Google’s Stadia streaming platform launches later this year with a handful of fast-paced, competitive action games like Destiny 2 and Mortal Kombat 11. We’ve seen developers like id Software take the stage at Google events proclaim latency won’t be a problem for kinetic experiences like Doom, but not every developer agrees with that assessment.
Apex Legends is one of the hottest competitive multiplayer games in the world right now, so I asked developer Respawn Entertainment what they thought of the current streaming technology. “We tested a lot of streaming solutions in the last five or six years,” says Apex Legends executive producer Drew McCoy. “For the kinds of games we make, I don’t think they’re well suited. We’re already fighting TV manufacturers and their image processing that’s turned on when they pull it out of the box and everything and that adds like 80 milliseconds of input latency. And just because light moves at the speed of light, and not faster, it’s only adding more. We put an enormous amount of effort on the engineering side to reduce the amount of input processing we do in the engine and so that it’s only a couple frames behind what you’re actually doing. There’s no way to have it on the same frame. So things like streaming only exacerbate problems that we work really hard to eliminate, and it’s really tough having those problems being taken out of our hands. We can’t make whoever’s streaming service better. We want to make our game better and the more reliant on them and user’s internet connection and how many hops they’re going through and what kind of crappy Wi-Fi router they got from their internet provider eight years ago – there are so many problems. I think for some games, it’s gonna be fine, but the really fast-paced precision games, it’s not going to be great for them. That’s only for the people who can feel it, there’s going to be a ton of people who are fine, and that’s okay, but it’s not like we want to target fast-paced FPS for streaming.”
Which camp of developers is right? We’ll find out for ourselves whether the input latency is tolerable for these types of games when Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud release toward the end of the year.