What would you say if I told you that you could stream any PC game you own at its highest settings from nearly any device with a screen and an internet connection? Sounds like virtual heaven on Earth to me.
Well, now you can kind of almost do that a little bit.
Liquid Sky 2.0 basically allows you to log onto a virtual computer from damn near anywhere, install any PC game you own onto your new hard drive in the sky, and start playing, without lag, with ultra quality settings. An ideal vision, I know, but it exists. I can see it now: the unfortunate reality of owning an outdated PC set-up will soon be a long-forgotten plague to the PC gaming empire. The service is currently in beta, and though the testing phase is limited in performance, LiquidSky 2.0 has already started to provide gamers with experiences previously unplayable. No game is too powerful for this remote supercomputer, but the service does not come without its caveats.
Logging on to your SkyComputer presents you with a windowed version of Windows 10. There’s no proprietary interface, no arbitrary complications, no learning curve. Just download and log into Steam, install the games you want to play onto your SkyComputer, and start playing. Every game you play with LiquidSky is dependent on only a few base requirements; barring a few expected beta test bottlenecks, the only restrictive quality to the service is your internet speed. The closer you are to a LiquidSky data center, the lower your ping will be, and the better your games will play. I’ve got a middling computer that sweats when playing Diablo 3 on low settings, but my internet connection is well above average.
I don’t know if you know this, but Skyrim looks fucking incredible on not-low settings. After I stared in awe, hands bound by rope in the back of a wagon packed with criminals, I moved my mouse to look around. Nothing happened. It froze the same way I did. Then, suddenly, my character started looking around without having touched the mouse.
Lag is a brutal introduction to a cloud-based gaming platform, but this is why beta tests exists. I wiggled the mouse around a little more (just to be sure) before looking around the screen for a way to exit the game. I clicked on the LiquidSky icon, pleasantly sized and centered in the top-middle of the screen, and discovered a few settings. It’s an unfortunate amount of options that LiquidSky (currently) allows you to customize: screen resolution, frame rate, and decoder, but they do the job. The first two options are pretty flexible; you can set those to whatever you think looks best. But Skyrim was absolutely unplayable with the decoder set on GPU. For the settings I found to work best for my set-up, switching the decoder to CPU fixed the lag almost completely, but it was still just a hair off.
After almost entirely eliminating the input delay, the only noticeable flaw was a minor loss in fidelity. Just like any stream, resolution will improve with a better internet connection, but it always looked perfectly acceptable compared to my actual PC’s capabilities. Besides, I could actually play ARK: Survival Evolved on my computer now. Even on the lowest possible settings, that game bullied my poor PC components to the point of performance anxiety. All I could do was watch the slideshow of horrors as frames would sometimes take entire seconds to switch. But now? Now I can play ARK.
Without much concern for the slight visual degradation, I started to investigate just how much impact the minor delay had on gameplay. I closed Skyrim, downloaded Heroes of the Storm (my MOBA of choice), and jumped into a game as Brightwing. If you’re unfamiliar with the character, playing Brightwing requires you to have absolute map awareness. You’ve got to teleport to a wounded ally at just the right time in order to bait the enemy into overextending, allowing you to totally turn the tide of battle; quick reaction time is essential to perform well.
I didn’t win, but that’s just because I’m bad at the game (my MOBA chops are covered in cobwebs). The lag was barely noticeable, though. There were some subtle visual artifacts shading the environment in a weird yellow every once in a while, but it would blip in and out of existence without much of a lasting effect, so I didn’t pay it much mind. I tried to take screenshots of the whole experience, but I still cannot get a screen to capture within the SkyComputer. Beta tests have their fickle moments, for sure, but any downsides to the service pales in comparison to the amount of doors LiquidSky opens.
Is your computer anything like mine? Are you, too, too broke and intimidated to keep up with the endless cycle of PC upgrades? You might want to look into this. Are you adequately affluent and knowledgeable about the finer tech specs of each computer component? LiquidSky has something for you, too, don’t worry. The service will eventually be made available on Apple and Android products, as well, which means I should be able to play Skyrim on my Chromebook. That’s pretty unbelievable to type, let alone do.
LiquidSky 2.0 boasts a lush landscape of possibilities, and includes various subscription options (including a free ad-based model) that will appeal a wide range of people and preferences. And this is just its infancy. It’s got a lot of room to grow, but there always seems to be an update when I log-in to my SkyComputer that improves some part of the experience.
If you want to look more into the service, check out their website to scope it out and download the beta client.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”
Disclaimer: This post will be updated with screenshots once the author figures out how to successfully capture them within the LiquidSky client.