Category Archives: Gaming

A Chronological History Of Cloud Gaming Down Through The Ages

A Chronological History Of Cloud Gaming Down Through The Ages

A Chronological History of Cloud Gaming Down Through the Ages

Cloud video games, also known in this capacity as online games or MMOs (massively multiplayer online) have been steadily progressing in power and appeal since they first arrived in the 1970s. What was once solely a text-based experience, has grown into one sporting untold virtual worlds in many different genres.

Have you ever wondered where the incredible cloud games we play today began? Let’s take a look at their history, which will actually go back much farther than most people might think.

MUDs

Cloud gaming actually predates the modern incarnation of the internet. One of the first types of cloud games were called MUDs, which stands for multi-user dungeons. MUD1, the very first MUD to be created, was launched in 1979 and is the oldest virtual world still in existence. Gameplay was extremely basic and consisted solely of typed commands in a text-based environment.

Ultima Online

The next truly groundbreaking incarnation of cloud games came in 1997, with the launch of Ultima Online. What set this game apart from other cloud games is that it was the first to offer graphics in tandem with a cloud gaming experience. Ultima Online is credited as being one of the most influential games to set the tone for modern cloud gaming.

Everquest

Jumping two short years into the future would bring you to Everquest, the cloud game credited as being the primary drive in the expansion of cloud gaming and MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role play games) to the mainstream West. It sported something unheard of at the time, 3D graphics, and went on to spawn over 20 different expansions over the years.

World of Warcraft

Anyone with any interest in cloud gaming whatsoever, and even those who do not, has most likely heard of one of the cloud games synonymous with current online gaming: World of Warcraft. Credited as being the most successful cloud game in history, with sales in excess of $10 billion, World of Warcraft also holds the Guinness Book of World Records’ top-selling game spot of all time.

Eve Online

Eve Online sets itself apart by being the most successful space-based cloud game, as well as one of the first with a fully player-driven economy. Eve Online is considered by many avid players as “part game, part soap opera and part shadow economy.” This has led to an entire virtual existence inside the Eve universe and sports over 5 million registered users.

ravens_warp_940

(Image Source: http://www.eveonline.com)

The Future?

Tons of new cloud games are released each year, most of which fail to make any significant impact. Several factors need to be met in order to even hope to make a mark in this over-saturated market, ranging from using the free-to-play model to creating an in-depth user economy. Several games do have the potential to be big names this year in cloud gaming; however, only time will tell which of them are truly up to snuff.

Do you have a particular game that you feel has influenced the modern world of cloud-based gaming? Let us know in the Comments section below!

By Joe Pellicone

Different Ways Net Neutrality Could Affect Cloud Gaming

Different Ways Net Neutrality Could Affect Cloud Gaming

Different Ways Net Neutrality Could Affect Cloud Gaming

Net neutrality has been a hot button of controversy between the government, industry professionals and end users for some time now. Net neutrality is defined as “the principle that internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site or platform.” Basically, net neutrality claims that no matter what content you are accessing over the internet, the costs and service should be the same.

The lion’s share of contention to date in regards to net neutrality has dealt mostly with video streaming services, such as Netflix. However, there is one burgeoning market that is being put in the cross hairs as well: cloud gaming. Cloud gaming, including both services like streaming-giant Onlive and digital distribution platforms like Steam, all include using tons of bandwidth to make their services work. Net neutrality issues could easily have a severe impact on the efficacy of cloud gaming models in a number of different ways.

net

Bandwidth Caps

The primary concern of opponents to net neutrality is the fact that those who use streaming services or download a lot of files would have to pay no more than those who use smaller amounts of data. Some companies have contended that those using larger amounts of bandwidth, or are accessing known streaming sites, should have to pay more than those who only use it for standard activities, like surfing and social media.

One of the ways that companies have historically put gamers and streamers in check is caps on the amount of bandwidth that can be used each month. These caps would usually include a set amount of bandwidth usable each month, with any extra being shut out or subject to additional costs. Given that most AAA games are in excess of 30GB in size, this could cause quite a bit of trouble with online and cloud gamers.

Latency

Latency, also known popularly as lag, is one of the chief opponents to gaming online and in the cloud. While this annoyance is not only experienced when net neutrality issues arise, one action in specific could easily make it much worse: bandwidth throttling.

Bandwidth throttling is an action taken by the ISP (internet service provider) that slows down your internet speed once you have reached a certain limit, or are taking part in certain activities, such as cloud gaming. While recent legal actions over in Europe have made throttling illegal, American companies are subject to no such restrictions.

Goodbye, Net Neutrality

The FCC has ruled that net neutrality is dead. Instead, companies would now need to pay premiums if they want their content to be accessible without any caps or throttling. Not only does this open the door for these problems when using companies that do not opt to pay for the premiums, it could also lead to higher price tags on services that do.

It would be difficult to find a cloud gamer who would not agree that net neutrality was one of the most effective proposals to kill the possibility of bandwidth issues due to controlled bandwidth.

What are your thoughts on net neutrality? Let us know in the Comments section below!

By Joe Pellicone

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

The Pros And Cons of Using Digital Rights Management With Video Games

The Pros And Cons of Using Digital Rights Management With Video Games

The Pros and Cons of Using Digital Rights Management With Video Gamesdigital-rights

Digital rights management, also more commonly shortened to DRM, is defined as “a class of technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale.” This is accomplished through the use of code inserted into the media, restricting access to only the person who has purchased it.

Online and cloud gaming currently utilize digital rights management in a big way, when games are purchased over the internet. This comes in the form of persistent online authorization, a limited number of game installs and even protection against tampering with the game’s code.

So is digital rights management the best way to control video games? Is it something that will last into the foreseeable future? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons to using digital rights management in the video gaming industry.

Pros

Content Protection: This reason is the main driving force behind using digital rights management. Video games using digital rights management are subjected to the aforementioned restrictions, making the possibility to sell or give unauthorized copies much more difficult.

Content Availability: With digital rights management protection in place, more companies are willing to put high-end content up for sale on the internet. This is due to a much decreased worry of having the content illegally copied and sold.

Trials: One of the most effective marketing strategies when it comes to video games is allowing the player to try before they buy. In the past, this was only able to be accomplished by releasing two separate versions, one a trial and one full. Using digital rights management, a time limit can be set on how long the full version of the game can be played before payment is required.

Cons

Restrictive: Video games that use digital rights management contain a number of restrictions that can adversely affect a player’s experience. These can include the need for a constant internet connection and the inability to make backup copies of games that you own.

Privacy: Digital rights management safeguards are linked to the specific person who purchased the video game, usually by way of a signup or registration process. This provides an easy way for companies to track which content a person purchases, potentially trampling on individual privacy rights.

Server Problems: While cloud gaming is defined by how it is conducted solely over the internet, traditional gaming is not always restricted by these parameters. However, with digital rights management, no matter what game you are playing, a connection with the internet is mandatory. Thus, if there is any problems on the server side, you would be unable to play the game you purchased.

The argument over whether or not digital rights management should be used in the coming future is a hot one. What is your opinion on the usage of digital rights management? Let us know in the Comments section below!

By Joe Pellicone

Free To Play: One Of The Hottest Gaming Formats For Cloud Gaming

Free To Play: One Of The Hottest Gaming Formats For Cloud Gaming

Free To Play: One Of The Hottest Gaming Formats For Cloud Gaming

As cloud gaming comes into its own, something that most industry experts agree is coming down the pike in 2014, the search for the most effective way to market these games successfully becomes one of the most important activities around. Cloud gaming has effectively leveled the playing field, making the scramble for market share more important than ever before.

One of the more unique methods of marketing that has come down the pike in recent year is the free-to-play model. As opposed to actually purchasing a game, with the free-to-play model players can play a significant portion of the game for free.

team-fortress

(Image Source: Team Fortress)

Advantages of Free-to-Play

Many industry experts agree that the free-to-play model is not only here to stay, but could also signal the death knell of retail purchasing in the near future. The psychology behind this is simple: people like free stuff. So when a game that is comparable in graphic, sound and content quality to its paid counterparts comes into play, approximately ten times more people are expected to try it out.

While having a stable full of customers ten times the size of your competitors is good, how do you get them to pay? Given that free-to-play games are, well, free as the name indicates, no upfront payment exists to cover costs and profits for the developer. The answer to this quandary comes in the form of a relatively new form of payment called the microtransaction.

Microtransactions, also known as micropayments, are pretty much exactly what they sound like: a financial transaction involving extremely small amounts of money. These microtransactions are used to purchase additional content in the game, further enhancing play by an order of magnitude.

Disadvantages to Free-to-Play

Surprisingly enough, one of the biggest arguments against the free-to-play is ethics. The reasoning behind this is that given how small the transactions are in free-to-play video games, people will do them more often. In turn, this can lead to an excessive amount of spending money on game items, to the point where it has been equated to gambling addiction.

Actual gameplay is another area that can suffer under the free-to-play model. This occurs when paid players are awarded with special items and additional content in exchange for their payment. Since non-paying players do not receive these extras, the board is severely tipped in the favor of the payer.

The Future of Free-to-Play

If there is one thing that virtually every industry insider can agree on, it is that free-to-play is here to stay. In fact, it is already one of the primary methods of video gaming in many other parts of the world. For example, China has over 100 million online gamers, with actual game consoles being comparatively nonexistent. As you can imagine, free-to-play is already a huge industry over there.

Having a model like free-to-play is key in developing online and cloud-gaming audiences to their full potential. Do you like the free-to-play game model? Let us know in the Comments section below!  

By Joe Pellicone

An In-Depth Look At Where Industry Leaders Project Cloud Gaming Will Go In 2014

An In-Depth Look At Where Industry Leaders Project Cloud Gaming Will Go In 2014

An In-Depth Look At Where Industry Leaders Project Cloud Gaming Will Go In 2014

VGI

2014 is poised to become the year that cloud gaming truly came into its own. Recent headlines, such as the acquisition of Gakai by Sony and the partnership of Onlive and Steam, all show that the biggest names in the tech community are realizing just how powerful and attractive cloud gaming can be.

Recently, we had the opportunity to pose some of the most important questions on anyone’s mind, in terms of cloud gaming, to some of the top industry professionals around. These professionals include Matt Carroll (commercial director at Disney Interactive), Trip Hawkins (founder of gaming-giant, Electronic Arts) and Lee Schuneman (Studio head of Lift London). These icons will be appearing at Cloud Gaming Europe 2014, which is set in London from May 19th to the 20th.

What New Business Models Could the Cloud Enable?

Business models will revolve primarily around the browser, claims Trip Hawkins, given that the hardware side of things will be much more fluid. This will change the primary focus, in terms of value, from the channel-control and scale side of things, to intellectual property. The cloud-gaming industry will level the playing field, allowing small developers the same level of exposure as their industry-giant counterparts.

What Does the Cloud Mean for Different Players In the Games Industry? How Can They Adapt?

The ability to adapt is going to be the primary qualification for future industry players, says Lee Schuneman, given just how much the cloud-gaming industry is going to shake things up. However, the relationship between customer and company is still going to be the constant in terms of value. Those who own this relationship, whether they be big developer or small, will be poised to set the tone of the future of the games industry.

What Needs to Happen to Make Cloud Gaming Attractive for Consumers?

Nothing, declares Matt Carroll, consumers are already right where they need to be in order for cloud gaming to flourish. Prime example is the way consumers shifted from primarily physically renting a movie from a real-world location or mail order to using services like Netflix. The only obstacle now is content, with the attractiveness factor projected to increase as new content is made available to stream.

The industry leaders have spoken! Want to hear everything these professionals have to say about this exciting time? Check out Cloud Gaming Europe 2014, and attend the full seminars presented by these top names in cloud gaming technology.

By Joe Pellicone

Onlive And Steam: A Marriage Between The Two Top Names In Cloud Gaming

Onlive And Steam: A Marriage Between The Two Top Names In Cloud Gaming

Onlive and Steam: A Marriage Between the Two Top Names In Cloud Gaming

By now, virtually everyone has heard of the implosion of cloud-gaming pioneer, Onlive. The company that was once heralded as the final answer to cloud gaming was forced to file an assignment for the benefit of creditors, which would ultimately put them in the hands of investment firm, Lauder Partner.

The reasons behind this meltdown are pretty easy to identify. Reports indicate that Onlive was shelling out over $5 million each month supporting over eight thousand different game servers, while only sporting under two thousand gamers playing at any one time during peak hours. While Onlive claimed an active user base of over 1.5 million subscribers, money is not earned if people are not actually using the service.

So that’s where the story ends, right? Not even close!

Onlive has once again captured the headlines of major news outlets with their recent pairing with online-gaming provider, Steam. This service will be markedly different than what they offered the first time around. Rather than solely offering games themselves, which could be played as much as you wanted for a specific amount of money each month, users will now be able to purchase their games through Steam and play them on any device they own.

How is this accomplished? One word: CloudLift

cloud-lift-games

What Is CloudLift?

Onlive’s new service, dubbed CloudLift, is able to detect which games you have already purchased through Steam and streams them directly to the device you want to use. CloudLift provides support for all aspects of gaming through Steam. This means you can still enjoy multiplayer with other gamers, as well as all of the achievements and download content that is available.

Current CloudLift Games

Given that Onlive and Steam just recently finalized their partnership, it should come as no surprise that the number of currently supported games is pretty small. As of the time of the writing of this article, the number of supported games totaled to around twenty five. However, while the number may be low, AAA titles such as Batman: Arkham City and Darksiders 2 are among the available titles.

PlayPack

Steam integration is not the only way to currently play games through Onlive. PlayPack, a feature that has been with Onlive from the very beginning, is still available for $9.95 per month. With PlayPack, you have access to over 200 games, which can be streamed to a PC, tablet, smartphone or TV. These games are not purchased beforehand, such as what is involved with CloudLift. Rather, all games can be played simply by paying the monthly fee.

Onlive Go

CloudLift is not the only innovation from Onlive to make recent headlines. Onlive Go, which is being promoted as a gateway to virtual worlds, will make its debut with the popular alternate-reality game, Second Life. Onlive Go will provide access to small developers as a way to make it possible for users to play them directly in the cloud.

Onlive’s marriage to Steam is some of the hottest new to hit the cloud gaming industry in a while. Is CloudLift or Onlive Go services you would enjoy? Let us know in the Comments section below!

By Joe Pellicone

Lag: Effective Solutions To The Most Common Obstacle In Cloud Gaming

Lag: Effective Solutions To The Most Common Obstacle In Cloud Gaming

Lag: Effective Solutions To The Most Common Obstacle In Cloud Gaming

lowLatencyTracking

Have you ever been tooling around a virtual world, poised to strike an unwitting victim, when all of a sudden a delay in the game occurs that causes you to lose the kill? If so, you can count yourself as one of the untold millions that have experienced the bane of online gaming: lag.

Lag, also known as latency, is usually defined as the time that passes between the commands you input with your controller, keyboard or mouse and the reaction by the remote server used to run the game. Lag is usually caused by the fact that virtually no game files exist on the client, or individual player, side of things. As a result, any updates, such as movement or shooting, need to be relayed back and forth across the network.

So now that we know what lag is, how do we avoid it? Fortunately, there are several potential options to cut lag as much as possible, or virtually do away with it altogether.

OLED

Lag is not only caused by the sending and receiving of game updates between the client and server. Another cause is the user’s display being unable to process update requests fast enough. This makes the issue solely a client-side problem and not one that involves bandwidth concerns.

OLED, which stands for organic light emitting diode, brings a reduction in latency by up to fifty percent. A prime example, the Oculus Rift, will use OLED technology to substantially reduce the lag from turning your head or changing the display angle. Not only will this help your performance in the game, it will also preclude you from getting sick from latency and motion blur.

RapidFire

One seminar in specific at his year’s GDC (Game Developer’s Conference) dealt exclusively with the issue of lag in cloud gaming. Entitled RapidFire: The Easy Route To Low Latency Cloud Gaming Solutions, this seminar presented AMD’s answers to lag, such as optimal network bandwidth and the simplification of different hardware controls.

Grid

AMD is not the only computing giant that has the potential answer to latency issues in cloud gaming. Dubbed nVidia Grid, this platform claims to reduce latency by converting game frames into an H.264 movie before they are sent. The process has been further streamlined by eliminating many of the steps needed to create and deliver these frames to individual game clients.

Personal Options

There are tons of different things you can try on your end if you continue to experience lag. These suggestions deal solely with the effectiveness of your device and bandwidth.  Suggestions range from the obvious, such as closing bandwidth-intensive programs, to more involved solutions like tweaking the individual graphics settings of your game.

Conclusion

As the hardware used by both cloud-gaming providers and players evolves more and more in power over the years, expect the issue of lag to one day fall into obscurity. Faster servers, more optimized game code and more powerful client-side devices will all join together to put this obstacle to bed.

Do you have a solution for lag not presented here? Let us know in the Comments section below!

(Image Source: http://www.oculusvr.com)

Cosplay And LARPing: Bringing All The Excitement Of Cloud Video Gaming To Real Life

Cosplay And LARPing: Bringing All The Excitement Of Cloud Video Gaming To Real Life

Cosplay and LARPing: Bringing All the Excitement of Cloud Video Gaming To Real Life

The mechanics behind why video games in general, and cloud gaming in specific, are so addictive are simple to understand. The ability to interact with a situation completely different than those found in normal life, effectively putting any problems or decisions you have on your plate aside for a time and releasing anger and tension while playing, can be intoxicating.

larping

(Infographic Source: sayeauillustration.tumblr.com )

What if you could take things a step further? Instead of being forced to interact with your surroundings in only a virtual capacity, what if you incorporate them into real-world events? The excitement and freedom felt while playing video games could easily be heightened by an order of magnitude if put into a scenario where it is acted out physically, as opposed to virtually.

Enter cosplay and LARPing.

Cosplay is the action of dressing up as one of your favorite characters from video games, comic books or movies. LARPing, which stands for live action role playing, is exactly what its name indicates: acting out different scenarios based on popular media in a real-world environment.

Both cosplay and LARPing have been around for quite a while. The first instance of cosplay can be dated back to 1939, from the first World Science Fiction Convention. The first instance of LARPing, a game called Dagorhir, emerged in the 1970s and is still going strong today.

Events

The worlds of both cosplay and LARPing have grown into enormous activities, especially within the last decade with the rise of cloud gaming. Initially, the primary focal points were comic books, movies and television shows. However, as more and more video games began garnering huge followings, cosplay and LARPing events and activities associated with this form of medium began to emerge.

PAX East, one of the premier yearly cloud gaming events, will include a contest this year designed specifically with the cosplayer in mind. Wizard World St. Louis, an event associated with ComicCon, also held cosplay contests this year, with participants receiving prizes in many different categories.

Given that a large amount of preparation and planning has to go into them, LARPing events are usually much more localized. The LARP Alliance provides a complete list of national LARPing events, as well as those broken down by state.

Gear

Participation in both cosplay and LARPing requires the need for special gear. With cosplay, this means a costume mimicking the specific character you are emulating, thus its shortened name from costumed play. These costumes can be hand made, or purchased from a number of different places online.

With LARPing, not only do you need a costume to participate, many times you will also need specialized and safe weapons. For example, Sabertron, a new Kickstarter project, is a foam sword that acts much in the same way as a laser tag weapon, only with a sword instead of a gun.

Conclusion

No longer are we forced to sit behind a computer if we want to take on the roles of the video gaming characters we know and love. Now, with the extreme proliferation and attention these video games enjoy, you can jump into a costume and take your gaming to a whole new level. Do you enjoy cosplay or LARPing? Let us know in the Comments section below!

By Joe Pellicone

CloudTweaks Comics
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