A few weeks ago, this article wouldn’t have been possible. Very few Cloud Gaming Softwares have allowed users to play through their web browser. However this is now a thing, and you’re probably wondering who’s the best. Let’s talk about 4 options for Cloud Gaming in Google Chrome.
Before we dive into our list, let’s talk about how we are going to rate these streaming options. It’s important to grade them all in the same way. We will judge them on based on five criteria:
- Customization (20 points)
- Accessibility (20 points)
- Performance (20 points)
- Cost (20 points)
- Game Selection (20 points)
Vortex is the second generation of Streaming technology from developer RemoteMyApp. It is available as a Windows Store App, Dedicated App, and Web Client. For this article, we will focus primarily on using it through Google Chrome. You can access Vortex by visiting their website and signing in. You’ll be presented with a list of popular Games that you can load and play instantly (at least in theory).
Vortex only costs $9.99 per month for 100 hours of Cloud Gaming, making them one of the best values in the industry. While their price and ease-of-use score well, their performance and accessibility suffer from a few problems.
Vortex’s pricing has made them popular among Cloud Gamers. Because of this, it’s not unusual to encounter a waiting queue when you try to start a Game. The queue can be as little as 10 minutes, but sometimes as high as 30 minutes. Once you get into a Game, things often don’t go very smoothly. It’s not unusual to encounter low frame rates and high input latency. The severity of these issues can vary from Game to Game.
Vortex allows you to customize a few things in their settings. You’ll be able to make minor adjustments to your bit rate for example. But they lack any real depth when it comes to tweaking your experience.
Vortex earns 49 out of 100
Google is a relative newcomer to the Cloud Gaming market. They just recently started a closed beta of their upcoming Project Stream Cloud Gaming service. The test was limited, and we were only able to try one game (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey).
We’ll start by saying that using Project Stream is a breeze. You basically just load their site and then hit a single button to jump into your game. Everything just worked, and their performance was the highest that we’ve experienced from Cloud Gaming in Google Chrome. This makes sense when you consider that Google is also the developer of Chrome.
On the downside, only a single Game is currently offered through Project Stream. We expect that to change in the future, but this article is about how things are today. There are zero customization options available. You can’t adjust your bit rate, resolution, or quality.
As we mentioned earlier, Project Stream is currently in beta. Google isn’t charging any fees at this time. They haven’t made any sort of announcement about what pricing might look like after the beta ends.
Project Stream earns 65 out of 100
While Rainway is not exclusively a Cloud Gaming Service, it can be used with quite a few Cloud Gaming servers. Rainway in it’s essence is a Streamer software. It can be installed on various Cloud Gaming servers and then used to handle encoding and streaming.
Rainway is currently in beta with plans to officially launch at the beginning of 2019. It’s an open beta, and anyone is welcome to try it out. To get started all you need to do is create a free Rainway Account, install the Rainway App on your server, and then connect to it from your web browser. While Rainway works in both Google Chrome and Firefox, you’ll find that performance tends to be best in Google Chrome.
On the performance side, you may notice occasional video compression. This shows up as artifacts in the Game that you’re playing. There is also a bit of input latency that is most noticeable while playing reaction-intensive Games.
Rainway uses a custom algorithm to detect the Games that you’ve already installed on your server. It presents everything in a neat interface that makes it easy to jump in and start playing. You’ll also be able to customize many aspects of Rainway. Everything from your bit rate to your resolution can be tweaked. Rainway is completely free to use, which is a great value for Gamers.
Rainway earns 80 out of 100
Parsec is another Streamer software that is similar to Rainway. While not exactly a Cloud Gaming service, they do provide a software that can be installed on a Cloud Gaming server. From there they’ll handle the actual streaming process.
Parsec’s strength is their video quality and low latency. While not quite as good as Project Stream, they do represent a close 2nd. The process of setting up Parsec is also very similar to Rainway. Simply install the Parsec App on your server, and then log into Parsec’s website to start playing.
Out of all the options that we’ve covered today, Parsec is the most customizable. They support a wide range of streaming features and tweaks. You’ll be able to adjust everything from bit rate to resolution. Additionally you can stream using H.265 technology.
Parsec’s biggest weakness is that their Chrome client is does not run perfectly on all Cloud Servers. We had a good experience on Paperspace, but it was quite rough through LiquidSky. It also worked on Shadow, but required setting up 3rd Party VPN software.
Like Rainway, Parsec doesn’t charge anything to use their Streaming software. They also support the widest range of Games of any of the options that we’ve covered today. You’ll gain access to the full Cloud Desktop of your server. From there you can install almost any PC Game that you want.
Parsec earns 80 out of 100
So who’s the best?
As you can see from our scoring, Parsec and Rainway both earned our highest grade. However each earned it for different reasons. Parsec earns points for customization and performance while Rainway earns points for accessibility. And as we mentioned in the article, Parsec currently struggles on some server setups.
If we were to compare the two on a server that both support, Parsec would be slightly ahead because of their performance. However, it’s a very close call. Both Parsec and Rainway’s Google Chrome products are in a beta state. They are both subject to change (and updates are frequent). Rainway specifically has a slew of updates scheduled between now and the end of 2018. They should end up performing quite differently when compared to today.
Vortex and Project Stream don’t earn our top marks for various reasons. Vortex really struggles when it comes to performance, and Project Stream just doesn’t offer enough selection or customization options. However Project Stream’s performance was outstanding. With a bit of development they could easily take first place in this list.
Cloud Gaming in Google Chrome is a popular subject, and most of the options that we covered today are in some sort of testing/development phase. Consider this to be an early look at a new technology. It’s the very beginning of something new. The bottom line is that all of these options are worth keeping an eye on, and the future should be very interesting.
Also published on Medium.
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.