Cross-play between myself on PC and my friend on Stadia has been an eye opening experience for me. Stadia as a product and the potential of cloud computing in gaming is extremely impressive. I’ve been a PC user for a long time and will be discussing my experiences playing Borderlands 3 and Farming Simulator 22 with a Stadia user. Playing with a Stadia player has certainly challenged my preconceptions which I will discuss a little in this article.
Ease of Use
Ease of cross-play and if it’s even available is completely down to the developer. This can of course both be a good thing and bad thing (aggressive anti-piracy measures like Denuvo DRM for example). The industry seems to have accepted that a fractured player bases kills games off prematurely. Cross-play is now seen as a core feature in most multiplayer games, no different from friend lists and parties.
Joining the party in Borderlands 3 had no differences to playing with another PC user. I started the game, selected multiplayer, added each other to friends then joined them through the above menu. Unfortunately cross-play is missing specific platform features and I couldn’t add a Stadia friend to my EGS friends list. I am hopeful with cross-play taking off we will see platform-agnostic friends lists.
I would describe Farming Simulator 22 cross-play is in a similar state to Borderlands 3 (seemless). Instead of using a friend list it uses a server list and you join the host’s game. There is a search bar to help you narrow down the list and other filters relating passwords, map, slots, etc. One nice touch is the platform icons which really helps when multiple games have the same name or map!
Stadia Hosting & Ping/Latency
One of the main things I loved is that Stadia hosting games feels like you’re connected to a dedicated server! I normally get ping/latency of between 15ms and 21ms on Farming Simulator and it was around 20ms on Borderlands 3. With a Stadia host I happened to be similar latency to what I was getting while playing World of Warcraft. I found this extremely impressive as it showcased the strength of Stadia being hosted at a data centre.
I even had a few times when Stadia crashed for my friend without me realising. He was able to restart his Stadia and reconnect before the session closed – fantastic! If I had been hosting on local hardware disconnects and a loss in progress would be likely. I never noticed any lag in game when the host had connection problems, even though he was lagging on TeamSpeak. If this was reversed while I was hosting there would have been lag, disconnects and a possible lost of progress.
I would honestly say to any person playing with someone on Stadia to let them host. You will get better performance because your CPU resources aren’t being split between hosting and playing. Additionally there’s no way a domestic connection on a high end desktop can compete with the throughput of enterprise servers. Certainly once you’re hosting more than two people an average domestic connection simply isn’t good enough.
Summary & Final Thoughts
I had a better gaming experience than I would have had if I’d have hosted myself (roughly a 10% fps increase). The whole cross-play process was seemless too and without knowing I would have assumed I was playing with another PC player.
I’m very excited to see the future of cloud computing in gaming. It’s encouraging to see Google’s continued support to make this a respected platform when a lot of people wrote Stadia off. This has opened my eyes to Stadia as a capable and serious platform that deserves the same respect as PCs and consoles. I’m not saying it’s perfect (no platform is) but Stadia certainly has some unique advantages compared to local hardware.
This recent experience has convinced me to give the Stadia free trial a go and to see how it compares to the £2500 PC I built in 2019. I will certainly be covering my experiences using Stadia on the site. I am quite interesting in comparing games I already own on Steam with their Stadia counterparts. This article will contain my honest opinions on the many positive and negative points brought up in other reviews of the Stadia service.