With over 2.69 billion players worldwide, video games have risen to the top of the list as one of the most common ways to pass the time. With over 209 million smartphone gamers in the United States alone, mobile gaming has risen as the industry’s rising star as the most convenient medium for on-the-go consumers. Given its success, gaming still has a lot of untapped potential. Here’s how to do it.
Gaming on the Edge
The bulk of game processing is now performed on computers locally. Although some work may be performed on a cloud server — where a device will upload data to be stored and only retrieved — these servers are often located far away in massive data centres, which ensures the period it takes for the data to be returned would eventually degrade the gaming experience.
Instead of a single big faraway node, mobile edge computing focuses on many tiny data hubs that are installed in closer physical proximity. Since the system won’t have to submit data to a central server, analyze it, and then return the results, you can save computing power on your device for a smoother, quicker gaming experience.
“You can offload the devices’ computing onto the network while still optimizing the game’s experience,” says Carlos Bravo, Ericsson’s Director of Cloud Strategy Execution. “Before edge computing, you had to submit a ton of data between the players to ensure sure it worked together properly. This placed a lot of strain on the processors and batteries in the devices. Edge servers can be better dimensioned and more effective, resulting in a synchronized cloud gaming experience. You won’t feel any latency when navigating about, which is essential for a decent gaming experience, and you won’t need to link to a Wi-Fi network.”
“With 5G, we’re moving into a world where we’ll be able to do a lot more cloud-based gameplay, where the computing capacity isn’t actually on your computer, but it’s on a server somewhere,” says Tommy Palm, creator, and CEO of Resolution Games (a Swedish developer specializing in VR and AR games). “You can run all the calculations on the same computer for cloud-based gameplay, and you won’t have to synchronize a bunch of [individual players’ phones]. This opens up [the possibility] of games that we might only imagine, such as games with totally disruptive environments.”, he continues.
A Better Augmented Reality
5G (combined with edge) has the ability to enable AR games to reach their full potential, well above the limits imposed by current technologies.
Consider Pokémon Go, where pictures of game protagonists are simply overlaid onto streams of the natural world using cell phone cameras — an activity rendered much less enticing by the drain it places on battery power. Because of these drawbacks, often smartphone consumers want to switch off their AR capabilities entirely.
5G will easily solve these problems when combined with edge computing, and gamers will perform the most of their processing on the edge without users ever noticing it.
AR computers often need a lot of computing power for items like object detection, and in location-based AR games (where several players play the same game in the same location), the same data needs to be processed separately on each computer. This redundancy may be eliminated with edge computing, causing such data to be processed only once before being streamed to multiple users. Overall, this would result in a more fun and accurate AR experience, as well as better battery life for smartphone AR gaming.
These developments in cloud and edge computing would minimize the need for high-end computers to play high-quality, collaborative games, lowering the barrier to entry and widening the amount of people who will experience gaming on their daily devices.
5G & Gaming Communities
Today’s game cultures are made up of more than just competitors – esports, for example, has largely developed into a competitive activity – and 5G can further boost the audience experience by allowing for high-definition content viewing on the move and in real time. The viewer will follow several players through several displays, some operated by separate suppliers, and all without lag if performed correctly.
Indeed, during the 2019 Milan Games week, 5G made its first grand debut for competitive players, successfully hosting the finals of the first live mobile gaming competition on Vodafone Italy’s 5G network.
“The new iterations of Fortnite and Call of Duty are now free to download and enjoy, so it’s more about seeing as many players as possible. In terms of sheer numbers, smartphones are potentially the most diverse medium available to developers”, Greger Blennerud, Ericsson’s Head of Marketing for Mobile Broadband, agrees.
“Of course, there’s the question of network efficiency. The bandwidth and low latency that we’re receiving from 5G are, in my mind, the most critical features that render it significant. One of the most obvious winners of 5G is gaming.”, he continues.
Wearable Game Devices
From headphones and glasses to vests and gloves, the gaming industry is about to enter a new sensory frontier, offering spine-tingling realism and, most significantly, entertainment. In the future, simulated environments will have lifelike haptic input, bringing us the same sensory thrill as real-world motions and sensations. Wearables can be based on the same platform as cell phones and use the same creation resources, enabling them to take advantage of cloud storage and network capabilities.
Palm adds, “When it comes to good headphones, they’ll be based on mobile technology. However, whether a customer is really involved in what powers them, they would never discover. On the Magic Leap, which is an augmented reality headset, we’ve launched two full titles. Both that and Oculus Search for VR use cell phone technologies in the context and are based on the hardware. If it’s a cell phone or a next-generation headset, they both work equally.”
Towards the Future
Finally, we want this to be a smooth process for all. Game providers should be able to use network functionality regardless of which network is being used, and consumers should be able to play games regardless of their individual hardware. There are a number of obstacles to overcome in order to do this.
Game creators would have to work out how to reconcile which sections of the rendering can be performed globally and which should be done locally to achieve the best possible experience. We must all be aware of tradeoffs and where to use them. All will, in an ideal world, have the appropriate bandwidth and latency for the game they choose to play. So what happens if there’s a surge in gaming players? Can we give up high frame rates in exchange for higher resolution? Should we preprocess based on all potential outcomes in order to maintain accuracy, or should we use more central processing unit (CPU) power?
Game creators would have to cope with a whole new stage of network convergence. They might need to notify a network ahead of time of a user’s bandwidth requirements, or ask the network how much bandwidth the user would have over the next five minutes, and then adjust the game accordingly. If anyone enters a tunnel for 30 seconds, for example, the game can opt to preload certain items or reuse existing local objects without affecting the gameplay experience. Such network APIs would have to be designed not just with the user’s experience in mind, but also with the developer’s experience in mind.
Any factors are determined by the game’s genre. For example, first-person shooters may need higher video quality than strategy games, whereas arcade games may be more vulnerable to latency. There’s still the issue of versatility to consider. Should we trade arrival time for improved playing quality on their travels if we realize people are playing video games in their automated vehicles on their way to work?
Future interactions can involve more senses than just sight and sound. When it comes to gaming, the Internet of Senses can carry haptics, spatial audio, and scent to the forefront. All of this would be conveyed across networks, posing a number of interesting problems in terms of comprehending human factors, such as the capabilities and shortcomings of our senses. Ergonomics, cognitive science, kinesiology, and human-computer interaction research can also play a role in ensuring that we understand humans — especially gamers — before making technological decisions.
The function of the network is changing, and with it, our job, as it comes to delivering great experiences with these new interactions. The goal is to look at the effect of interactions on the network, as well as the network’s impact on interactions. Many individuals are partnering with domain experts and market leaders to learn not just how to create these networks alongside new innovations, but also how to deliver a genuinely outstanding experience for end users and developers.