Proof of Concept AWS Spot gaming
April 12, 2015 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Running your own high-end cloud gaming service on EC2 Playing games this way is actually quite economical – especially when comparing to purchasing a full-on gaming rig. Here are the costs you’ll need to consider: GPU Instance runs about $0.11/hr (on a Spot instance, regularly around $0.70/hr) Data transfer will around $0.09/GB, and at a sustained ~10mbit, itll cost you $0.41/hr (4.5GB/hr) This comes out to around $0.52/hr, not bad, for the cost of a $1000 gaming pc, you get ~1900 hours on much higher-end hardware!
posted by CrystalDave (45 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, what a tease.. no video!!
posted by yaymukund at 7:23 PM on April 12, 2015


You are within 20ms to the closest AWS datacenter
In other words: Midwesterners, you're out of luck. The closest one to me is US-East, and it's 55ms.

Very cool that this guide exists. It was actually my first thought when OnLive folded- why not an "open" solution for this?

Also, these people are offering Gaming-as-a-service as a service.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:24 PM on April 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Countdown to someone minting a canned solution with the instance all set up like they describe in 3.. 2.. 1..
posted by nickggully at 7:36 PM on April 12, 2015


FPS on my most recent dwarf fortress has just slowed to 18. This could be nice.
posted by pseudonick at 7:41 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


This comes out to around $0.52/hr, not bad, for the cost of a $1000 gaming pc, you get ~1900 hours on much higher-end hardware!

I know it's just proof-of-concept and I'm not really trying to nitpick that much, but "not bad"? 1900 hours is less than a year at 6 hours a day, which doesn't seem like very exceptional time for the sort of person who even ponders buying a gaming PC. At which point you'd have to be the sort of person who bought new machines once a year or more--and yet wanted for some reason to be gaming from a budget laptop.
posted by Sequence at 7:42 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


You are within 20ms to the closest AWS datacenter
In other words: Midwesterners, you're out of luck. The closest one to me is US-East, and it's 55ms.


I'm literally right on top of US-East (like, the datacenter is 20miles from here) and only getting 25ms. I could see this working decently for like single player RPG or turn based games, but if you're trying to run even semi-competitive multiplayer RTS or FPS it's going to add an unacceptable layer of additional lag. Neat trick though, but seems like it'd suffer from the same problems with lag that doomed Onlive, it's just not practical for the vast majority of people on a consumer grade connection.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:47 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


> FPS on my most recent dwarf fortress has just slowed to 18. This could be nice.

That's likely bound by CPU, not GPU, but it could still benefit from this technique.
posted by Phssthpok at 7:52 PM on April 12, 2015


doesn't seem like very exceptional time for the sort of person who even ponders buying a gaming PC.

You can't really pay for a gaming PC by the hour, though. At least not at this rate. For those of us with, you know, jobs and families and social lives and other interests. Jesus, six hours a day, every day?
posted by indubitable at 7:58 PM on April 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


"In other words: Midwesterners, you're out of luck. The closest one to me is US-East, and it's 55ms."

I'm in LA, and 42ms was the lowest that any of the pings went (weirdly, I was consistently getting lower latency from Oregon than from LA).
posted by klangklangston at 8:11 PM on April 12, 2015


Amazon is really nailing the infrastructure that is the heart of so many startups and enables what we're moving to, it's really impressive. This is literally something that seemed magical when OnLive launched, yet now you can quite literally spin up your own OnLive platform in an afternoon? Brilliant.

The sad-side to that is I pretty much guarantee you're breaking some bullshit patent OnLive got, and now passed over to Sony if you actually went a step further then this idea and built a friendly interface on-top that enabled Steam accounts to just log in and immediately start playing.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:11 PM on April 12, 2015


1900 hours is less than a year at 6 hours a day, which doesn't seem like very exceptional time for the sort of person who even ponders buying a gaming PC.

1900 hours is roughly the amount of time people with full time jobs spend at work every year. $1000/year sounds like cheap overhead to me for a job/hobby you pour so much time into.
posted by bradbane at 8:19 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the spot where it'd be most possibly compelling would be at the intersection of Person who doesn't play *that* often and Person who doesn't want to have to keep up with the hardware treadmill. In other words, if you're playing on the weekends only, or an hour or so a day, you'd have a viable price without having to worry about upgrading (since you're on Amazon's hardware cycle instead).
posted by CrystalDave at 8:28 PM on April 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is literally something that seemed magical when OnLive launched, yet now you can quite literally spin up your own OnLive platform in an afternoon? Brilliant.

I wonder how it compares - as far as I know OnLive and Gakai both did some fancy custom codec stuff to both improve visual quality for game content specifically and, reduce streaming bandwidth and also some controller input jiggery-pokery to reduce the perception of lag and allow for computing some frames ahead of time to reduce latency, none of which an EC2 solution would do out of the box.

Still, it's pretty jaw-dropping. I'm wondering how many extremely CPU/GPU heavy tasks will routinely be offloaded to external clusters in the future - maybe it could be baked into future operating systems, even?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:36 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


The hardware treadmill is a lot less grueling than 5-6 years ago. I have a dedicated gaming rig built 2.5 years ago, i5 2500k and a single Radeon 6790 GPU, I haven't found anything it can't run yet, although Dark Souls 2 is probably the most intensive thing Ive tried. Unless you're trying to play in 4k or across 3 monitors, $1500 spent wisely should buy a PC that'll run anything you can think of for the next 3-4 years.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:37 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is basically my plan for Hearts of Iron 4 when it comes out. AWS is really ideal for games like that.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:41 PM on April 12, 2015


Jesus, six hours a day, every day?

I mean, I play a couple hours a night but as a result I have such a backlog of stuff I haven't finished yet that being able to play the latest-and-greatest isn't even vaguely on my radar, that I'd jump through that many hoops to do it. The ones who I know who'd jump through these hoops wouldn't currently find it cost-effective. You'd have to be quite busy AND budget-conscious AND still very invested in playing recent AAA titles. I know a lot of people who are two of those, but not many who're all three. I upgrade every 2-3 years with about $500 each time. Call it 2.5 years, at $0.52 an hour, I'd have to play less than 8 hours a week. But at that amount of time investment, you'd be talking about months just to finish something like Skyrim. So I guess add to those three--you'd have to be very invested in playing recent AAA titles, but either only very short ones, or only a couple a year? I dunno. I just couldn't see investing more money unless I was playing more, and I can't see someone less budget-conscious than me doing this instead of just buying a machine.
posted by Sequence at 8:42 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


$1000/year would be a lot to blow on your gaming PC. You can get an excellent gaming PC for $2000, and replacing it every 2 years would keep you very current. Plus, there's some solid overhead that isn't discussed; you'll still need that fancy monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speaker system, and all of that is a big chunk of the cost. And you'll need an adequate computer to run to run the local software. After all of that, is it really a better deal?

Plus, high-end gaming is quickly moving in a 4k or 120-144 hz. direction, and either of those would increase the connection requirement significantly (to the point where I'm not sure you could do it at all). Plus, you'll need a solid video card on the local machine to output that kind of graphic signal at all.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:46 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


and here I am routinely using service menus to reduce my TV's input lag from about 10 frames to about 2 frames

something tells me that game streaming is unlikely to be a thing for me
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:47 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hit Suddenlink's made up data cap on the 11th of every month just from normal gaming plus netflix, hulu, and sling. This would cost me way more just on that end.
posted by gideonswann at 9:02 PM on April 12, 2015


"1900 hours is roughly the amount of time people with full time jobs spend at work every year. $1000/year sounds like cheap overhead to me for a job/hobby you pour so much time into."

Aren't you paying for the games too?
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 PM on April 12, 2015


The hardware treadmill is a lot less grueling than 5-6 years ago. I have a dedicated gaming rig built 2.5 years ago, i5 2500k and a single Radeon 6790 GPU, I haven't found anything it can't run yet, although Dark Souls 2 is probably the most intensive thing Ive tried. Unless you're trying to play in 4k or across 3 monitors, $1500 spent wisely should buy a PC that'll run anything you can think of for the next 3-4 years.

This is true. You can spend a bunch on a gaming pc, but if you put a degree of effort into finding the current price/power sweet spot* you'll get a powerful and long-lasting system.

*(8 gig, i5 quad core, NVidia 970, reputable 500W powersupply)
posted by Sebmojo at 9:27 PM on April 12, 2015


Aren't you paying for the games too?

Right, this method still has you paying full price for AAA titles as it relies on Steam.

You can spend a bunch on a gaming pc, but if you put a degree of effort into finding the current price/power sweet spot* you'll get a powerful and long-lasting system.

I don't know what it says about the PC market, but the i5 has remained the best deal around for going on 3 years, the Haswell chips were only incremental improvements over Ivy Bridge, the real movement in PC hardware has been with the GPUs, but it hardly even matters for basic playability, all major titles are co-developed for console systems which are MANY generations behind PC hardware. At the top several price points for PC graphics, you're talking about the difference between x8 or x16 antialising or 2000x4000 vs 4000x6000 resolution and 2 vs 3 monitors, not 'can my system run this game at a playable framerate'. If I rebuilt my 2yr old system from the ground up, about the only thing Id have to change is the GPU.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:43 PM on April 12, 2015


The hardware treadmill is hardly moving these days. I bought a i7 920 pretty soon after they were released, and it's still a viable processor more than five years later. That computer, with nothing more than a new graphics card, can run a lot of new games at high detail and 2560x1440. It was kind of overkill when it was new, but it wasn't all that expensive (only about $2k). The video card I'm running now was only $330.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:45 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hell, I played Shadows of Mordor on my HTPC rig with a $100 R7 250E and it looked better than my Xbox 360.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:52 PM on April 12, 2015


I would never get a decent or even mediocre ping but AWS seems like a good platform for safe, virtual web browsing and email checking. Bet that it already exists.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:01 PM on April 12, 2015


Define safe.
If it's free from infection then wouldn't it be more expensive than having a local virtual machine.
If it's free from The Panopticon then I'm assuming Amazon wouldn't exactly be your best choice.
posted by fullerine at 11:26 PM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering how many extremely CPU/GPU heavy tasks will routinely be offloaded to external clusters in the future - maybe it could be baked into future operating systems, even?

Actually, it's already being done - some XB1 games offer the capability to shunt off computation to Azure clusters.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:09 AM on April 13, 2015


1900 hours is less than a year at 6 hours a day

pfff casual.
posted by Justinian at 2:25 AM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


So even with a 33 ms ping, this'd work for Cities: Skylines, right?
posted by alby at 2:42 AM on April 13, 2015


In other words: Midwesterners, you're out of luck.

UKians (at least in London) as well; it's 37ms to Ireland here.

Oddly enough, both California and Oregon beat the East Coast by a sizeable margin in ping times. I'm guessing the connection enters the US in the West Coast for some reason.
posted by acb at 6:00 AM on April 13, 2015


The hardware treadmill is a lot less grueling than 5-6 years ago.

I'm gaming on a $1000 IBuyPower rig from 2011 which has not been upgraded since then (other than adding a NI Komplete Audio 6 for music production) -- and there has not been a game I've thrown at it that it hasn't run just fine. Granted, I'm running two monitors at 1680x1050 each instead of some crazy 4K rig, but my eyes are only so good anyway.

I do wish I had an SSD, but otherwise it still serves me quite well. And that's after spending the 90s and 00s building a new system from the motherboard up every 2-3 years and upgrading them in between.
posted by Foosnark at 6:34 AM on April 13, 2015


The hardware treadmill is hardly moving these days.

All of the money is in mobile, so that's where the R&D is going. Folks upgrade their phones a lot more than they ever did their PCs, outside of a few hard-core hobbyists, and the average home user wants a laptop, HTPC or AIO, not a gaming rig.

This also points out that AWS really isn't all that cheap - one of the reasons private clouds are gaining momentum.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:07 AM on April 13, 2015


The rule of thumb is do a major, $1500 overhaul of internals (CPU, motherboard, RAM, GPU) roughly 1 year* after a new console generation debuts, and that setup will carry you for the next 4-5 years without ever feeling behind the curve in terms of running latest AAA releases. It's been this way since the original XBox/PS2. There's a nasty entry cost to start but for the last 12 years PC gaming has been a $375/year hardware proposition.

There are obviously exceptions like if you contract Unreal 4 work for a living (jacks GPU cost to $500 and doubles RAM reqs) or if your $500 GPU actually fucking catches fire, filling your home office with the reek of burning PCB and silicon, a scenario some refer to as "Last Thursday".

*it's not precisely a year so much as the first time a new generation from nVidia And Intel ship. For whatever reason their releases cycles always tend to sync up briefly about a year after a new console cycle.
posted by Ryvar at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think the most interesting niche for this sort of thing is the appification of high quality games, rather than an alternative experience of dubious advantage to the serious gamer.

I gave up on console/PC gaming a long time ago, for various reasons, and I'm only the most casual of casual mobile phone app gamers. But I do still dabble there, and now and again pay actual money and spend actual time.

The stuff I see happening in serious gaming - well, it intrigues me. But sampling it isn't trivial. I can see YouTube videos, read reviews and the like, and I keep a closer eye on the technologies than I do the actual games, but I'd still like a chance to take a ten-minute trip into those worlds and see what it's like. I don't want to download massive Stuff that wants to weave its tentacles into my system (heck, it's a steam-powered Ubuntu box anyway: Not An Option) and I frankly have no idea about minimum specs nor do I care.

Yes, these games aren't designed for ten-minute tourism. Doesn't seem an impossible thing to build in, though, and it does give this GaaS idea an actual reason to exist.
posted by Devonian at 7:11 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder if a game engine developer could come up with some kind of hybrid approach where a user's PC could offload resource intensive tasks with not much of a latency constraint to AWS or a similar system, while leaving the lower latency stuff to the local system.

I'm not too familiar with low level graphics, and I imagine that wouldn't work so well in that area. But maybe it would work well for AI or managing a large level/world where the player will only interact with a small section at once but physics entities and NPCs might make changes off screen.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:33 AM on April 13, 2015


Also, 50 cents per hour to rent a high end machine is pretty neat when you consider kids used to pay about the same amount, without adjusting inflation, to play Pacman for a few minutes.

It'd be a cute project to build an arcade cabinet, put a Raspberry Pi and coin detector inside, and have it link to one of these ec2 instances whenever someone pays to play.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:42 AM on April 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Tim: it's something that's been discussed endlessly among game developers but ultimately the market for games with the level of Dwarf Fortress-style simulation where that would actually be useful is vanishingly small. There's basically no Venn diagram overlap on "games with the budget to support building this technology" and "games where players would palpably benefit from this technology."

The only motivation/business case you could make for doing so right now would be to ball and chain people to your online platform as an anti-piracy measure. Diablo 3 is an example of how to do it right, latest Sim Cities was an example of how to do it wrong (and it finished off Maxis in the teaching of that lesson).

If the bottom hadn't fallen out of the non-WoW MMO market that would not at all be the case - you could do so much massive dynamic world shit with cloud computing it's not even funny. But good luck getting the $100-150 million investment on a new AAA non-freemium MMO - short of notch/Gabe Newell waking up tomorrow and deciding they're willing to stake a sizable fraction of their billion(s) on an attempt, it's super unlikely to happen. Or just leave it at "it's super unlikely to happen."
posted by Ryvar at 7:51 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


>> FPS on my most recent dwarf fortress has just slowed to 18. This could be nice.

> That's likely bound by CPU, not GPU, but it could still benefit from this technique.

Dwarf Fortress is mostly single-threaded and shines on hardware that menaces with single core performance. If AWS offers a service for non-threaded, CPU intensive tasks it'd be a perfect fit.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:28 AM on April 13, 2015


Good God can you imagine trying to rewrite the gameplay code for Dwarf Fortress to support threading? The mind reels.
posted by Ryvar at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ryvar - it's the only thing keeping Dwarf Fortress from becoming self aware. (Unlike Skynet it'll rain down destruction in the form of cat bone amulets.)
posted by nathan_teske at 3:06 PM on April 13, 2015


If the bottom hadn't fallen out of the non-WoW MMO market that would not at all be the case - you could do so much massive dynamic world shit with cloud computing it's not even funny

How about an augmented reality game with features like that? I hear those are, uhm, trending?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:31 PM on April 13, 2015


In related news, Square has made a streaming version of FF8 for mobile.
posted by Banknote of the year at 11:01 PM on April 13, 2015


ROMAN NUMERALS PROTIP: "X" means "ten"
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:19 PM on April 13, 2015


D'oh! It's been a long day.
posted by Banknote of the year at 11:26 PM on April 13, 2015


But good luck getting the $100-150 million investment on a new AAA non-freemium MMO

I've been poking around to see if something like this could be adapted for the cloud: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RedDwarf_Server

You could probably do some really cool things with a small team with the technology becoming available.
posted by xorry at 8:21 AM on April 14, 2015


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