Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Eve (or any game), Parsec and a Raspberry Pi

In my previous post I described how I took a leap of faith. I deleted Eve Online and a host of other games from my laptop and installed them on a cloud computer. This neatly solved specification arms race that you inevitably engage in. Specifically, getting the latest hardware to get the latest games in anything other than potato mode.

This isn't a new idea. OnLive started a short lived service back in 2010 for example. At that time, neither the technology, bandwidth, costs or ultimately the user experience were good enough to make it a viable proposition. OnLive services were discontinued in 2015 after Sony bought them out and tried to corral its customers into the PlayStation walled garden.

Things have moved since then and there are new entrants into the market and the market itself has changed Parsec, the one I have used, is such an example.My test was simple. Would you be able to play Eve on a dodgy 8 inch Windows tablet. Absolutely you can. And Overwatch, and Witcher 3. Graphics and performance all above acceptable.

Of course an 8 inch screen is not optimal way to play Eve. It is an excellent way to get a migraine. There is cheaper alternative. It actually cost me nothing as I already had all the components. The humble Raspberry Pi which you can set for under £30. Use the standard NOOBs Debian distribution. Start your cloud instance. Download and run the Parsec software. Log in and connect.

Witcher 3 on Raspberry Pi via Parsec
Eve Online on Raspberry Pi via Parsec
My first test was with a touch screen but the Raspberry Pi's strength through its HDMI interface. So full TV screen of Eve. Because Raspberry Pi is so software light it has very low latency. It performed astonishingly well. Working with Parsec effectively makes it a games console. WiFi is not it's strength though so use ether a dongle or ethernet to connect.

Performance on Linux seems consistently good. I have an ancient HP AMD Windows 7 laptop that even in its prime was never any good. I converted it to Ubuntu as an emergency laptop and it was still slow. However, it plays games over Parsec like a champion

Old HP laptop converted to Ubuntu Linux, running Eve Online via Parsec

Similarly, my android Oneplus 3 phone runs Eve just as well as the Raspberry Pi. The 5 inch screen is not good way to play spreadsheets online though, but bigger android tablets would be viable.

So for me, the Parsec solution has solved a point problem. I can casually play the latest games without spending an arm and a leg on hardware. The unexpected benefits are I now have the potential to play them anywhere on anything provided there is a half decent internet connection and the screen is a reasonable size.

What about game development in this context? One area CCP hasn't retreated from (last I heard) is their ambition to make a mobile Eve app. Could they be betting on the wrong horse? Instead of trying to make an excellent Android or iOS game, perhaps they should make a game that plays well on any platform and screen size

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