The Google Stadia Backlash Has Begun

Image: Google Stadia Launch at GDC 2019.

While people are still grappling with the technical ramifications of Google's Stadia platform, gamers have begun asking deeper, more troubling questions. What do mods look like in a world of game streaming? What happens to game preservation? What happens if Google dwarfs gaming the same way it has with search, browsers and advertising? And most worryingly of all, what happens if Google decides to walk away from the industry later on?

In the immediate aftermath of the Google Stadia announcement, the public discourse largely centred on the technicalities. That was the part Google had provided the most detail on, so it was natural for people to focus on broadband connections, latency, and what is possible now versus a few years from now.

There was a little bit of excitement mixed in with all of that. What's the gaming experience like when your connection is in the same room as the dedicated servers that you're playing on? What's the potential level of fidelity like when games aren't limited to the hardware in a single console, or a single PC? What experiences can you have when it's possible to develop a game that takes players across multiple screen formats?

That's exciting to think about. But there's no such thing as a free lunch, especially with a company that wants to carve up a sizeable chunk of the gaming pie for itself.

The biggest complains or concerns against Stadia can be categorised into three broad aspects. The first is a backlash against Google itself. Not Google the search engine, or the presence of a company the size of Google (or its parent company Alphabet), but rather concern over how Google specifically operates as a business.

Google has a history of launching and then abandoning products, even ones that users really love. There's Google+, the company's alternative to a Facebook-style social offering that never really took off. There's offerings like Google Reader, which fans of RSS readers still miss today. Google Health, a service to broaden access to health and wellness information, was shut down in 2012 after "not having the broad impact that we hoped it would". Google's Orkut social networking service found some popularity overseas, but it didn't gain traction in the United States, so that was killed off in 2014. Google's Allo messaging app was shut down this month.

It's not just virtual products that Google has a history of walking away from. The most damming indictment of the company's attitude brought up in the past week was the rollout of Google Fiber in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville became the 12th city added to the fibre project back in 2017, and the internet conglomerate quickly set about rearranging the city's infrastructure to offer gigabit speeds to residents.

But Google vastly underestimated the technical scope of the project. The plan was to roll out fibre using a series of shallow trenches, where fibre was laid two inches beneath the sides of roads and later covered up with asphalt. The process caused massive disruption to the city's roads, since they had to be torn up. Worse still, the pits and asphalt were too thin, resulting in the rubber patching and, in some cases, exposing the cables and wiring.

Google had to recover affected areas with hot asphalt a second time, but that wasn't the only problem they faced. AT&T and Spectrum sued the conglomerate to block a city ordinance granting Google access to electricity poles in the city. AT&T owns most of the poles in the area, but the lawsuit was really just an attempt to stall Google's rollout, as evidenced by the company's refusal to challenge the judge's ruling.

But the technical challenges proved too much, and after all the disruption Google announced it was shutting down the Louisville project entirely, less than two years after signups began. The experiment hasn't been a total failure - Google's presence forced AT&T to roll out gigabit services faster than they would have ordinarily. But for residents who watched their city pass all the laws Google wanted, and then watched as Google tore up their streets and laid hot asphalt over everything to fix it, only to abandon the project and shut down services altogether, it's a galling lack of respect.

Rightly so, people have questioned what would happen if Google took the same approach with games. Which feeds into the second major concern.

Image: Konami (VG Museum)

Part of the reason why emulators are so revered is because it's the only way some older titles can be played at all. Video games are built on a long and great history of quirks and differences - different games for different regions, titles being censored or banned outright in some nations, as well as what happens to a game during the localisation process.

In the modern era, that preservation problem has been less about functioning hardware and more about compatibility. There's plenty of modders and gamers who have found ways to get titles that used to run on Windows 95 or Windows 98 playing just nicely in 2019. GOG and Night Dive Studios are great examples of making a living doing precisely this.

But have you ever tried to get a game that only ran on Windows 3.11 going? And that's just the compatibility problems. Archivists also have to deal with the degradation of physical media: cartridges that no longer work after 15 or 20 years, magnetic media that becomes disoriented over time, essential data stored on EPROMs that eventually becomes unreadable.

Preserving these games is only possible because gamers have access to the original files, either through physical means or by way of being able to download them locally in the first place.

Why Some Video Games Are In Danger Of Disappearing Forever

Years of neglect are eroding gaming history. Cartridges rot in garages, companies horde demos that they will never release, and obscure titles fade into the ether. Some games may even be lost forever.

Read more

Cloud gaming does away with that process entirely. It's part of why cloud gaming has any appeal at all - by not having to download and install tens of gigs worth of assets, you're cutting out all kinds of loading and downtime that gets in the way of actually playing a video game.

But it also means you're entirely reliant on servers for that game, or the platform holders that offer them, being online forever. And that's never, ever the case. Even when communities have tried to keep older games online, they can run afoul of license holders and copyright issues. But at least fans can try to keep a game alive.

With cloud gaming, that's not possible.

Now that might not matter a great deal for games that are being offered via traditional, local storage mediums. In the interim, things like the next Assassin's Creed, the next Fallout, Battlefield 6 or whatever the next AAA game is will be available like that. You'll be able to buy them digitally or on a disc, like always.

But what happens when games are designed solely around the idea of a cloud service, like the platform exclusives Google is funding?

And what happens to the future of mods? Some of the greatest games today exist exclusively as a result of mods: Team Fortress 2, which went on to inspire Overwatch; Counter-Strike, which the foundations of esports in the West were built on, was borne out of a Half-Life mod; and even the ways games have been improved or overhauled through the tireless work of fans, as seen in the Fallout and Skyrim communities.

Do developers have to build new systems and models to make existing mods playable in a cloud gaming context? Do new editors have to be made for people to access the files? Or does that functionality just disappear altogether?

The size of the global gaming market is part of the appeal for Google, although that's also another bruising reality: there's little to no money in preserving older games, let alone the effect spent to make them compatible on modern systems.

Part of Google's Stadia pitch wasn't just to eliminate frustrations for gamers, but also the technical limitations of existing hardware that frustrates developers.

Take the idea of elastic compute. Instead of relying on the power of a single console, developers building for Stadia could design around combining multiple data centres PCs, allowing games to be run at even higher resolutions, with even more fidelity, able to populate in-game worlds with more people, more things to do, and just more stuff.

That's enticing because existing hardware will only take you so far before you run into a litany of performance problems. It might be the lower-powered CPUs in consoles that make it difficult to calculate the movement of too many NPCs at any given stage. Or memory limitations that affect how much data a client can buffer and stream at any given moment.

But how do you keep a game alive that was never designed to exist outside of a data centre in the first place?

Nobody can answer that. And to be precise, it's not a new problem. It's a question people have asked repeatedly with the rise of digital platforms like Steam, and the online-only nature of gaming services in 2019 more generally. Even without cloud gaming, the push towards subscription-based services means there will be a segment of gamers who - in all likelihood - spend hundreds of dollars a year on a hobby without actually having anything tangible to show for it.

You're paying for access, not a product. Should that company decides your money is no longer worthwhile, there's bugger all you can do about it. And the same applies for pricing and access more generally. Australians might have access to a wealth of gaming platforms, and there's competition on the horizon for cloud gaming too.

But in emerging countries and continents, where modern gaming has failed to penetrate due to a myriad of issues (socioeconomic conditions, internet infrastructure, shipping and supplier problems in getting hardware into some countries), that choice might not be available.

What happens in those places when there's nobody to stop Google from upping prices?

The third and most instant backlash to Stadia was the technical possibility, as in whether Stadia would function at all. A lot of that conversation was dominated by the here and now. Some Australians have rightly pointed out that the spotty, broken rollout of the NBN means a service like Stadia is vastly less enticing than it should be. But the majority of criticism actually came from Americans. Google might have all the data centres, cloud platforms and internal infrastructure it needs throughout the US continent, but the quality of internet service from state to state is shockingly unreliable, so much so that it's not unreasonable to argue that Australia has better internet - on the whole - than the continental US.

Google Stadia's chief Phil Harrison told Kotaku that only 30mbps is required for streaming 4K content, with the 1080p/60fps stream for Assassin's Creed: Odyssey needing 15mbps (although 25mbps was recommended). If you consider that most Australians tend to stream content at 720p or on smaller devices, where the trade-off of lower resolutions is more acceptable, it's not unreasonable to think that, as of today, a solid chunk of the Australian diaspora would be capable of enjoying a smooth Google Stadia stream right now.

There's the rollout of the 5G network to consider as well, the advancement of the NBN, and what happens with future compression technologies and next-generation video encoders like H.265/HEVC/AV1. Newer encoders offer better quality at lower bitrates, meaning users don't have to stream as much data to get the same quality picture.

But even if we make some concessions for the practical bandwidth requirements, there's still the latency problem.

John Carmack's quip this week about gamers playing with unoptimised TVs is interesting as a reminder. Gaming is the world's largest entertainment medium, and while there is a huge subsection that cares extraordinarily deeply about the smoothness and technical precision of some games, there are plenty of people out there who really, truly don't give a shit.

There is a point where "some lag" becomes "unplayable", and what that window looks like varies enormously for different games. Narrative adventures or episodic titles like Life is Strange should have no qualms running on any service. As long as the video quality is sufficient and the delay isn't tectonic, most people will be happy.

But the whole Stadia project isn't designed just to bring singleplayer games to the world. It's an extension of the largest source of content creation on YouTube - gaming - and the community that exists within that. So the real test of whether Stadia works depends on how much Google can minimise the latency in multiplayer games. And some of those games have very, very small margins for error.

Fighting games are a great example. A lot of these games have extremely tiny response windows. Take the simple parry technique, a motion introduced in Street Fighter 3 that required pinpoint timing. It's not just a neat feature, but a measure of skill that also happens to be central to one of the greatest and most iconic moments in gaming's history:

Parrying a super like Daigo did requires 15 correct taps up or down on the stick. The window for just one successful parry is only between six and ten frames, which amounts to about one-tenth of a second at best to respond, or 100 milliseconds.

The average reaction time of most humans is between 210 milliseconds to 250 milliseconds for a visual prompt, around 170 milliseconds for an audio cue, and a little less than that for physical stimuli (being touched, for example).

When you factor in the time someone has to respond against the lag between a button press and that action being recorded, along with display lag and any other associated delay from the connection itself, it's a bloody small window.

Initial tests from Eurogamer found that Google Stadia had around 166 milliseconds of lag, with display and Wi-Fi connection delay included. That's more than double what you'd get from a PC game playing at 60 frames per second. It's also far, far too much than what players would consider acceptable for a lot of esports titles - Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Rainbow Six: Siege and so on - and certainly enough that it would interfere with the experience of twitch-based shooters, like Apex Legends, Fortnite or Battlefield.

Of course, if anyone can make it work it's Google (or Microsoft). The biggest downfall for cloud gaming services in the past has always been infrastructure, which is the biggest component in making a service like this work. The streaming element is a problem that's already been solved. Some gamers are saying the input lag is the biggest problem facing Stadia, and while it's certainly a huge challenge, it's worth remembering that reducing lag was a problem that developers and game programmers were finding ways to solve in the '80s and '90s as well.

As more devs shift their focus or start investigating the cloud gaming experience for themselves - which a company the size of Google generally encourages - more solutions will be found to reduce response times and input lag across multiple devices. The Stadia controller connecting directly to data centres, rather than a Chromecast or another device, is one way of tackling this.

It's also worth remembering that Stadia doesn't have to solve all these problems. Companies are excited for cloud gaming precisely for its potential to expand the current gaming market - not necessarily its potential to subsume the existing audience. There are plenty of emerging markets that can't enjoy gaming today due to the cost of consoles, TVs, gaming PCs and associated peripherals, and for those markets the ability to stream something through a low or mid-range phone, relying exclusively on their mobile connection, opens up a whole new world. There are hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in situations like those, and a lot of the discussion around Stadia has left them out of the loop entirely.

But that doesn't mean Stadia is a service that should be welcomed with open arms. Google doesn't just need to convince people that Stadia can work - it needs to convince gamers that it will stick around for the long-haul. Google's handling of the shifting trends on YouTube certainly hasn't engendered a lot of faith, and it's natural for people to be concerned about what the gaming market looks like after a conglomerate the size of Google starts throwing its weight around. Google hasn't allayed those fears just yet, and until they do, expect the backlash to continue.


Comments

    Damn good read.
    Hell yes we should be asking Google the hard questions and certainly being cautious going forward.
    With Google my worry isn't if they begin gathering data with the service, it's when and how.

    I'm more worried about advertising on the platform. A decade ago, Publishers tried to put real world advertising into games and thankfully that trend went away.

    But with Stadia, who's to say that Google can't whoo publishers and developers to rethink in game advertisements?

      That is a very real concern too. I'm surprised it wasn't addressed in depth in the article. I'd be particularly concerned about F2P type games since it's far easier to justify advertising in them. I'm also a bit worried that being Google, they'll push other aspects of their environment. Like youtube integration and if Google+ was still a thing that as well.

      I'd definitely be more concerned about pricing in developed countries than less developed markets. I feel like they'll be targeting affluent areas and charging a premium. We already see that with companies like Microsoft who have a cheap version of Windows for countries like India or China compared to what we or the US pay.

      Though it may be harder to sustain a cheap service for developing nations simply because the running costs are real and unavoidable. Which is another concern when it comes to games becoming obsolete. It's all good to talk about being able to utilize more CPU/GPU hardware than a console has to power a game. But that hardware still has to come from somewhere (in this case google) and it has to be paid for. As do the power costs to run the datacentre, aircon costs, rents etc. I worry that the profitability tipping point where a game goes from being viable to unsustainable is going to be lower as a result of this.

      But what if in game advertising, done tastefully (like in game billboards or something, rather than intrusive pop-ups), meant no micro-transactions? Which do you hate more? I know my answer.

        That was tried before. What we got was Mountain Dew billboards on every street corner and games that fucked up when they couldn't reach the server for a new billboard ad.

          Sounds like a valid but solvable issue. Is that your only concern with it?

            There is no such thing as tasteful advertisements. I wouldnt pay for something that still had advertisements

              Good advertising is almost invisible, and you see it every day. It's only the bad advertising that you notice and resent.

            My problem is that even if I pay them money they won't fuck off with trying to make more money from me. Leave me the fuck alone. Let me have one second of my life that isn't analysed and commodified for profiteering.
            Like, how much money will it take before I can have five minutes without advertising desperately trying to invade my brain? How much? I'll pay it. Just leave me alone.

              Yes, the ideal is that there is no extra cost, ads, or micro-transactions. But that's not how the industry works and I don't have the personal skills or motivation to change it, so I'm choosing to brainstorm ways I can feel ok with it.

              So, now that we've acknowledged that it will never stop, what's the solution? Is it just a case of you wanting to pay a micro-transaction for it to disappear? I think it's important to note that different people like different things, I for one never want to see micro-transactions, because the temptation for them to influence the gameplay is too strong for most publishers.

              I would much rather see ads in game and feel peace of mind knowing that the way they've chosen to monetise the game isn't influencing the gameplay. Of course that method only works for modern day or future games, can't really have Coca-Cola ads in Middle Earth.

                It can stop. What we need is to pull together as consumers and demand to not be treated like an infinite cash well. It's not like they aren't making enough money. EA makes tens of billions in profit a year. Billions with a B. Tens of them a year.
                They could be less overtly contemptuous of us as customers, but why would they if we just keep giving them more money for each shitty new revenue stream they introduce?

                  I think it's important to recognise what a tiny slice of the market we are purely in the fact that we are talking to each other here. Being on a video game website alone makes us the minority.

                  While we might hate these modern approaches to games, the majority of players (the kind big companies like EA often target) might be ambivalent or even like these features. Busy Mums with no time might actually want to pay a microtransaction to level quickly, the more grindy elements of traditional gaming might not fit into their way of life.

                  Ultimately, the market dictates what lives and what dies. EA make billions (revenue, not profit) because they've addressed market needs on some level. I don't like it and I don't participate in it (I never buy EA games) but it doesn't mean that my opinion is the objectively correct one.

                  I can't reply to your comment (too many nested) so I hope you see this.

                  I think you've got it backwards, here. Games are grindy in order to encourage spending. we're at the point where game companies will deliberately make a game less fun so you will give them money to not have to play it. This isn't a convenience thing. This isn't "player choice." This is flat out greed at the expense of the product, the consumer, and the creator. Literally everyone except the publishing company loses out of this and in any other medium it would never be tolerated.

                  Also, the idea that the market dictates is a shaky one. How can the market dictate with any kind of consumer power when the market is controlled by a few overpowered interests? How can the consumer make an informed decision when those few overpowered interests actively obscure the details of the transaction and spend inordinate amounts on psychologically manipulative strategies?

                  This shit is ethically void. It's morally reprehensible and I honestly think that saying "Well, I don't like it, but that's how it is" implies that all of this is happening in a vacuum when it's clearly an extension of explicitly anti-consumer practices predicated entirely on the idea of getting more profit for less work by any and all means available, no matter how exploitative.

    If and when this sort of platform becomes the norm and consoles cease to exist, I'll finally get to work through my pile of shame. I've no interest in a streaming platform for games, or movies. The way I see it we either end up with a fractured ecosystem as we have with TV & Movies now, where if you want access to everything you need to sign up to all of them, or we end up with a monopoly where one company controls everything. And I can't think of a worse company to have that monopoly that Google. They are an advertising company first after all.

    Let me keep putting a disk in my console or Blu-ray player, knowing it will work, and I'll be happy.

    I'm curious to know what Playstation Now's numbers and consumer experiences are like because that's a game streaming service that has been around for a while and has a growing number of available countries. I imagine that it's probably nowhere near the size of the whole Playstation install base and isn't something used as frequently as non-streamed gaming.

    All technical hurdles aside game streaming has a market and a future, it's just not the one that Google is hoping for. They are certainly not going to be supplanting consoles any time in the near future either. It will be interesting to see how this pans out, especially since Microsoft has it's own streaming solutions in the works as well.

    I imagine it will be like VR with lots of hype and grandiose dreams about commercial market penetration which then just dies down into a simmer that flares up now and again but never really escapes one or two verticals.

    I think the whole game preservation aspect is a bit moot these days. Who plays Assassin's Creed Odyssey or Division 2 offline? Sure, you can.. but why, when you miss out on that sweet online content. What about the MMOs or mobile games that still rely on server connectivity. You can't preserve any of that without the server it reports back to.

    Yes, there are plenty of "offline" games still being made, but nobody really cares about preserving Path of Exile or Neverwinter Online.

      The only reasons nobody cares are:

      1) They've got sweet fuck all chance of getting the games preserved, based on historical precedent of IP-holders fighting tooth and nail against preservation - they'd care if they knew it wasn't a losing battle from the get-go.

      2) They're still online.

      It's pretty obvious that people certainly care a HELL of a lot about attempting to preserve/revive the shuttered MMOs that have gone offline. Several of the groups who care about these have run significant-earning crowdfunding to attempt to reverse-engineer or at least emulate what they used to play, and it's sure as hell not 'lack of interest' squashing every pirate server that pops up to preserve a shuttered MMO. You can argue the motives of folks who successfully emulated vanilla WoW, but they and their players sure as hell cared.

        problem is that everyone you've described is a relatively small minority and not a money making market either. hardware from home won't ever go away i'm sure of it. but the majority of gamers, the ones who pay for the industry won't care about the things you've said.

        reason why i think streaming services for games are good - i have GTA5 disc sitting somewhere in my house. im not sure what box its in but its somewhere.. i saw GTA5 on ps4 store for $17 (AUD) so i just bought it and had to wait for my 44gb download to complete before i could fire it up.
        if i could have just paid $17 and fired it up there and then.. that would have been amazing.

        convenience is king.

        Last edited 22/03/19 4:01 pm

          I sure as shit wouldn't pay $17 to stream or download a game I already owned. That's throwing money away. In theory if you waste hours trying to find the copy you already own that's a time is money type "loss" but then I keep all my physical games together in a library so it's only going be a few minutes to locate at worst.

      Who the f*** plays an AC game online? They're single-player experiences first and foremost, what have you been smoking?

      You can play the division 2 offline?? if true that just got me extra excited to get that game soon.
      I have good internet for an Australian yet i could be doing story missions in Div 1 and get enemies lagging over the place and bullets taking 10s of seconds to register damage.
      My biggest want for that game was an offline mode.

      That was part of the article. We're already seeing what online games do to longevity. Plenty of MMOs have shut down so they're completely unplayable. That is the worrying concern over a platform where *every* game is online only.

      I can still dig out and play games I bought 20 years ago on my current PC if I feel like a blast of nostalgia. But there's a good chance we won't be able to do that with Stadia games. And you're dead wrong about people not wanting to preserve older online games. Look at the push with WoW Classic as a prime example. The demand was so high for a 10+ year old game that Blizzard are basically rebuilding it from scratch. There are always communities that like and want to play old games.

      That said, I suspect the first generation of Stadia games will be multi-platform. So we'll probably also have Xbox or PS or PC versions at least for a little while.

    Wow, what an article! Nice writing, Alex.

    My biggest fear with streaming games is that the streaming service has complete control over when and for how long games are available.

    I tend not to play games at release. It might be a few years before I get to them. When I see Netflix removing films and shows on a regular basis, it sends shivers down my spine. I'm thinking that if games are no longer released as physical media (or even as downloads), there is every chance that access to many games will be, at some point, lost forever.

    I am concerned about Google abandoning things - they've done it frequently and there seems to be little rhyme or reason for it. As soon as they lose interest it gets killed off. There's also a very good point about game preservation too - although if someone was dedicated to it, streaming emulated games could work (and with careful compatibility considerations, could work well). I don't think they'd bother to support that though.

    As for mods - most games don't have much of an active modding scene (unless you count 'visual enhancement' which adds eye burning shaders and fucks with the contrast) so I'd argue that for many games it probably doesn't matter. Emerging markets aren't likely to become the focus here - hell we're not even the focus here in Australia.

    I see this as more of an adjunct to offline games, at least at this early stage. It's an option for people who don't want to invest in a console or gaming PC, aren't interested in modding, or want the flexibility of playing on pretty much anything. It seems like it's more for casual gamers who play occasionally rather than the 'hardcore' sector. I don't think local gaming is going away any time soon, this is just another option to consider.

    If anything it'll kill off the console sector... provided the PC gaming sector doesn't eat itself with six million different storefronts of absolute trash first.

      A couple points in relation to this;

      I don't think Google losing interest is the real concern. It's the developers. Someone has to pay Google to host the games and it'll be the developers (and ultimately us). So while Google are getting paid I don't see them shutting down games. Why would you shutter something that makes a profit? But the developers... they're a different beast.

      A real concern is how do the games continue to make enough profit to sustain their infrastucture? As I see it there are really only a few options, subscriptions, advertising and micro-transactions. I can't see a Stadia future for games that are pay once play forever because at some point the monthly cost to host the game will outweigh the initial purchase price.

      I'd disagree about mods, at least when it comes to PC games for precisely the reasons stated in the article. Mods have been crucial to the ongoing success and development of a lot of important games. I for one would much rather play games where I can mod, whether it's making maps in Counterstrike/Quake/etc or creating new play modes Quake/CS/Unreal/etc or even just customizing the UI like WoW/Wildstar. Modding has been the genesis of a lot of great games and a launching point for a lot of talented individuals. It'd be sad to see that disappear. That said, maybe it'll be possible to mod with Stadia we'll have to wait and see.

      I'm actually more concerned with the PC sector than console. To be honest, most PCs don't need modern CPUs and GPUs for simple day to day work like email, web browsing etc. It's gaming that truly pushing demand for faster more powerful hardware. I'd be concerned that with a push towards streaming we'll see a shrinking in the PC hardware sector. If Nvidia and AMD don't have as many desktop customers why would they keep working to develop new gaming boards? They'd refocus on datacentre products.

        Mods are simply irrelevant for the majority of gamers. The glory days of modding Unreal, GoodSrc or idTech games are long gone. Authors are packages like Unity mean you don’t need to tie yourself to a game. It’s only living on in games like the Elder Scrolls series or GTA, or as you say UI mods.

        I loved the 90s/early 2000s modding scene, but those days are gone.

          It's not as dead as you think. Admittedly some of the games on the list are not *brand new* but they're certainly not 90/00s games.

          https://www.slant.co/topics/6386/~games-on-steam-with-great-mods

          And they don't include Grim Dawn which has a very positive attitude towards modding. Nor does it include The Witcher which has some great QOL mods. Or the Serious Sam Series which has supported mods for ages and has a new game coming soon which will likely continue that trend. We'll also have a new Doom soon which will likely have a map editor again.

            The Doom map editor was an in game element and could easily be supported by streaming services. Also id Software confirmed that snapmap has been dropped, so it actually won’t have a new map editor.

            Many titles mentioned are ones I’ve already mentioned (eg Bethesda games or similar), or are older titles from when modding was somewhat more popular (JC2, M+B, etc...). You mentioned the great days of Quake/CS etc - that era is long gone. It’s died off progressively, starting after HL2 (probably because it became more complex and time consuming). Many modern titles just don’t have that many mods outside of graphical mods which are questionable - the days of total conversions, or even partial conversions, are pretty much over. You don’t need to mod if you can just build it yourself in Unity. What we call modding today is mostly cosmetic enhancements. And yeah, you have a point for cosmetic UI enhancements, I’ll concede that - but it’s not like you’re missing out on a brand new play experience that was the drawcard for buying some games in the 90s (eg buying Half Life to play TFC or CS).

              I don't think you deserved a downvote for that.

              I definitely agree that the best modding days were Quake/HL era. But I still think that we have recent games which support modding and map making and there is no reason that can't continue. I think Doom and snapmap prove that it's possible to create a modern game with a controlled mod/map infrastructure even in an online game.

              I also don't think that the best modding days have to be past. I love games that let me make my own maps. With better dev tools, better hardware and better distribution systems it's a perfect opportunity to support map tools and modding.

                Somebody just got angry because someon disagrees with them.

                Doom's snapmap can work within streaming - there's nothing to stop it at all. But apparently it wasn't that great because they're not including it. I don't know why, I loved it.

                The issue with mapping these days is that level geometry is becoming more complex, and lots of level meshes are just knocked up in Maya rather than the old BSP engines we grew up with. The best map editor I've ever used was Doomedit for Doom 3 with its in engine rendering on the fly. But if you wanted to make custom content, if you had the tools and talent, you could just pick up Unity and do whatever you liked without worrying about the licensing agreement for whatever game you wanted to mod and whether or not people would have said game. Authorware packages killed off a lot of mods.

    Is this a joke? To get to the comments I had to scroll past 64 ads, being pushed back up the page by loading ads several times while trying to read a comment. It's been bad for a while now, but this is beyond ridiculous.

      About two months ago the ad servers on Kotaku would crash my browser. It's not great.

      Hah... its worse on my tablet where it incrementally loads those damned ads AFTER the comments soi think im clicking on reply and then i suddenly get a pop up coz ive clicked on an ad that loaded last second... i scroll down and hit reply.. oh wait ANOTHER pop up..

      This is bordering on fake link for ads income teritory =/

      Come on dude that's a massive exaggeration. It's barely like, 30 ads. Oh wait I didn't count the skinning... and the sidebar ad... hang on wait... never mind.

        Hah, if only I were exaggerating! And I didn't count the sidebars in that, either!

    • This comment is not available. This comment is not available. This comment is not available. This comment is not available.

      This comment is not available.

    As with everything else Google makes, the question is always "would you trust a gaming platform made by an internet advertising company?"

    *Laughs in Australian Internet

      ^ This.

      Also why would I want to give Google access to more of my data? Hard pass.

      Keep the faith. The change is coming. I'm lucky enough to live in an area covered by a non-NBN provider who hooks up "proprietary 5G" (it's wi-fi) on buildings so we get 50Mbps up and 50Mbps down.

      Funny thing is he said to me: "It's tough running my business, because every time I start signing people up in a neighbourhood, suddenly the NBN comes in and rolls out the cable. It's like they just use me to gauge demand for high bandwidth."

      I thought "yeah yeah typical small business owner paranoia." I signed up with him and then... maybe two months later... the NBN was there digging up the street laying cable after promising it for four years. Co-incidence? Maybe I guess.

    Great article, thanks Alex!

    The selling points that were mentioned in other articles- eg: pick-upable save points, and streamer interactivity, reminded me of something embarrassing that I do often when watching others play games.

    I try to interact with with game itself. Like, I stab at my iPad and try to see the inventory tab, or turn the point of view.

    Could this type of interaction be possible with what google are offering?

      In theory that sort of thing would be possible with any online game if the developers wanted to allow it. Lots of games already have spectator modes. It'd just be up to the devs to decide whether to let you pan your camera view, view inventory etc. I think though, it would raise privacy concerns. There'd need to be a setting in game to allow it.

    How are you going play Assassin's Creed Odyssey on your Google Stadia if you don't have a solid internet connection?
    I'm not going to say it again the Google Stadia is going to fail and it's more of a streaming console than a games console.
    Google if you're listening lay off the crack pipe.
    You and your Stadia console are going to fail real hard.
    We don't want another console we've got enough consoles and when the Google Stadia launches later this year the price for this streaming console will be very expensive.

      It's NOT a console. It will literally run on anything capable of running Chrome. So your TV or blu-ray player *becomes* the console. The only thing you'll have to buy will be a controller. And it's always possible that they'll set it up so that existing controllers will work. So the price will be negligible.

      The history of the internet is littered with people who failed because they thought bandwidth would get much fatter much faster than it really did.

      On the other hand, the history of the internet is also littered with people who failed because they insisted bandwidth would NEVER improve, and building a website to stream, say, user-uploaded videos, would definitely fail.

    Aside from our crappy internet and everything else mentioned, I also have concerns about things like maintenance. Everyone remembers how rocky the launch of things like Diablo 3 were, imagine you want to play your favourite new game on Google's service, only to get "Stadia is down for maintenance until X:00PDT".

    Companies like Blizzard tend to do their maintenance off-peak for the US, but it falls right into peak gaming hour in Australia a lot of the time between 7pm to 10ish.

      That is one area that I think will actually be better. I would expect Google to have a larger infrastructure base and potentially failover from one location to another. So if this batch of servers is out of action another batch will pick up the slack. It may affect performance, but I think it's actually less likely to be "down for maintenance".

      I can't imagine they'd design a platform like this where updating one game would take others offline. So it's less like blizzard where a server update takes down WoW and Diablo.

    interesting article.

    thought this made me laugh...
    You're paying for access, not a product. Should that company decides your money is no longer worthwhile, there's bugger all you can do about it.

    I am amazed how many people dont realise this about digital games, even music from Apple and all range of things these days. heh

      It's the main reason I still buy books, CDs and blurays rather than stream. Though even that doesn't always help considering how shitty bluray is with it's DRM :(

      This is why I buy music. I will never pay for a Spotify premium account. How fucking dare they advertise that I can save my music for offline like it's some kind of fucking revolution in convenience and not turning the concept of ownership into a subscription service.

      This is why I appreciate game crackers. Not because I want to use them but, because a lot of older games just aren't around anymore. I've lost the disk or it's not on the market. thankfully it'll probably be around if platforms like steam or origin also decided people aren't allowed to use their platforms (a long shot I know but, the point is still valid)

    I'm more concerned about Google's ability to determine the type of content people play - to create gaming 'trends' artificially and basically shape what gaming is. It also somewhat horrifies me the idea the quality of games could be spuriously determined by Google. For example, you're an indie-developer who has determined a way to create a unique small gaming experience that uses similar technical specifications as a AAA game. But depending on Google's model, companies that desire greater access to more powerful processing must pay higher fees to access more resources. Small developers would have difficulty maintaining those fees without the same audience base as those AAA games.

    The problem is, currently what is possible is in the hands of the consumer. A developer can make a game to whatever specifications they desire. It's up to the consumer to determine if they have the necessary hardware to support that. You can buy your 6th dimensional graphics card and do what you want, and even an indie developer can appeal to these specs, if they desired.

    If resource allocation for Statia is user based (numbers, pricing, etc) this is just as bad. Games just become a popularity contest. Finding that 'hidden gem' becomes a whole lot more difficult because who would want to invest into something that may not have the resource support, user or developer.

    Then there's Google who may just determine that certain games just aren't worthy of resources.

    As a concept, cloud gaming sounds great. But its potential for abuse is disturbing.

      This is a concern I had too. I guess we'll have to wait and see how their pricing model actually pans out. There are a ton of way they could do it, but I'm guessing they'll use something similar to webhosting where you pay based on a mix of utilization, storage and bandwidth. It'll be very interesting as we start seeing pricing come out and stories from devs about how the pricing model actually affects them (and in turn us).

    I don't know about you but the input lag in the Google video when they demonstrate the system (17 minutes) look pretty bad. You can see a visible lag between the mouse moving and the screen responding and this is their all singing and dancing demo.

    AC can be sluggish to response, it is not a twitch shooter, but there is definably some extra potato in the pudding mix.

    hmm I'd never use Stadia- I don't need it- I have a decent gaming rig.
    However I'm not who they are marketing towards.
    Building a rig is expensive and this is a barrier.
    Buying a console is expensive and this is a barrier.
    However Stadia will likely be far cheaper and will open the market up.
    As long as Google behave well, and put the games, publishers and developers in the forefront this will work.

    What do mods look like in a world of game streaming? What happens to game preservation?

    You're making Microsoft drool!

    On PC, we already have these issues with UWP. You don't truly own it. You can't mod it. You can't preserve it. Game streaming doesn't bring anything particularly new, it just worsens it.

    It's hard to imagine Skyrim and Minecraft without mods.

    I'm worried about what this means for the Play Store and indie games. Will Google have a Play Store like review process, curate every game or have a more console like process? Will this be running Fuchsia/Android?

    Last edited 25/03/19 1:23 pm

    I'm positive the market itself will take care of this. Will it be stable? Will it be moddable? Will it provide a complete experience? etc. Failure to give the players what they expect from games will keep them away from the service and Google will just shove it into the bin next to all its other experiments.

    Hey Alex, hope you see this.

    I do propose an article for you to write if it's not in the works already or if you are happy for me to write.

    All these streaming services are coming in a new age of internet. Especially here in Australia, the dawn of 5G can be massive reason we are seeing these services being implemented and carried forward.

    Prospectively 5G is a high data, low ping wireless connection (in layman's terms). It will become widespread and readily available with ISPs, Telcos fighting to be the first to launch said service. I think that can be the big hint when realising you can use virtually any device to use Stadia.

    Take your tablet to work, your phone to a family reunion, while you are in public transport, etc.

    There are plenty of reasons to think that this can definitely be doable. I'd say maybe a year too soon but definitely a way gaming can move forward.

      I've already got that in mind, although it's worth noting most Australians won't be using any form of 5G until 2020 or 2021 - not all networks go live later this year, and most Aussies upgrade their phone every 2 or 3 years depending on contract. But testing 5G once it goes live is definitely something I'll be hitting up heavily when it becomes available.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now