Abyssal Pixels: GTA Online Proves Why Cloud Based Gaming Won’t Work
Ah, GTA Online. It has had its fair share of problems, missteps, horrendous loading times and monumental fuck ups since its release a while ago. I was one of the very lucky few that managed to get into the service when it first launched. The launch itself was absolutely dreadful. People would try countless times to get in, but fail miserably at every turn and when some people got in, their characters got deleted which started the laborious process all over again. Now, fair enough, this was expected. Rockstar even said that they expect its launch to be rocky at best purely based on the fact that there are enough people playing it to colonize the moon.
But can this be a warning of what’s to come? All the next-gen bigwigs have had this almost lustful relationship with the concept of the Cloud. They firmly believe that this new technology will be the cornerstone of our next generation and without it, we might as well be in the stone age. You’ve seen all the statements made by the industry leaders. “The Cloud is the future of gaming”, “The Cloud will be the best thing to happen to gaming since the internet”, “The Cloud will lead us to the promised land”. Well, judging from what I’ve experienced in GTA Online, I’m more than frightened for our gaming future.
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Let me give you some background. I started GTA V up in the afternoon just to rob a few stores and play a few missions before I had to get busy with campus work, but as I entered the GTA Online I was met with the message “Rockstar cloud servers are unavailable right now”. I tried retrying, but all my efforts were in vain. After about 30 minutes of trying everything to get in, I contemplated giving up because now I’m just wasting my time. But being the stubborn bastard that I am, I tried again once more before throwing in the towel and I finally got in.
You expect I would just be on my merry way and rob some liquor store and sell a Fiat Bravo, but that wasn’t the case at all. First, the game said I was not in a crew when I clearly was because I created it a few days ago and it worked fine in previous sessions. My emblem on my jacket was this sort of placeholder mesh and I didn’t have a tag at all. Secondly, all my cars were gone. I walked into my garage and everything was missing. Gone. Thousands of hard earned dollars were wasted just like that. At first I thought that it was just a glitch so quitted out, but when I joined again they were still missing.
I threw in the towel after that, suffice to say. Later in the evening I joined again and my crew at least reappeared, but my custom vehicles were still gone. I assume this has to do with something fucking up in the cloud because that’s where all my data is stored. Nothing else could be to blame, really. So that was my net worth after I just wanted to pop in for a few minutes and enjoy myself. Thousands of dollars lost and monumental frustration. So how can you tell me the Cloud will be so wonderous?
Let’s take a game such as Destiny that said they were going to use the Cloud service to “better the experience”. What if I wanted to pop in for a few minutes and do a couple of quests and maybe raid an enemy encampment or two, but upon starting the game up, it says that the Cloud service is currently offline. Then what? I’m pretty much screwed. My little break will now be meaningless because I can’t play the bloody game. But what if something as severe as me losing my cars happens? What if I enter my game and all my legendary guns are all missing? That’s hours of gameplay and effort wasted.
Technology is unreliable. Something is bound to fuck up somewhere. Nothing that involves technology will ever go smoothly and according to plan. The same can be said of the mystical Cloud. What if their servers spontaneously crash and every player loses their weapons and progress at the same time? It’s a monumental catastrophe that’s what. I’d rather have a game that is printed on a disk and can be played like the developers intended than hope and pray that all my hard earned resources will still be there when I enter the game.
Another example of how the Cloud can be quite the disaster are server problems and overloading. Look at Diablo 3’s horrendous launch that had players swear fealties to Satan just to be able to enter the game. SimCity needs no introduction into this as well. If games that utilize the Cloud have such messed up launches, then I really fear for the future of gaming. It will just be a miasma of failed sessions, error screens, lost data and unstable gameplay. I don’t want that. I want to put in a game and play it. I don’t want to sit on error screens mashing the retry button until I finally get in.
I do realise that I’ve used a lot of what-if scenarios, but just looking at GTA Online, I can already tell that some of this might become a reality. Developers are not going to abandon this love for the Cloud so I only hope to the great Cthulhu that they manage to stabilize it enough to not hinder our gaming experience entirely.
I’m still going to miss my flashy sports car with the $10 000 Dukes of Hazzard horn though…