During its Game Developers Conference keynote presentation on Tuesday, March 19, Google unveiled the final version of its “Project Stream” technology. Called “Stadia,” the streaming platform does not feature a dedicated hardware box, but it offers players, video creators, and developers the chance to interact like never before.
What is Stadia?
Google’s Stadia is a game platform designed to allow everyone to enjoy video games, even if they don’t have a powerful PC or console, or they can’t download extremely large files. With data centers in more than 200 different countries and more than 7,500 edge nodes around the world, Google is able to provide high-quality game streaming to practically any device.
Stadia is streamed directly to your Chrome browser, similarly to how Project Stream worked. The latter service was limited to just computer browsers, but on Stadia, you will also be able to stream it on phones, televisions, and tablets. Not only that, but if you’re logged into more than one device with the same Google account, you can drop one and pick up the other to keep gaming on the go.
When watching YouTube videos of games on publishers’ official channels, you’ll also be able to see a “play now ” button in the corner. Click this on an Assassin’s Creed Odyssey trailer, for instance, and you could be playing the game in as few as five seconds.
Stadia will feature support for up to 4K resolution with HDR, 60 frames per second gameplay, and surround sound at launch. In the future, Google plans on adding 8K resolution and support for up to 120 frames per second.
Stadia will support your typical gamepads that you already use on your laptop or PC, but if you’re playing on a separate device, you’ll using the official Stadia controller. Its layout was previously leaked, but it functions similarly to the Xbox One or PS4 controller, with two sticks and the face buttons where you would expect them.
However, it also has a special “capture” button that lets you instantly start streaming your gameplay to YouTube, and the unique Google Assistant button. Press this button while you’re stuck on a section of a game and you can talk to the Google Assistant through the built-in microphone and get tips.
Making game development and streaming better
Google’s goal with Stadia is not just to make it easier for the average person to play a hardware-taxing game, but also for developers to have an easier time making them.
Using a feature called “Stream Connect,” games will be able to bring back couch-based split-screen multiplayer without compromising on a game’s performance. This can be done with asymmetrical games, and they can even have “command center” setups for different gameplay experiences.
A second feature designed to make world design simpler is called the “Style Transfer ML.” ML, in this case, stands for “machine learning,” and using Google’s A.I., you can apply the art style of nearly anything to a gray polygonal world. In the demonstration, we saw the famous Van Gogh painting Starry Night morph into a game world, and even the famous Pac-Man screen became the level.
Stadia makes use of the Vulkan API, and because of the wide industry support for this already, game developers are finding it very simple to make their games run on the platform. Id Software executive producer Marty Stratton revealed that Doom Eternal was up and running well in just a few weeks, and it’s fully playable for GDC attendees. Stadia will also support Unreal Engine, Unity, Havok physics, Simplygon, and several other middleware programs.
For game streamers, they will also have more tools at their disposal if using Stadia. A feature called “Crowd Play” will let your viewers instantly begin playing multiplayer games with you directly from the stream. Once they click the button, they will be placed into a queue like it’s a theme park ride, and then they will be thrown into the stream they were just watching without having to download anything.
A bright future
Stadia doesn’t have a firm launch date or pricing yet, but the service will launch in 2019 for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and most of Europe. There are currently more than 100 studios with the necessary hardware in their hands, and more than 1,000 creatives and engineers are working on it.
Those interested in developing for Stadia can sign up at Stadia.dev, and those interested in playing it can get the latest news at Stadia.com. Details on the launch lineup will be made available this summer.