Within Google Cloud, a computer is muttering: Shall we play a game? Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of SaaS?

Come for the on-demand servers, stay for the sweet documentation

On a rainy Wednesday morning in San Francisco, Google pitched its Cloud Platform (GCP) to power games, and brought friends along to sing its praises at the annual Games Developer's Conference.

It's an easy sell. Game makers represent the ideal market for on-demand infrastructure because their IT requirements tend to be unpredictable. They might need thousands of VMs on launch day and a fraction of that several months out. Or their demand for computing resources might be the opposite, starting slow then spiking due organic or promotionally-driven growth.

As Paul Manuel, managing director for multiplay at Unity Technologies, explained during the GCP presentation, game makers used to have either too much hardware and too few players or too many players and too little hardware. Either way, he said, it was a difficult problem to solve.

Cloud gaming represents a new focus for the ad biz's rent-a-server group. In a conversation following the presentation, Sunil Rayan, managing director of Google Cloud for Games, explained that a year ago, Google didn't have any triple-A titles running on GCP. Now it has six.

In part that's because Google has been putting hardware and software tuned to gaming requirements into its data centers. The company's forthcoming Stadia streaming platform, for example, relies heavily on custom AMD data center GPUs, and unnamed x86 CPU cores, to power its 7,500 edge nodes. Stadia's promised low-latency streaming will depend upon GCP's ability to move data efficiently from its data centers to its edge network, prior to egress onto the public internet for delivery to game players.

Games, Rayan said, are different from enterprise workloads, noting that games are truly global, where commercial websites tend to focus on customers in a specific region.

Dump the platform, concentrate on the game

The Chocolate Factory's cloud pitch is radical in a way. One the trends influencing Google Cloud for Games, Rayan explained, is the diversity of devices, operating systems and screen sizes. For Google and perhaps others playing in this space like Amazon and Microsoft, the answer to heterogeneous kit is platform-agnostic games.

Local hardware doesn't matter that much when the bulk of the processing occurs in the cloud and player devices focus on stream display and input capture. That's the idea behind Stadia at least.

For the game industry, so long shaped by technical and business barriers separating PCs, consoles, and mobile operating systems, this amounts to heresy. Google's advocacy of cross-platform delivery won't prevent traditional platform-focused hosting, but it should get game makers thinking about their business model and game architecture.

"A game is not a game anymore," said Rayan. "It's becoming an ecosystem."

YouTube demo of Stadia integration

Meet YouTube-linked games-streaming Stadia, yet another thing Google will axe in two years (unless it kills Twitch)


Translation: Not only will Google rent you the kit you need to run and deliver your game, but it can help collect analytics and support systems that promote player engagement, on any platform it can reach.

For companies built on platform differentiation, like Apple, Google's vision won't be particularly appealing. But less self-satisfied device makers may see some appeal in browser-based content delivery across form factors and operating systems.

Manuel, whose company Unity works with multiple cloud providers, had only nice things to say about GCP. He told how Apex Legends went from zero to 2 milliobn concurrent users in seven days, thanks to 6,500 VMs in 53 locations, mostly using GCP.

"The cloud is a game changer," he said. "You can now do stuff you could never do before."

Touching on the various benefits of GCP, he cited performance, simplicity, and Google's ongoing investment in its infrastructure. But he was most effusive about the GCP website.

"They have the gold standard of documentation," he said. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021