New Google Stadia !
Today I’m going to be reviewing Google’s stadia. It’s finally out. This is the found roots Edition which is out this week for those who pre-ordered it and I’ve been using it for about the past week playing a selection of their launch titles and using it in a variety of conditions to see what the performance and the feature set for cloud gaming at least from Google’s perspective is all about. Because I’m sure some of you have read or heard this is this launch is not without some interesting launch conditions .let’s call that .So if you’re not familiar stadia ,was announced earlier this year . Something that Google has been working on for quite a long time now and it’s not necessarily their console because it’s not real console hardware or a game platform.
How Google Stadia works :
it’s cloud gaming service.They have data centers that they’ve set up. They’ve built these server blades with very high-end PC hardware ,a ton of potential compute an order of magnitude more potential power than when you get on like an Xbox one S .And the ability to then render those games remotely and stream them over Wi-Fi or over Ethernet connection onto your pixel phone your laptop or Chromebook when your Chrome browser or onto a TV using a chromecast ultra .In theoretically as high fidelity up to a 4k HDR with iPhone 11, surround-sound and as low latency as you would be able to
expect playing you know almost any game in the home .I’m not gonna dive too much into that compression and latency technology today.
Google Stadia tiers :
But we will talk about the experience.And there are a couple of tiers to stadia .A lot of people have been confused about what you buy or what you get. what’s launching right now is the founders Edition . so that’s the paid tier to state and your pay essentially ten dollars a month and you do get a couple months free with the founders edition . The hardware that you buy to get access to the service and with that you do get one free game at launch you get destiny 2. But then you also then have the ability to pay for games full price games that you would go buy on PC or other consoles .
There will be a free tier to stadia coming next year and that will be again you buy the games you won’t get the free game like destiny or whatever games they announced in the future and your streaming quality will be limited to 1080. so like might make more sense for a mobile play or playing on a laptop but if you want the best quality you have a 55 or 65 inch 4k HDR TV at home you might want to then look at the paid monthly version of a stadia. well you’re not buying game console hardware with stadia .you’re not buying a 300 or $400 game console or gaming PC that you put in your living room or your office .There is the opportunity to buy some hardware to make stadia work .
Google Stadia Controller :
so the foundation comes with the controller and you can buy the controller and the controller is really great. it’s designed really well has button parity
with with all the major consoles .so you got your triggers your shoulder buttons you had a good d-pad two analog sticks that again feel really familiar if you’re used to playing on an Xbox and some custom buttons for accessing things like google assist in and sharing videos.on the center stadia button and it’s charged over USB or data runs over USB right now .On mobile site it runs on pixel phones and what they’re calling the Google the claw attachment design .internally this doesn’t come with the final edition .it will be sold exclusively on the Google store and it’s a really nice clip really well designed as well .you clip it onto the controller and exposes the headphone jack your stadia button as well as the USB C port and then phone’s can snap in right there. plug in the USB C cable and you then have the ability to control your game on your phone . And this is really nice ergonomic design .
on a TV side if you want to play stating games on a TV at launch will only work with the chromecast 4k. the chromecast ultra
and in fact at very launch it only works,with the chromecast Ultra that ship with a Founders Edition and other chromecast ultras will need a firmware patch. The version that comes with the foundation has the Ethernet port which is nice .so you want the lowest latency you’re gonna want to connect that over your internet connection and not just use Wi-Fi. but of course ideas that you can play in almost places as you have Google Chrome or
chromecast products. so you can also play this on a laptop or PC in your Chrome browser with a keyboard mouse or plugged in USB gamepad .
Google Stadia Performance :
so let’s talk about performance. when taking it to home I was surprised.I do have gigabit access at home and the latency on my TV using the chromecast and using the controller here was really really good.like going doing an a/b test between that and local Xbox one.it was almost indistinguishable playing a 4k game on the TV . if you go right up to the TV and you try to look at the anti-aliasing and look at some compression you may notice some of that if you’re going right up to the TV . but at a standard distance away from the TV of about 10, 15 feet no problems with the quality .The quality even looks better on a mobile phone of course that’s running at the phone’s resolution in case of the 1080p and I was just flabbergasted. I love looking at these high-end console games and PC games like Tomb Raider rendered on this phone because my brain just doesn’t believe it . because I’m waiting for the phone to overheat I’m waiting for the battery drained down the fans aren’t nothing like makes me feel like this is like watching a youtube video. it looks like it’s locally rendered. I tried to see if I can see dithering. But it just looks great on the mobile device .
The thing that doesn’t work so well on the mobile device is sometimes the UI .A lot of these games are designed for play on big screen TVs or designed for play on a computer screen a 27-inch monitor 24 inch monitor. And when scaled down to a six inch phone I am finding that the UI isn’t adapted . I am squinting to read the text a lot of the prompts that pop up .so it’s not optimized for this size of display . And I did find myself wanting to tap the screen to hit dialogue buttons,when it says press a to close this one or okay, I want to hit that okay button,with my finger but developers for these games haven’t made them touch compatible. no don’t know if that would be possible to do so because when you play this on a PC on the Chrome browser keyboard mouse is activated .so I’m wondering could they just activate touch as an analog to a mouse click for example. The places where I did find the most noticeable compression ,the ring ended up being on a web browser and on the PC screen and you know you do need a decent internet connection to make this work.
Google stadia bandwidth usage :
Every time you load a game there will be a check on your connection . So home Wi-Fi and office Wi-Fi which is obviously not the best Wi-Fi .Still stream fine .but places like Airport free Wi-Fi .That’s not good actually being able to work and won’t even try to run the game on poor Wi-Fi connections. So your experience may vary right now .it won’t even work over mobile connections and it will consume a fair amount of bandwidth .if you’re at home on a 4k stream for example you may get up to 15 gigs per hour of download for just the video streaming .But of course if you’re talking about of game like Red Dead Redemption 2 which is already gonna be over a hundred gig download .perhaps that is a little bit of a trade-off .some of the advantage of course of stadia is that you’re not having to download or update .Not only the game but also the hardware system .
The promise is that over time Google will update their server Harbor .So you’re always going to be getting the cutting-edge . Some of those benefits are supposed to also be immediately noticeable now because they’re using fast storage. But game load times are still here .I’d say they’re comparable to having a SSD on your system but you are waiting for load screens. That was a little bit surprised I thought the promise would be that games would be optimized to load almost instantaneously and that’s something that console makers are putting into their next-generation console designs. So this definitely unless they adapt that to work for those games on stadia feels more like a current gen console situation less than some magical next gen immediate loading console game .
I talked about the UI and some of the adaptations that the developers have to make for their games to work on stadia .There’s a fair bit under the hood. it seems that developers will have to tune for example you can’t adjust graphic settings in games .you have gamma settings and brightness settings.but it’s not the PC game experience where you can toggle between resolutions or anti-aliasing .None of that is transparent to the user .there’s also,some back-end work done to make sure the savegame works with stadia between different instances .but you don’t get access to the file data or mod ability and that’s still something to be determined how stadia will work with mods .it’s something they’re aware of but they just haven’t revealed to users just yet. it really feels like a lot of the UI work is adapted to make work for big screens. I think it looks really great on a big 65 inch TV and it looks really good on you know 27-inch computer monitor as well .
Google Stadia running on a Chromebook :
The game the graphics look great on a mobile phone and it’s amazing for it to see it running on a Chromebook .But the UI elements aren’t perfectly scaled for those sized screens at this point .I don’t know how much work developers have to do so make that custom work to make that look a little bit better. but the idea is that you’re supposed to be able to swap between devices and I was curious how that swapping would work .
in the stadia if you back out of a game or if you pause a game and you load up the web browser you can say resume state and you have a basically a grace period.if you turn off your chromecast and you’re then moving on to your office and loading stadia up on your office computer .you about a five to ten minute grace period where it’s gonna save that exact state. Any longer than that then the server basically to reverse to a save game and you have to load the game from the main menu .so it’s not quite instantaneous nor,is it quite as persistent as I’d hope. so that idea that in the future you’ll be able to pause the game in your living room jump on you know jump in a lift or a rideshare and play the game on your phone and then and then play it at the airport and then play it on airplane .that’s not gonna be anytime soon.
what’s also not available at launch may come down allowed are some features that Google made announcements for when they announced stadia earlier this year and that includes crowd play .the ability to watch a youtube video of someone playing ,their game of city alive click join multiplayer and join into that game immediately in their browser .that sounds like really cool potential for a cloud gaming .not available at launch .nor is State share. the ability to share where you are in your save game with someone seamlessly. so they can jump into where you are and you guys can play you know asynchronously. but have that state sharing of save
games . not available nor is stream connect the ability for people to take a
bunch of different streams of people playing stadia games and then composite them in some type of UI .
Advantages of cloud gaming :
Again lots of cool opportunities that take advantage of cloud gaming . but not ready at this point. right now there’s even just trying to get parity with the console gaming experience and at launch they don’t even have things like achievements or the friend pass just yet .what I would also love and I think would help stadia is ,ability for them to enable some type o demo mode. something that would allow people to try games out . maybe play the first 10 or 15 minutes of a game begins used that cloud streaming service and then that would maybe entice people to then buy the full version of the game. that’s what I would like to see come to cloud gaming in general. but perhaps what’s most disappointing about stadia at launch is the available games lists.
Google put out lists of all the titles and all developers they’re working with
and there are some notable admissions that hopefully would be out by the end of 2019 .but at launch they’re just 12 games .yes there’s the destiny to game that ever gets for free and that’s important because that’s gonna be a closed ecosystem for multiplayer. destiny 2 players on stadia can only play with other destiny to players on the stadia. but the other games you can buy right now you know the flagships include mortal kombat 11 ,shadow of the Tomb Raider ,the latest Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and most notably probably Red Dead Redemption 2 is probably and that’s last year’s a flagship title .That’s probably the best highest quality game that takes advantage of the fact that you don’t that download a 100 gigabyte
game file to get it playing immediately. And I think the games that they’ve
promised coming down the line things like cyberpunk 2077, that’s gonna really push the limits of the latency and quality.a game like cyberpunk is gonna look amazing and it’s probably a massive game file that could potentially take huge advantage of clouds streaming and a game like dual maternal twitch shooter .that is gonna push the limits of the low
latency which will vary for different people in the launch countries for
Cloud gaming Data Usage :
There are also considerations like I mentioned data caps .you know
streaming if you have a Gigabit Ethernet connection chances are you probably have unlimited data. so using up to 15 gigabytes per hour streaming 4k HDR 5.1 audio video isn’t gonna be a problem .but if you have a cap data connection you know 1080p streaming will take up to ten gigs per hour .even 720p connection will take up to 4.5 gigs an hour. that can add up. but it doesn’t bode well for when Google and other cloud streaming cloud gaming services inevitably want people to be using this on the go with their mobile internet connections with their Verizon and at&t mobile plans and they’re gonna be the costs associated with that .and that’s what they’re thinking is this is a long term play .google says they’re in this for the long haul .
They’ve built up an internal game development studio to make games which we won’t see the fruits of for maybe several years .They haven’t shown anything for that yeah and I’m not worried about necessarily the technology.I know that Google has the data centers. They are the right people to be investing in cloud streaming and both Sony ,Microsoft, Nvidia .they’ve already invested in cloud streaming .that feels less like a proof-of-concept technology we even saw working to some extent years ago,with online and more of an edit ability.
12 Games available for google stadia
But my fears of stadia is gonna be the game support and one how difficult will be for developers and publishers to port their games to stadia .you know they knew this launch was coming and even then they only have these 12 titles at launch .things aren’t ready .why is that the case .is it really that much more work on the backend to adapt these games. I understand it’s not gonna be a one button solution to make a PC game work on the stadia platform .but if it’s gonna be a lot of work that means a lot of costs . And so my other fear is that publishers may be scared away not only by that cost but the unproven market that is stadia and cloud gaming in general. it’s that chicken and egg problem you know publishers may not want to invest and spend the money making their games work on this platform if there aren’t enough users out there and there aren’t gonna be enough user out there If there aren’t enough compelling reasons or content to make people adopt this platform . And at launch right now
where they’re already asking people to spend ten dollars a month on this or paid invest 130 dollars on the founders edition .there’s a not a lot to make me convinced that there’s gonna be a big enough community to convince more publishers to jump on board. now Google,has a lot of money. they can invest in the technology .they can invest in the game studios maybe they could also invest in ways to get people into this platform for free .and so the next tier you know the free version of CD I think will be a lot of the proving grounds for this service and for stadia in the first year of launch. that’s coming in 2020.
Google stadia beta launch :
so in 2019 right now November as the stadia has launched it really feels like more of a beta launch .I wish Google would be more transparent about that. you know not all the features are there and yeah this like other Google products will have more feature rollouts . but if it’s something that they announced back in March and have promised throughout the months and they’re calling this a laungh. that’s just not acceptable because this is not YouTube or Google Docs you know .this is supposed to compete with PC game with Steam with epic ,the games store with Xbox with PlayStation and those consoles those platforms don’t launch with almost half of their feature set not there with the promise of the feature set coming and with this paltry of a launch lineup . so consider this an evaluation of school stadia beta in my mind it’s still beta at launch and we’ll come back and reevaluate it a couple months down the line when there are more opportunities playing more games when the free tier comes out .
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