Updating steam power
There are moments where a game just works, and I’m playing it in my living room through a $50 piece of hardware, and it’s great. The good times have been peppered throughout an experience that is consistently frustrating, crash-prone, and seemingly not really ready for a full public release.
In fact, when I dabbled with streaming last year, I don’t remember it ever crashing. I’ve put much more time into streaming in the past month, so maybe I just got lucky before.Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris defaulted to recognizing the keyboard attached to my PC, making it impossible to play with two players using controllers.Dungeon Defenders II opened a web browser when I launched it, which I walked upstairs to close instead of fiddling with the Steam Controller’s mouse support to get the game running again.Turning the bitrate from ‘automatic’ to ‘unlimited’ fixed this problem, ramping bandwidth usage up well past 30 megabits per second in exchange for a much clearer image.Steam warns that this setting increases latency, but I didn’t feel any more latency while playing, nor did I notice a significant increase in the real-time monitoring tool built into In-Home Streaming.The other problem is one I’m worried that Valve won’t be able to solve, no matter how much they refine Big Picture Mode and the code that makes streaming function: Windows.
Windows is the root cause of most of those bad PC gaming days I mentioned earlier: it's a big, vastly complex OS with drivers and pop-up windows that plays host to all sorts of different game engines.
But it does seem like Valve’s been working at a breakneck pace since sending out early review hardware, updating the Steam client beta near-daily and pumping out firmware updates for the Steam Controller almost as frequently.
This is one of the two main problems with Steam In-Home Streaming: the software simply feels unstable, and troubleshooting from the couch is much more difficult and much more frustrating than it is at a desk with a mouse.
And even if streaming from Steam OS is more stable, you lose access to the thousands of games only available on Windows.
There’s only so much of this Valve can control in Windows.
During my testing of other games (including Killing Floor 2, Nuclear Throne, Armello, Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide, Fez, FTL, and more) I experienced multiple crashes and situations where a game didn’t seem to properly launch for streaming, either giving me a black screen or returning to Big Picture Mode.