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Microsoft's 'DeLorean' battles lag in cloud gaming by predicting your next move

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Cloud gaming has considerable promise and will continue to grow in the future, but it does introduce the problem of latency even to offline games, and that can keep some skeptical gamers away. Microsoft researchers are working on a solution that doesn't necessarily reduce lag, but accounts for it in such a way that makes the game playable.

The project they're working on is called "DeLorean" and in short, the software tries to predict what move you make next before a button is pressed or the stick is flicked. Servers running the software generate (and run) multiple scenarios based on what's going on in the moment, and send them to the player's device before their next move is made. When they do decide, it's all queued up and ready to go.

Researchers say this predictive system made gameplay acceptable under latencies of up to 250 milliseconds, noting that even latencies of 60 to 100 milliseconds can thwart gameplay.

DeLorean informs its predictions with data culled from how other users proceeded through the game, plus data about the player's individual style. If the system completely blows its prediction, DeLeorean allows the device to make adjustments to one of the incorrect guesses.

The study examined real gamers playing Doom 3 and Fable 3 from the cloud, using DeLorean. Some gamers still noticed delays on the DeLorean-enabled computers but judged it acceptable within the overall game experience.

"Through user studies and performance benchmarks, we find that players overwhelmingly prefer DeLorean to traditional thin-client gaming where the network RTT is fully visible, and that DeLorean successfully mimics playing across a low-latency network," the researchers say in the abstract of their study.

The drawback is that this demands a ton of bandwidth. Researchers noted that systems running DeLorean used 1.5 to 4.5 more bandwidth usage than systems without it. The presence of more humans in online multiplayer also complicates DeLorean's ability to guess behavior. Researchers say that glitches under DeLorean however, occur about as frequently as they do currently in online multiplayer.