How well does Steam In-Home Streaming work?

Steam In-Home Streaming allows you to stream a game from one machine on a network to another. The idea being that your powerful desktop machine will run the game and stream the picture and perform input/output through a weak computer attached to a living room TV.

One of the problems it faces is wifi latency. Most homes won’t have ethernet cables built into the walls. I only know two people who are so prepared so the rest of us will have to use wifi. I’ve used power plug networking in the past but the resulting broadcast of radio signals makes me fearful for the sanity of any long wave radio fan or CB radio junkie in the locality.

The video above demonstrates a lot of latency and stuttering when Metro Last Light was played over a wifi network. However, ethernet worked fine with only slight lag. Here’s a thread on the Streaming Group forum looking for feedback and this thread that should be a good read.

Initially I was more excited about streaming than family sharing but the latter works just fine, and even works when the (slave) computer is offline (so the master computer can be used to play games too). I even went and bought a HDMI cable just so I can hook the laptop up to the tv. Much simpler than fiddling with streaming but then I might not be the target audience am I?

Here’s how to use Steam Family Sharing

A few minutes ago I got an email saying I had been accepted into the Steam family sharing beta. There are detailed instructions explaining how to set everything up but in a nutshell:

  1. Sit down at the computer where you want your Steam library to be shared. This is not your own PC and login.
  2. Enable beta participation in the settings.
  3. After restarting Steam go into “Settings->Manage Family Sharing & Devices” on that computer. Not your own PC. Authorize this PC.
  4. Logout and login as your family member’s account.

So, you don’t allow other Steam accounts access to your Steam library. You give access to other machines. Unless you want to give out your Steam login details (which would be against the T&C) you won’t be giving your online friends access to your games.

It was painless to set up. Once I logged in as the second account my games had “shared by donncha” after each title and could be played. It makes the idea of having a Steam machine in the living room all the more attractive.

Oooh, look at the size of that will ya?

games

Games and apps are getting bigger and bigger. It wasn’t so long ago when games that came on more than one CD were a rarity. Yes, those were the times when a packet of crisps cost 15p and you’d have change from 30p when you bought a Mars Bar.

Oh, ok. It was long ago but you know what I mean.

This is the output from Space Sniffer after running it on the C drive. Besides the massive Steam folder there’s also GOG.com at 22.3Gb, the Witcher 2 taking up 22.2Gb of that, and the “Origin Games” folder makes an appearance in the app where Battlefield 3 consumed 34.2Gb of space!

The unfortunate thing is that I haven’t played many of these games but I’m consoled by the fact they were almost all bought during the insane Steam sales where price cuts of 75% are common. Thankfully backing up Steam games is easy but Origin doesn’t have a backup plan. You have to manually copy files to their backup destination!

Steam Games over USB 2.0 is painful

450GB of games Somehow I have over 450GB of games installed. I went a little mad installing them when I bought this PC last year but now that I need the space I don’t really want to download them again. Luckily I have a number of external USB drives so I started copying games over yesterday evening.

Out of curiosity I used Steam Mover to copy and symlink the games back to the C: as I wondered how well games would play over and old USB 2.0. It didn’t work well. It was very painful. Assassin’s Creed wouldn’t even load but crashed on the Ubisoft logo. Arkham Asylum loaded but the graphics of the main menu moved like molasses. I think I’ll use Steam’s backup system to make archived copies of the games as that will compress the files too saving a bit more space.

External drives are simply enclosures with real disks in them so I opened up one of my external drives to see if I could hook it directly to my PC internally but the disk in it is using a different interface to the one in my PC. The last time I went diving into a PC was when IDE was the standard and SATA was only just becoming mainstream!

144KB seemed so big back then

So, I’m going to backup games to the drive instead of copying them. I’ll also dump another copy of my photos there too as I started using Backblaze (aff) to do remote backups. It may take some time to squirt 681GB of data into the cloud though. Eventually I’ll have to buy a second drive for my PC but that’s something I’ll look at in the future.

Natural Selection 2: survival of the fittest

Natural Selection 2 went on sale in the Steam Winter Sale and I bought it yesterday. First time playing it this evening and for complexity it blows any other team based shooter out of the water. Just take a look at the video above for a taster.

I have to admit I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time but it was a blast. Lots of other new players too judging by some of the chatter I saw and heard. Glad my friend Brian is an old hand at the game, he was a huge help.

If it goes on sale again you should grab it if you’re interested in a great team based game that rewards communication. For once I finished a game at the top of the leaderboard too!

Natural Selection 2

The Wonderful End of the World grows Companion Cubes

As part of the Potato Sack promotion last year a number of indie games received updates featuring content from Valve games. I didn’t take much notice of them at the time but I just found out that The Wonderful End of the World got a secret level with companion cubes! Love the cover of the similarly named Portal song!

Robot Enrichment

I just noticed that Portal 2 now has a store where you can modify your robot. I like the way Valve monetize their games. They bring out free DLC, expanding older games with updates and offering them either free (TF2) or at a steep discount. Then they encourage you to buy hats and personalise your character! Nothing like some of the other grind to play free games I’ve played elsewhere.

Two games spring to mind, both free Android games. Samurai vs Zombies and Garfield Defense. Both play in exactly the same way even though they are apparently by different developers. I swear they used the one game engine and just swapped out graphics and sound.

In both games you collect coins to purchase power ups but those purchases are fairly pricey and by the time you get to level 10 you’ll need to grind and play the level 4 or 5 times to get enough coins to buy an upgrade to finish the level.

Still, not a bad way to spend a few minutes while waiting for the bus or something but to be honest I’d rather use my phone to read a book!

I almost forgot to mention the iOS version of Plants vs Zombies. It received a few updates recently which added the ability to plant flowers that reward you with silver and gold. I only tried it briefly but soon discovered that you need to use fertilizer or the plants will wilt. Of course you have to use real money to buy the fertilizer. *sigh*