Much like Steam’s Big Picture feature that released last summer, Steam In-Home Streaming makes PC gaming that much more accessible to players. In fact, the two of them work marvelously together.
The basic gist of In-Home Streaming is that it allows a player to utilize his or her gaming computer to play games from another computer on the same Local Area Network. The gaming computer is the one doing the hard work so an old computer is used to “control” the game.
There are some other features, too, such as initiating a remote installation on the gaming computer of a game in the player’s library.
There appears to be very little latency when playing over a Local Area Network and performance and quality of the game does not seem to be hindered. Of course the act of streaming does put a little bit of additional load onto the gaming computer so if a computer is already struggling to run a game, it is going to struggle just a little bit more resulting in a performance hit – how much of a hit depends largely on the game and how it uses CPU resources.
With Big Picture Mode
The great application of this is for playing computer games on a home theater system without moving the gaming computer. A player could attach an old laptop to the home theater system and play games on the big screen but using his or her powerful gaming computer to run the game. This will surely make Steam’s Big Picture feature very accessible. There are even options for In-Home Streaming when using Big Picture mode.
Controller support is automatic. If the remote computer has a controller that the gaming computer doesn’t, it will work. I was able to use my Logitech F310 without any configuration on either my remote or gaming computer when playing Fallout 3 remotely. Depending on which game is played, different results can be expected, though.
There are a few “gotchas” with this marvelous development, though.
- First Time Installations – Installation of supporting applications such as Direct X, Punkbuster and C++ Redistributable can cause a hang up when trying to play remotely. A window will open on the gaming computer asking for user input that cannot be responded to on the remote computer. The easy solution is to run each game on the gaming computer once to insure that such applications are installed.
- All sound goes to the remote computer – Any sound that is playing on the gaming computer will go to the remote computer and there is no way to stop it remotely. This includes music that might be playing. Sound on the gaming computer is muted on the gaming computer so there is no need to turn off speakers.
- It doesn’t run in the background on the gaming computer – This isn’t something that runs in the background on the gaming computer. The gaming computer displays a copy of what is being played on the remote computer. This also means that the game can be interfered with from the gaming computer.
- In-Home Streaming does not support non-steam games – Non-steam games can be made to work, however they are not supported. Luckily, there is a discussion board established in the Steam forums to cover community supported discussion of configuring non-Steam games.
Overall, Steam In-Home Streaming is a very exciting addition to Steam’s already impressive list of features. All it takes is a little bit of thought and In-Home Streaming can add some very innovative flexibility to a gamer’s capabilities within their own home. I look forward to Steam expanding upon this feature.