In a world where many would like an overpowered computer that is as big as a smartphone (or a smartphone that is as powerful as a high-end PC), that does not overheat, and is scalable, we quickly run into the wall of realities. Understanding that this is an impossible-to-solve equation with the current technology is what gave birth to cloud computing, and in the context of this article, cloud gaming. The idea is to have a powerful computer that can accomplish most required tasks and put it in a data center. It will take up space, overheat, cause heavy sound pollution and consume a large amount of energy, but in a distant infrastructure rather than in your room/office. And this is exactly what services like LiquidSky offer.
While this sounds great enough, cloud gaming brings a lot of other advantages. Surprisingly, I had zero interest in cloud gaming until a couple of weeks back. Like most people, I’d assume, I didn’t believe it would perform any better than my own rig, one I could physically access. Then I started playing Brawlout, a Super Smash Bros-ish game that was available on Steam back then (and now on Nintendo Switch). As someone from France that happens to have a lot of friends in the US, I had been used to the usual latency issues that unfortunately made certain games uncomfortable or flatout unplayable. Brawlout was one of the former. While there was no issue when I played against people within Europe, the lag quickly popped up when my opponents were overseas.
Being a (self-proclaimed) hardcore Smash fan, I was more eager than usual to find a solution to this and ended up trying Brawlout through a LiquidSky trial. LiquidSky is, as mentioned above, a complete PC available on the cloud, with a performance that was higher than my own rig. As such, my first surprise with this cloud gaming experience was the fact that I could run Brawlout at Ultra quality settings when my own PC would only run it well on High. The second surprise was that since I had picked a data center in Washington D.C. for my SkyComputer as they call it, there was no lag whatsoever when I had a match with my friend.
Indeed, the advantage with LiquidSky is that you can freely choose between various data centers (three in North America, two in Europe, and one in Hong Kong). This makes it perfect for online co-op games like Brawlout as I can switch the region depending on who I am playing against. Of course, the further the data center is from you, the more straining it will be on your internet connection, which is why a 5Mbps plan is recommended, and a cabled, rather Wi-Fi, connection is prefered.
LiquidSky also offers two different plans for users, both requiring SkyCredits to be purchased/obtained beforehand. The first one is the Gamer plan, that is advertised as being able to run most games (I personally had no issue running highly demanding games on it), while the second is the Pro plan, using twice the amount of credits for twice the performance, and advertised as running all games (see the screenshot below, which also provides an Elite plan that I assume is a VIP offer).
Of course, if this solution has many advantages over a big traditional desktop PC, it also has certain limitations. The most important one being that in the case of Internet issues, the SkyComputer’s stream sees its performance reduced, or becomes completely inoperative. Obviously, these issue will be quite rare for owners of fiber connections, but they can occur. Moreover, since LiquidSky shines the most in online co-op/multiplayer games like Brawlout, internet issues would have been problematic regardless.
And finally, one of the great benefits that LiquidSky can highlight is its compatibility with most Windows PC’s (assuming you aren’t using a device that is over a decade old), decent Android devices (yes, you can even access your SkyComputer on your mobile devices), and a Mac OS client being in the works.
The only questions left are how far the compatibility with games will go (I’ve experienced issues with the mouse usage in some), as well as whether or not the price (which seems a bit high for now) will be adjusted later. These two questions alone seem to drastically reduce the mass of targeted prospects. We could not get an answer when we asked about the number of subscribers that would allow them to reach a certain balance regarding the price, but it is obvious that Cloud Gaming services are definitely working on a revolution that promises to be even more attractive and relevant tomorrow, but also fraught with pitfalls if not managed properly.