With Doom Eternal, Bethesda Will Demo New ‘Orion’ Game Streaming

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Companies like Nvidia and OnLive have tried to make game streaming technology work for years, but we may finally be reaching critical mass. Google is getting ready to launch its Stadia platform, and it might have a shot at succeeding. Meanwhile, Nvidia is testing a revamped GeForce Now, and Microsoft promises xCloud will launch soon. Bethesda is preparing to roll out its own game streaming technology called Orion. However, this isn’t an alternative to current game streaming platforms. Instead, Orion will integrate with games to make streaming services better.

All game streaming services work on a similar premise. Instead of rendering frames on your local hardware, a server someplace in the world renders the game for you. What you see on your screen is essentially a compressed video stream of the gameplay. Your control inputs go back up to the server to interact with the game. It’s a bit like playing a game with very, very long wires.

Latency and bandwidth are the bottlenecks that make game streaming hard to get right. With too much latency, your controls feel laggy. Insufficient bandwidth leads to buffering and poor image quality. Orion should complement game streaming services by streamlining the game. Bethesda claims that implementing just some of Orion’s features could reduce the bandwidth needed for high-quality streaming by up to 40 percent. Using Stadia as an example, the 25Mbps requirement for 1080p gaming could come down to just 15Mbps. For 4K, it goes from 35Mbps to 21Mbps.

Lots of servers, at Google's Douglas County data center. Blue LEDs mean the servers are healthy, apparently

Orion also has technology that saves time on the back end. The time it takes to encode a frame could come down as much as 30 percent. The compute work required for that frame could also drop by 20 percent. That means companies could devote less hardware to streaming games, thus lowering the cost.

It will be up to game developers to use Bethesda’s Orion technology, and it’s unclear if Bethesda expects widespread adoption. Bethesda is reportedly in talks with several studios. The company plans a beta test later this year using Doom Eternal. Strangely, this test won’t come via any established game streaming service. Bethesda’s standalone test will let players stream Doom Eternal in 4K resolution at 60 fps. Doom Eternal will run on Stadia at launch, but it’s unclear whether or not Google will support the Orion technology.

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