Streaming Games: Gaikai’s David Perry on Cloud Computing

With celebrated outings including Earthworm Jim, MDK and Enter the Matrix to his credit, noted game developer David Perry has come a long way from penning programming manuals for the Sinclair ZX81. But it’s his latest venture, cloud-computing service Gaikai, which promises to revolutionize interactive entertainment by letting players enjoy almost any electronic amusement online with a single click.

We asked Perry to explain how — for developers, publishers and fans alike — this streaming technology changes the fundamental rules of the game.

DIG: How does Gaikai differ from traditional digital distribution services?

David Perry: Gaikai lets gamers discover new games anywhere on the Web just by clicking on them, with no registration, download or installation. Soccer fans could try FIFA 11 right on, or World of Warcraft on Facebook, and share it with friends.

DIG: What makes these advanced features possible?

D.P.: While games are actually running on our server hardware, the experience is delivered through the Internet to your computer, mobile phone or digital TV. This requires:

  • Compression technology that offers the highest image quality possible, compressing the video in just a few thousandths of a second
  • Virtualization technology that lets multiple games run on the same server
  • A global proximity network with data centers as close to players as possible (we have 22 running today)

Our Server 1.0 supports DirectX 9 games and our Server 2.0 supports DirectX 11 titles. It doesn’t matter to us what mobile device we send that DirectX 11 image to — you can just be certain it’s going to look better than what any mobile device can render locally.

DIG: Key advantages of Gaikai service include … ?

D.P.: Technically, we can run any PC software (games and applications) on our service. But our big focus is respecting gamers’ free time. If you click on a big game demo today, you can be hours away from the experience. We want to turn that into seconds. If you run Call of Duty on your netbook, you start to see the potential. Experiencing almost unlimited computing power in your hands without buying it is pretty cool.

The best games for this tech are ones that are a pain to download and install, or games that need lots of horsepower. We’re initially avoiding ‘twitch’-based games like Street Fighter, but as servers spread into every major city and get closer and closer, all genres will be possible. I did a demo in Los Angeles recently and it only took four milliseconds to get to the data center and back. It’s insanely fast and gives a taste of what’ll actually be possible in years to come.