Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022
The Google Stadia controller.
enlarge The Google Stadia controller.


SAN FRANCISCO—In 2016, when Google first approached id Software to bring some games to a potential new streaming service, the game developer was skeptical to say the least. “The proposal immediately collided with our core biases,” said id Senior Programmer Dustin Land during a talk at this week’s Game Developers Conference. “Streaming adds latency to what we so desperately want to remove the latency from.”

Fast forward over two years, and id proudly took the stage this week with a version of Eternal doom runs on Google’s newly announced Stadia streaming platform. But getting from that initial skepticism to that grand revelation wasn’t always an easy process, Land said.

On the way to yes

For years, Land said, Google had been watching their YouTube analytics, waiting for a user base large enough to reach the point where their connections could handle game streaming. In September 2016, Google thought the broadband market was mature enough to give it a try, and the company approached id for some real help with game testing.

Transferring from the 2016 demise that very early version of Stadia only took three weeks of full-time work by two people, Land said. That process was made easier because the game was already running on Vulkan graphics with Linux support, things Land says “made it a good time.” [for developers] adopt” after two years of improvements from Khronos.

But that first streaming version of demise was “weak,” he said, with apparent lag even when used on a local network. So after a bit of iteration, Google came back to id in November with a new version running on a nearby cloud instance using a wireless router, a Chromebook, and an Android phone for input.

“Needless to say, it was a night and day difference,” Land said. “We were amazed by how much things had improved … It [only felt] like someone just forgot to turn on game mode on the TV.” That was enough to convince id to go ahead with the project, even though there were still some issues to work out.

More recently, Land said Google came to the ID offices to set up a “Pepsi Challenge”-esque blind test between Stadia and local hardware “to keep itself honest and really zoom in on eliminating observable differences in the playing experience. They also wanted to show that in certain eyes, Stadia could be superior to a local experience.”

In that blind test, you could “hardly tell what was local and what was remote,” Land said. The results were strong enough to enthuse non-gamers at the company, he added, and compelling enough to give Google executives the green light for the entire project to production, leading to this week’s announcement.

Building a platform

Aside from the improvement in streaming quality, Google’s first entry into the world of gaming platforms has had a number of other growing pains, Land said. The company’s first version of a Stadia development toolchain, for example, was just “bad”, with lots of bugs and a complicated set of steps for setting up and migrating developer environments.

However, after complaints from id, Google brought in a user experience team and quickly turned it around based on feedback, setting up simple SSH instances and global environments, complete with web-based admin portals. “One thing that really impressed us was the extent to which Google listened,” Land said. “Even as they took on more and more, their attention and hunger hasn’t waned.”

Google also had to start from a standing start when it comes to the platform services of running a gaming company. The first version of the Service ID saw was literally just a streaming video window with the ability to read input, Land said. With the support of id, Google has now added performance tracking, identity and profile management, leaderboards, parental controls, save games, stat management, matchmaking and the kind of social graphics developers and players expect from a modern gaming platform. “Just because you’re Google doesn’t mean you get [these] things for free,” Land noted.

Now confident that the technology works, Land said id is optimistic that streaming high-end games could help reach a market of mobile phone, tablet and laptop users potentially ten times larger than the current market for consoles. and gaming PCs. The company also sees great benefits in the reduced friction of users not having to download game files and the added security of the binary game not being exposed to the end user.

Land also teased that id was working on ways to differentiate the Stadia version of from Eternal doom in ways not possible on other platforms. “That’s all I can say on this subject,” he added.

By akfire1

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