There are two varieties of game streaming: one is the streaming of a video feed showing what you're doing inside the game, and the other is the ability to play remotely by streaming the full interactive experience over to another device. Nvidia knows both are growing in importance, and today it's introducing new software that upgrades the ease with which players can do both. I tried Nvidia's updated GeForce Experience — which is being rolled out in beta form today — at Gamescom earlier this month, and I came away impressed by the simplicity and quickness of the graphics company's new software.
Effortless and foolproof
Today's update introduces an on-screen overlay that will be available across all games and requires no setup or tinkering. It's just there if you want it, accessible via a keyboard shortcut, and entirely unobtrusive if you don't. The first two options, instant replay and video recording, are basically Nvidia's ShadowPlay functionality presented in an easy and straightforward format. You can let your Nvidia GPU run its own DVR service in the background, automatically recording the last 30 seconds (or as long as 20 minutes) of gameplay and then making them available for immediate replay when something sublime happens in the game. Or you can manually set up a recording of an unlimited length. These options max out at 4K resolution and 60fps, which equates to roughly 60GB of data per hour.
The next step is where the sharing aspect comes in, and the GeForce Experience overlay makes it very quick and easy to trim and upload a replay to YouTube. Anyone who's interested in doing gameplay walkthrough or tips videos for YouTube will immediately appreciate how frictionless this is. Again, there are no profiles or per-game settings to mess around with. You just jump in, do stuff in your game, and you immediately have high-quality replays to share with the world as you desire.
Nvidia differentiates between the two types of game streaming by designating the passive version as broadcasting. This makes a lot of sense to me and I hope others embrace the nomenclature as well. In this beta version, you can only broadcast your game to Twitch, though Nvidia is looking into the possibility of expanding these options in the future. Once again, the emphasis is on quick access, and you only need one click (on a button titled "Start") to get your game running live on your Twitch channel.
A Chrome plug-in will let you jump into friends' games
Game streaming in Nvidia's parlance is the actual conveying of the game to remote devices, and it is the fourth major option in the new software. You can invite friends to join your game, either via email or a shareable URL, and once inside they can either watch, play in your place, or play alongside you in co-op games. This is all done at a set resolution of 720p and 30fps, and the receiving party needs to be running a Chrome browser plug-in on either a PC or a Mac (no Chromebook support, unfortunately, owing to a slightly different decoder). I experienced this first-hand at Nvidia's Gamescom HQ and found zero latency. Admittedly, it was between two machines sitting side by side on the same wireless network, and the demo title of Trine 3 isn't as dependent on quick reactions as a first-person shooter might be, but even with those disclaimers, it was an impressively fluid and fault-free demo of game streaming.
Nvidia set itself the goal to make its various behind-the-scenes streaming and recording capabilities more accessible and comprehensible to a much wider audience of gamers, and I think it's succeeded. The menu you're presented with now is one that regular humans can read and grok immediately. ShadowPlay could mean a million different things, but everyone has a pretty good idea of what an instant replay is. PC gamers need this sort of unified, game-agnostic streaming solution to compete with their console brethren, and so long as you're happy with Nvidia's graphics cards, using its GeForce Experience to take care of your streaming needs seems like an easy and obvious win.