News

Game streaming – part 2

Posted by admin on September 26, 2020
Games, News / No Comments

On my previous post, I wrote about my thoughts on game streaming services as a whole. Since them, Microsoft launched the xCloud, which is their take on game streaming and they also bundled it with Game Pass Ultimate. If you are not familiar with the subscription, it includes 100+ games which you can download and install on your PC or Xbox One (and soon Xbox Series S/X) and play as much as you like, as long as you are subscribed to Game Pass Ultimate. It also includes Xbox Live Gold so you can play online. And recently EA added all of their games in there!

So all in all, with one subscription, you have 100s of games to play which get new games all the time (as a matter of fact, all first party new releases always get added on launch date – and since Microsoft recently bought ZeniMax, the parent company of studios behind Doom, Wolfenstein, Elder Scrolls and many more) expect to see many many more added in the coming months. Some games are also removed from time to time, Netflix style, but you always have stuff to play no matter the screen you have in front of you.

Getting back to streaming, Microsoft has launched their Android client so you can use and Android device, paired with a bluetooth Xbox controller, to play most of the games mentioned above.

I have already played for some hours using both WiFi and 4G connections on my phone and I can attest to the following:

-The streaming is superb. Seriously, the encoding they use seem to be custom tailored for games and I have not seen any serious issues on either type of connection. Even when packets are dropped, because they will, the system seems to compensate in a way that does not impact the gaming session.

-I stand behind what I said about latency and “master race” PC gamers. You will NOT get high resolutions and high frame rates here. So games that do not rely on these, and would run fine at 30fps anyway (e.g. A Plague Tale), are you best bet here. Of course, forget competitive gaming on these systems.

-Convenience is awesome. I have fired quite a few sessions when I was not near a PC or console, and tried many games I never installed on either and I had an awesome time every time. Comparing the experience to either the PC or the Xbox One X it was of course inferior, but given the small screen and the fact that I was streaming it for convenience in a situation where the alternative would be Candy Crush, this is a good trade off.

-It will never replace gaming on a real gaming system. Never, ever. But that is ok, because the target audience is NOT hardcore games. When you DO have a choice, you will, and you should, pick the alternative. The streaming service is a very nice alternative to have though.

Running xCloud from a compatible phone (in this case the OnePlus 7T) allows you to connect to a projector and get rid of the small screen altogether. Because why not.
This is Mortal Kombat streaming over 4G. Not bad at all.
A plague tale: Innocence streaming over 5GHz WiFi – cinematic
A plague tale: Innocence streaming over 5GHz WiFi – gameplay

So should you get xCloud? Well, that is the best part! It’s included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate which was an awesome offering even before that! Just keep in mind that if you don’t have a gaming PC or an Xbox One (or better) console it might not be the best gaming experience compared to these. I would highly recommend getting at least a cheap Xbox Series S + Xbox Game Pass as the best way to play the Xbox Game Pass games. Just keep in mind that xCloud is included only in the Ultimate version and not the Console only or PC only versions.

Build 2015 started

Posted by admin on April 29, 2015
Development, News / No Comments

And I am already amazed by the general direction Microsoft is taking with Windows. I just finished watching the keynote and one thing is absolutely clear to me: Microsoft is pushing¬†hard and in every direction to make the new platform (Windows 10) the dominant and unquestionable leader in worldwide computing. Let’s count the way it’s doing that:

-Making it a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. That’s a first of course and it makes perfect sense. Take everyone on the same page and a potentional user for universal apps (more on that later). By the way, MS keeps mentioning that W10 is a free upgrade for the first year, and they still haven’t clarified this in a big way but I am pretty convinced that this means that if you upgrade during the first year it’s free for ever and not that it’s free only for that year. That wouldn’t make any sense.

-Getting people with Android and iOS development skills on board by allowing the reuse of the same codebase they already use (Java and C++ for Android and Objective-C on iOS) to create Windows apps. By the way, we will have to get used to saying Windows apps from now on since from the looks of it, Windows is one platform and it just happens to run on different devices, small, big, with or even without screens.

-Making writing universal apps actually worthwhile for developers. They are actually trying to make apps more visible (although i get the feeling that they need to try harder on that front), but being able to run the same app on every conceivable screen (or even as a hologram ffs) is huge. And on top,of that, I was really impressed with the idea that the phone is just a PC trapped in a small form factor is awesome. This is of course, a more clever iteration of the Windows RT fiasco, but it makes sense this time around, since nobody expects running desktop apps on your phone, but running the same universal apps on a bigger screen using the phone is just brilliant, so well done there.

-The wow factor called HoloLens. Although I had seen the previous demo about 3 months, I could not believe my eyes with what they demoed today. ¬†The though that kept going through my head was “they cannot really have pulled this off and be so casual about it”. But they did. And they were! And universal apps are still part of it as is Windows 10.

So overall what impressed me today most was that the vision was, for once, coherent and focused. They want everyone to use Windows 10 in all of their devices and universal apps will be what people run on that. Everything else was there to support this vision and I loved this. Win32 apps running in isolated space as universal apps? check. Universal apps using every web technology, iOS and Android codebases? check and check.

There are no excuses now. When did Apple become the boring one?

You can watch the keynote here:

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