Simplay made news recently when they announced their partnership with Parsec. While that’s exciting, Simplay wants us to remember that they are developing their own streaming technology. It’s called Photon, and it represents the future of the Simplay platform. So what does the future look like?
To understand what makes Photon special, you have to understand streaming. The Cloud Gaming experience is made up of two parts: The Server, and the Streamer. Photon is a Streamer that transfers media over a network using a network protocol.
Simplay’s protocol is a unique combination of UDP and TCP technologies. Network protocols are sets of rules that dictate how data is delivered from point A to point B.
The TCP Protocol is all about data reliability. Every packet that is transmitted across a network has to be acknowledged by the receiving party before more data is sent. The data also has to be sent and received in the correct order. This protocol is great for ensuring data integrity. Meaning that what is sent is absolutely what is received.
The UDP Protocol ensures transmission consistency. It’s focused on getting data to point B as quickly as possible. There is no step that ensures that data is received by the other device. You’ll see UDP used quite a bit in real-time streaming technologies. And you’ve probably experienced what happens when UDP goes wrong. Let’s say that you’re streaming a video online and you notice some pixelation. That pixelation is caused by data that was lost during transmission (packet loss).
When you analyze these two protocols, it’s clear that neither is really suited for Game Streaming. TCP creates too much of a delay to provide a good experience. UDP is not reliable enough to ensure that everything looks good and is responsive.
Photon is a Unique
In order to progress beyond the limitations of TCP and UDP, Simplay turned to ENet. ENet is an open-source project that based upon improving UDP. ENet incorporates some of the dependability of TCP, which results in a greatly-improved streaming experience. But it still isn’t perfect.
Simplay considers ENet to be an inspiring proof-of-concept. Although it’s a step in the right direction, it still has some shortcomings. ENet is known for crashing at any sign of network instability. It also still suffers from excessive pixelation because it isn’t designed to confirm every packet that is sent.
Photon is based on the promise of ENet, but is completely custom. The Simplay team started by addressing the excessive frame-loss that is experienced on ENet.
“PHOTON takes into account a variety of parameters which ensures your game runs uninterrupted, even under less-than-ideal network conditions.” – Simplay Blog
A combination of improved streaming resilience and confirmation technologies have enabled Simplay to achieve a 10-15% latency improvement over ENet. Even though this is an impressive leap, it still isn’t quite true to life. Simplay’s goal is to make game streaming indistinguishable from playing locally.
Simplay has developed a full roadmap for the future of Photon. Their plans include adding a direct peer-to-peer connection between client and host, incorporating innovative algorithms to reduce bandwidth, and more. You can read all about Photon on Simplay’s Blog.
What do you think? Have you tested Photon? How do you think it feels today? What would you improve? Let us know in the comments!
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.