Technically Speaking

The Official Bigstep Blog


Winner Winner Chicken Dinner: How to Win at Cloud Gaming

With more than 2.5 billion worldwide gamers spending $152.1 billion on games in 2019, it's no wonder companies, developers, and even brands are starting to dip their toes in this increasingly growing industry. We cover what’s new in gaming and how to keep up with the technology behind it in the following article.

Cloud gaming is deemed “the future of gaming” by some - although still a disputed topic - but...

What Is Cloud Gaming?

Cloud gaming is a type of online gaming that runs games on remote servers and streams them directly to a user’s device, much like the way Netflix streams movies to your computer, tablet, or phone. That means you can play games - that would otherwise require either a high-powered, expensive gaming PC or a specialized console hardware - on any device that you own. Swell, right? Play a game remotely from the cloud.

How Cloud Gaming Works

With Netflix, for example, you want to watch a movie so you send a command to a remote machine by typing and clicking in the Netflix interface. The remote machine receives the command and then executes it like a regular computer would, except that the machine is not next to you – the movie is hosted on servers far away and you just stream it. The difference in cloud gaming is that instead of just sending one command and sitting back and relaxing, you send numerous commands to the game server (or host), and the server responds by continuously sending back data.

A Different Type of Streaming

In cloud gaming, you input commands continuously over a network, the remote game server receives and processes each player's input since it runs an instance of the game, and when it responds, you see the updated stream on your computer. Since all these happen in a matter of milliseconds, cloud gaming services are working on different video encoding solutions: if your internet connectivity is slow, the stream will compress more elements so that the gameplay will still work as it should.

Why You Need Low Latency

You don’t want your game to lag but to feel like real-time. What low latency refers to is a computer network that is optimized to process a very high volume of data with minimal delay. Due to the nature of cloud gaming, it requires continuous data processing and storage, as well as lightning-fast delivery. Reliable servers, real-time data analysis, and low-latency are crucial for high-quality gaming content and excellent player experience.

Why You Need Wide Bandwidth

Compared to Netflix streaming where you’re not sending many inputs to the video stream, or to online gaming where you’re dealing with small bits of data, in cloud gaming, how fast you get a response to your inputs is crucial. Having an overcrowded network with too little bandwidth can cause problems and spoil the player experience. Cloud gaming requires the remote computer to respond fast to user requests and have a large enough bandwidth to accommodate all users simultaneously.

Why You Need Scalability

Evenings? Weekends? School holidays? All these are times when the number of players increases suddenly. This comes with the risk of over flooding and server downtime.

If the infrastructure is not prepared, it’s game over. People will switch to other games. There’s enough to choose from.

Scalability also has cost benefits; you can quickly scale up resources when you expect more players than usual, and easily scale back down during regular activity times.

What to Choose First: Infrastructure or Tech Stack?

One of the biggest mistakes gaming companies do is to choose the infrastructure provider first and then build the tech stack. As discussed in the Game Backend Engineering summits at the Game Developers Conference, the infrastructure and the backend are inherently related.

We are an infrastructure provider, so it would be easy for us to recommend one of our servers. But we know that specific infrastructures don't support certain technologies and perhaps can’t be easily scaled according to needs down the road, which ultimately creates more problems and lost time, both for the game developer and for the provider.

Before deciding, consider your needs, and also what your needs might be in future scenarios, and make an informed choice on which servers to choose. For considering cloud gaming, the requirements are even more specific compared to traditional online gaming. Take into consideration points of failure, understand what your algorithms need, and choose a reliable infrastructure partner.

Since nowadays most gamers have access to fast internet connections and low-latency network interface cards, latency problems are usually server-side. With downtime the most severe issue that gaming servers can encounter, it's best to ensure a large bandwidth and fast flash storage solutions.

Which Types of Servers Are Best for Cloud Gaming?

Cloud gaming can work on dedicated servers, but it does require a greater scalability than dedicated servers can offer. Thus, many turn to virtual cloud servers, which are easily scalable but can exhibit lower performance. What if you could mix the qualities provided by dedicated servers with the scalability of the cloud in a high performant, scalable hybrid? This is where bare metal cloud comes in.

Why Bare Metal Cloud for Cloud Gaming?

Bare metal cloud are physical machines, just like dedicated servers, with fixed RAM, processor, hard drive, and network, but have cloud-like functionalities, like scalability and flexibility. You can upgrade hardware automatically from the interface, and you can change one server with another one that has a fixed configuration, quickly, with just a click.

The difference between bare metal cloud and virtualized cloud servers is that bare metal cloud has no hypervisor to host different operating systems. This means that it is overall faster and more performant as there's no in-between layer to slow it down. Bare metal cloud offers high performance, especially when discussing huge resource needs.

The bare metal cloud also offers the possibility of very low latency rigs with no virtualization, high-end, high-frequency dual-socket CPUs, dual precision GPUs, and high throughput PCI-e NVMe SSDs, making it the perfect choice for latency-sensitive workloads, such as for cloud gaming. Additionally, a Layer 2 Network can be configured between several bare metal servers, for maximum speed. By using this type of cluster, the communication takes place LAN and not through an L3 network (through the internet).

Infrastructure Is Key to Success

The cloud will redefine gaming as we know it today. Being able to play full-scale HD games on any device or platform will make games readily available to anyone, anywhere. The gaming industry is growing exponentially, and if you plan to take part in this new gaming trend, keep in mind that high latency, low network strength, and an unstable bandwidth may stand in the way of your success. Whether you plan to build an online gaming platform, develop, or publish games, you need a reliable, robust, and fast infrastructure and an architecture that can support demanding workloads. Choose wisely.

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