At GDC 2019 the world saw its first reveal of Stadia, a new cloud compute / video game streaming platform being launched by Google some time this year featuring low latency gameplay with 1080p 60 frames per second for 15 – 25mbps internet connections and up to 4K HDR at 60 frames per second for higher bandwidth users. While many have been skeptical of this service, Google has produced the science behind how it’s worked hard to make the previously impossible a soon-to-come reality. However, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered – particularly pricing.
Furthermore there is some speculation surrounding the games lineup for the new service as partnerships have been vaguely teased between the Unreal Engine, Unity Engine, and third party developers with little info on who exactly is working on Stadia projects and what titles gamers should expect at launch. Beyond the Project Stream testing which was done last winter with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey we are mainly given id Software’s presentation of Doom Eternal for Stadia as a reference point for their incoming lineup.
That being said, an alleged leak has surfaced from the aftermath of GDC 2019 naming the next Call of Duty as a potential launch title for the service. Jade Raymond and Amy Hennig are also said to be hard at work on exciting new projects for Google which will hopefully become Stadia games we can be thankful for after the tumultuous events the two visionaries have been seen going through in recent history under the mismanagement of EA Games.
According to insiders the next Call of Duty game could take a more traditional approach than last winter’s online-only Black Ops 4. With the Blackout mode still going strong and a new Call of Duty Mobile announced for smartphones, it does make perfect sense to give the single player fans what they want with this year’s main entry. Ex-Infinity Ward developers who jumped ship to Respawn Entertainment were also reportedly flocking to the project during EA’s running afoul last year – so some of the original COD makers could have an influence on the game. Apex Legends has certainly taken the best of both worlds in terms of early 2000s online multiplayer shooter mechanics meeting up with the modern day battle royale mode. But a solid campaign and basic loadout multiplayer could be just what the doctor ordered for the COD series.
Stadia is a service which will enable people to play video games on many devices that were previously not powerful enough to do so. This includes almost any computer or laptop which can run the Chrome browser, most tablets and mobile phones, Chromecast devices, and even some Smart TVs directly. Existing keyboard and mouse or controllers can be used but there’s also a new, dedicated Stadia controller available if users decide to buy one which has its own treasure trove of special features including Google Assistant.
Some features which Google have proudly boasted about in regards to the Stadia platform’s exclusive features include 5 second load times of your favorite games, 4K broadcasting without impacting your own internet connection / gaming experience, sharing save states for players watching your broadcast live or replayed on YouTube to immediately jump into the same point of the game without the need for technical skill or wait times, and even immediate crowd joining for streamers without the need for traditional party invite systems or game startup / load times.
Beyond the scope of features that are already well underway at Stadia there were also some potentials spoken about at the keynote presentation for the service. These ranged from one day being able to stream 8K (which doesn’t really mean much right now) to 120 frames per second streaming (again, that’s probably a bit far away), to more practical usage scenarios like game developers being able to develop their title for more than one Stadia unit. Imagine having the power of five or ten PlayStation consoles for a technical masterpiece title instead of the developer being restricted to only the power of one.
With that being said each Stadia instance is quite powerful on its own. Measured by the all too unpopular TFLOPS standard the Stadia comes in at 10.7TF which is higher than that of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X combined. There are three graphics cards being used on each unit as well with certain visual effects being offloaded onto each rather than a traditional SLI style array which seems to be going the way of the dodo bird. This is something Google currently calls “Elastic Compute”.
- Linux Server-based
- Custom AMD GPU
- 56 Compute Units
- HBM2 Memory
- Custom x86 Processor
- AVX 2
- 16GB of Total RAM
- Up to 484GB/s transfer speed
- L2+L3 Cache of 9.5MB
With over 7,500 edge servers worldwide Google is facing the challenge of internet connections head-on. Connecting a Stadia controller directly to your wireless network will also help to reduce lag (if you opt not to use a pre-existing Keyboard/Mouse, PS4 or Xbox controller you had laying around). Beyond that, Google is bypassing “public-facing” DNS procedures and internet pathways traditionally taken by our applications and plugging users into Stadia in the most direct therefore high speed way possible. There’s even new tech including pre-loading predicted frame rates before they are needed in order to kill any remaining latency for the end user providing a smoother visual experience.
How this all fleshes out in real world remains to be seen but Digital Foundry has provided one of the most in-depth looks at GDC 2019 as well as within their own exclusive test in which Google provided an example of real world environments at 25mbps and 15mbps simulated internet connection speeds.
Until we see pricing it’s hard to say where the Stadia fits in with the current and future market for gaming services / consoles. With Microsoft already attempting to create what they call “the Netflix of video games” and PlayStation Now’s failed attempt at rental services through the cloud adding to the pile of OnLive and its clones which have since gone silent, it will be a pivotal factor. The ease of use and futuristic features are exciting but gamers are a crowd who is particularly resistant to having no physical media option on a platform. One way that Google could fare well in its early days would be to offer competitive rental fees allowing gamers to try out games they may end up buying elsewhere – at least while Stadia is still trying to gain a foothold in the market.
FULL GDC 2019 STADIA ANNOUNCEMENT
[More Stadia Info Available at Google Stadia’s Official Website]
[More Modern Warfare 4 Rumors Available at GamingIntel]