_Overview_and_Reduction_Strategies

Of course, the same can be said downloading the same binaries over and over on a game service like Steam. I rather dislike that, both ecologically and economically. However, it also makes a very tidy case for fixed physical ROMs with irrevocable licenses (especially music) and DRM-free distribution.
Julius 1 November 2018 at 6:06 pm UTC
Purple Library GuyFirst, a cheap streaming flat rate for all games does not seem to be on offer. Rather, what we're discussing is you buy a game, and then you access it via the "cloud" instead of actually downloading it, and presumably you pay a subscription fee for that because hosting costs money. Second, those millions of people you are pointing to are precisely the people who are likely to have either lousy internet because they're in countries where the internet infrastructure is lousy, or lousy internet because their internet providers are predatory and they can't afford a good plan and so they have usage caps which would be crippling for such a service.

A cheap streaming flat rate for all games might be attractive to many consumers, but how do the game companies make money? What's their incentive to hand the rights to do this over for what would have to be a pittance? I don't think it would be practical.

Not sure where you have gotten that first "business-model" but of course what you described wouldn't work. I don't think anyone serious is even discussing that (maybe those loonies at EA?). The Flatrate would be of course not for the latest triple A titles, but those slightly older but still good titles they are already selling for a few dollars on sales regularly (or in general in many places of the world due to regional pricing). Maybe there will be options to also temporarily "rent" a AAA game as an addon, but what will draw people in and will make them use such a streaming platform will be some sort of cheap flatrate like Netflix etc.

Oh and I don't know which part of the world you are from, but these days the internet is about the worst in US/EU; expensive and a lot of old legacy tech that makes it slow. All the semi-monopolies there also don't help. In the larger cities of most Asian countries you can get fast and cheap internet these days easily.


Last edited by Julius at 1 November 2018 at 6:08 pm UTC
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