Why are Performance Issues Running Rampant in Gaming?
Over the years, video games have evolved dramatically to become quite unique collaborations between science and art. While many classic titles from the early days still hold a firm place in our hearts, the technical breakthroughs made since have allowed games to become experiences the earliest arcade players could have hardly dreamed of. There’s a comically relatable sentiment among gamers that often when you boot up one of the oldies, you’re staggered at how it looked so incredible when you first played it.
Despite this, one element of our nostalgia is unusually returning and becoming a serious point of contention for gamers. For all the advancement, in one respect it feels like we have actually gone backwards: reliability of performance. The increasing number of games in recent years that come out poorly optimised, ridden with bugs or lacking the necessary server support is becoming a scourge on the industry. Suddenly gamers are desperately yearning for the good ol’ days, where you would put the game into the machine and you were off, without any two hour updates or patches.
The highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 recently launched to great controversy, with many finding the game simply unplayable on last gen consoles, despite these machines being the hardware that the majority of players are still using. So much so, that Sony actually decided to remove the game from their online store in an unprecedented move. In the case of Cyberpunk, its unfinished nature was essentially down to the fact that the last stage of its development was rushed, with there being insufficient focus on optimisation for last gen consoles. While these reasons for performance issues can vary from case to case, the consequence is the same: a trust issue is growing in the industry.
This has had an interesting intersection with pre orders, which have quickly become a much more critical part of a game’s sales period. The developers of Cyberpunk for example, CD Project Red, recently released a report saying that they had already covered the development costs through pre order sales alone. But with this model comes a great deal of responsibility, as promises made in the run up to the release must be delivered otherwise consumers can feel cheated out of their money. Studios and developers that consistently release games that perform well on launch can surely expect a greater level of trust and respect, better ensuring the success of their next titles.
Cloud-Gaming Experiencing Similar Problems
Performance issues with games are unfortunately all too familiar with cloud-gaming as well. The premise of being able to use cloud servers to store and run games is exciting, but laggy and unreliable experiences are putting people off due to poor optimisation for the cloud. Equally, issues with servers crashing during launch are common, particularly for Massive Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) such as Final Fantasy and Diablo III to name a few. Unless the problems are addressed, similar trust issues within the industry are likely to grow and game developers will miss out on a market that shows huge potential.
So what is causing these problems for cloud games? Firstly, the current infrastructure around optimising games for the cloud is severely lacking. Games are made with a focus on running on local hardware, where the port for the cloud is completed right at the end of the development process. While there are some concerns around such things like bandwidth limitations for cloud games, these in time are likely to become less relevant as our average internet speeds increase. More crucially, re-architecturing highly complex games for the cloud late in development leaves a lot of room for problems. Secondly, launch issues for large online games are often down to a lack of the necessary server infrastructure. Player counts at launch are usually significantly higher than the eventual average, but by not preparing adequately for this, the first experience of the game for many people is disappointing.
In order to properly face these issues and achieve a more reliable performance, first and foremost cloud gaming needs cloud native development. With this method, the code used when developing runs exactly the same on the local machine as it does in the cloud. The need for obstructive middleware and repackaging tools is removed and the full potential of the power available in the cloud is finally realised. As an example, Hadean partnered with CCP games to build a cloud native version of the hugely popular game Eve Online. The creation broke the world record for most number of players in a single game, all the while delivering a strong technical performance. This also demonstrated the capabilities of our networking model, Muxer, that gives a much more robust connectivity and ensures reliability upon launch.
Lifting one’s reputation by releasing well polished and reliable games will undoubtedly be crucial to commercial success. In the case of Cyberpunk, games need the appropriate time to be properly optimised. And in the case of cloud gaming, games need to be designed for the cloud from the ground up.