Gaming over the Cloud – The New Realm of this Era

Games have been known to push consumer computing platforms to their maximum capacity. In traditional systems such as desktop computers, it is often expected and accepted that Gaming software will push a system to its limits. However, mobile environments are in a strikingly different scenario as they have limited power reserves. A fully utilized mobile device may have a greatly reduced running time, thus it is important to reduce the complexity of these gaming softwares for mobile devices. Luckily, cloud gaming systems provide a potential way by offloading complicated processing tasks such as 3D rendering and physics calculations to powerful cloud servers.

Cloud Gaming enables new business models for games as well as cloud service providers. Users no longer need to purchase powerful hardware to run new games and can play virtually on any device, which is capable to displaying videos in HD format. On the other hand developers no longer have to fear software piracy as the software never leaves the cloud and also can reduce development costs by focusing on one specific platform. This allows developers to spend more time on improving the quality of the product instead of worrying about compatibility. Even small non-HD devices can be supported, e.g. by reducing the resolution. A smaller resolution requires lesser bandwidth and the video can be decoded at the end device with less energy consumption enabling the use of hand-held mobile devices as clients.

After performing extensive cloud gaming experiments using both mobile and desktop clients several interesting insights have been revealed. For example, gamers’ satisfaction on mobile clients is more related to graphics quality, while the case on desktop clients is more correlated to control quality. Furthermore, graphics and smoothness quality are significantly affected by the bitrate, frame rate, and network latency, while the control quality is determined only by the client types. The amount of resources allocated to high performance multimedia applications such as cloud gaming continues to grow in both public and private data centers. The high demand and utilization patterns of these platforms make the smart allocation of these resources paramount to the efficiency of both public and private clouds. The impact on multiplayer games might be lessened as the synchronization between players is no longer impacted by the distance between the game server and client. In the cloud scenario, the client is virtually located within the data center and thus has an (in theory) optimal connection to the game server at all times.

Advancement in Cloud Gaming

From Virtual Machine placement to shared GPUs, researchers from many areas have been exploring to efficiently use the cloud to host cloud gaming platforms. Although many cloud computing workloads do not require a dedicated GPU, cloud gaming servers require access to a rendering device to provide 3D graphics. As such VM and workload placements have been researched to ensure cloud gaming servers have access to adequate GPU resources. The efficiency and robustness of the communication channels between cloud gaming servers and clients are crucial and have been divided as the data compression algorithms to reduce the network traffic congestion and the transmission adaptation algorithms to cope with network dynamics. Graphics compression is proposed for better scalability, because 3D rendering is done at individual client computers. Compressing graphics data, however, is quite challenging and may consume excessive network bandwidth to design a cloud gaming platform based on graphics compression. These platforms require graphics compression tools which are applied to graphics commands, 3D structures, and 2D textures.

Cloud Storage and its Usage

To estimate the kind of effect cloud computing has on the video game industry, one has to observe the way in which video games are currently using the cloud. Perhaps the most common use of cloud computing at the moment is cloud storage. Gamers have the opportunity to save games onto cloud servers provided by gaming bigwigs like Sony and Microsoft. Some publishers and developers provide saved game storage space as well. The arrival of the current generation consoles (PlayStation 4, WiiU, Xbox One) has also ushered in a wealth of new capabilities with the cloud. The advances in technologies turn playable cloud gaming services into reality; more optimization techniques gradually make cloud gaming services profitable.

Cloud gaming services such as OnLive, GaiKai and Core Online have recently triggered interest in the gaming community by allowing low-end devices (i.e. a low cost set top boxes or mobile devices) to stream games that were typically reserved for high-end consoles. Besides cost-efficiency and power consumption, platform independence is a major advantage of these solutions. Cloud gaming is all about flexibility, with networking being the huge advantage. Consoles and PC’s were always limited by the hardware inside. All the games being stuck on one piece of kit where one needs to upgrade everything for the next best thing. Now, it is only limited by the power of the internet connection. With 5G rolling out globally in the next few years and the cost of internet dropping worldwide, it will be hard-pressed to find a spot left on the globe where one can’t connect in a fast-approaching future.

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