How to Measure Input Latency for Cloud Gaming

Cloud Gaming has the potential to be the next big thing. However, many hold back from trying it because of Latency concerns. They worry that Cloud Gaming will add too much Input Latency to their experience. So how much Input Latency does Cloud Gaming really add to a Gaming Session?The good news is that it is completely possible to test your Input Latency! You’ll be able to determine your Latency in ms. These results will tell you what to expect from Cloud Gaming. Let’s break it down:

Create a Baseline

If you’re looking for pinpoint accurate results, you’ll want to start by creating a Latency baseline for your computer. This baseline will tell you how much Latency you already experience on that machine. Subtract this number from your Cloud Gaming results to determine your overall Cloud Latency.

Equipment:

Step 1: Shoot a Local Game Recording

Start by positioning your Camera so that it can clearly see your computer screen. Make sure that your camera is configured to shoot 60 fps (most newer smart phones can do this). Open a game on your computer and start a session that allows you to control a character. Hold your Game controller so that your Camera can see both your computer screen and the buttons on the controller. Start Recording on your Camera. Press a button on your Game Controller to create an action on the computer screen. Stop Recording and transfer the video to your computer.

Hint: It can be helpful to use a game that allows you to make a character jump on screen. This “Jump” is easy to track with your camera.

Step 2: Determine how many frames exist between your button press and action on the screen.

Open your Game footage in the Quick Time Player on your computer. Progress the video until you are right at the point of pressing the button on your controller. Use the Right-Arrow Key on your keyboard to advance the video one frame at a time. Stop advancing the video once the controller button is completely compressed on-screen. From this point, continue advancing one frame at a time. Count the number of frames that it takes to see action from your in-game character.

Step 3: Covert frames to ms

Now that you’ve determined how many frames exist between your button press and the action on the screen, let’s convert the results to ms. Here’s the formula:

frames /60 X 1000 = ms
Example: 3 Frames/60 X 1000 = 50ms

Step 4: Calculate your Cloud Server Results

You’ve just determined your baseline Latency for your computer. Now let’s follow the same steps to determine your Latency for your Cloud Server. Fire up your Cloud Server and open the same game on the Cloud Server. Complete Steps 1-3 again, but on the Cloud Server this time. Determine your Cloud Server Latency in ms.

Step 5: Calculate the Final Results

Now that you have numbers in ms to represent your baseline Latency and your Cloud Server Latency, subtract them.

EXample: 50 ms Cloud Server – 16 ms baseline = 34 ms added latency

Subtracting your Baseline Latency from your Cloud Server Latency will give you the amount of Latency that is added by Cloud Gaming. This number is the difference between Gaming at home on a Gaming Computer, and playing in the Cloud. Let’s compare your results to some known numbers.

Perspective

Did you know that when you’re navigating the system menu on a Playstation 3, you’re experiencing 50 ms of Input Latency? It also might surprise you to learn that you experience 133 ms of Input Latency in Halo 3 on a Xbox 360. And keep in mind that these numbers don’t involve any form of Game Streaming. Most Gamers consider Halo 3 to be playable, and they don’t feel that it’s native Input Latency is holding them back. Just a little something to compare your results with.

We compared Broforce on our home computer to Broforce on a Cloud Server from Paperspace (using Parsec for streaming). We found that Cloud Gaming adds 34 ms to the whole experience. And yes, we feel that the game is completely playable with these results.

How about you? What numbers do you come up with when you test your Games? Do you feel that Games are playable with these numbers? Let us know in the comments!

Author Details
Josh is a long-time Gamer and Technology Guru. He is known for his writing and troubleshooting skills. Josh can solve just about any problem, and is especially good at getting to the bottom of technology challenges. He has a background in Networking and holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree. When he\'s not gaming, Josh can be found blogging, testing new tech, and interacting with Flickstiq\'s social media following. He lives in Ohio with his wife and children.

Also published on Medium.

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