There’s an old saying that the more things change the more they stay the same. It’s hard not to reflect on that while reading a recent article about computers and gaming moving to a more streaming based architecture. The article begins by discussing methods by which one can play video games without even having them running on a local system. The details get more complex as the discussion progresses. But right from the start anyone who’s familiar with the history of gaming will recognize a pattern.
Video games have been in the home so long that most people consider that the norm. But before home gaming was a reality there were arcades. And shortly before that period there was a mix of the two. And that mix has a lot in common with the cutting edge of today.
The earliest video games made use of a client server model. These tended to focus on dungeon crawling computer role playing games. When people think of these early games they tend to assume that they were similar to a modern MMORPG. It’s true that some of them did have extensive multiplayer functionality. But it was more common, especially at the start, for the games to focus on a single user experience. The player would simply sit down at a very under powered computer that would connect to a far more powerful one. The powerful computer, a server, would essentially run the game. The text and graphical output would then be sent to the player’s computer.
Today this concept is being used by services such as Shadow. For a small monthly fee a customer can sign up to essentially rent out a powerful Windows based computer. They’ll never actually see this computer in person. But they can use a windows or mobile app to connect to the system’s video display. From there the user will essentially be using this very powerful computer from their much more humble home setup. It makes it possible to essentially play even the most demanding Windows games from one’s phone or under powered non-gaming laptop. Though there’s even more interesting ways to tie this into one’s setup.
Adding cloud technologies will mean that someone can integrate file sharing with home systems. This can be an easy way to share files between a home computer, a powerful computer accessed through the Shadow service, and other instances of a particular game. Such as one might be able to play at a friend’s house. It’s a whole new era of streaming games. But at the same time one can easily see where it all began.