EA patent outlines technique to bypass game download and install times

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,961   +785
Staff member
In context: The one thing that digital versions of video games cannot provide is instant playability. Depending on connection speed and the game's size, downloads could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. And that is not even considering the time it takes to install.

According to a recently awarded patent, EA may have come up with a solution for bypassing the long download and install times altogether. The process uses streaming technology to start the game instantly, then switches to running it locally once enough data has been downloaded.

Sony uses a similar approach with PlayStation titles. When users start a download, many games will prioritize essential assets so that users can begin playing while the rest of the game downloads in the background (below). However, these initial assets also take time to download, so instantly playing is still not an option.

With EA's method, a new player clicks on the game they want to play, and it starts immediately streaming to the client device. Meanwhile, the local machine downloads the title's data and assets while the user plays. Once the client has enough of the game data, the streaming server seamlessly hands off playback to the local machine.

Digital downloads are gradually becoming the standard medium for video games. They offer many advantages, such as eliminating the physical clutter and storage space of disc games, and they never become scratched or worn out. You can access them from just about anywhere, but they are not available to begin playing instantly.

Game streaming is still in its breakout phase but is gaining some momentum. Using this burgeoning technology to overcome the limitations of digital downloads is a good idea. However, patents don't always make it to practical application, so don't get your hopes up just yet.

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Wasteak

Posts: 49   +42
"Sony uses a similar approach with PlayStation titles."
Well no...
Sony does like Blizzard : you still need to download some stuff before being able to play.

That's not at all what the ea patent does as you explained it.
 

GamerNerves

Posts: 87   +45
Usually downloading a game while trying to play it via streaming means that the streaming quality will suffer. I cannot see this working without the most perfect internet connection combined maybe with properly configured modem. Why to go through such trouble for a feature that is not necessary? The Blizzard/Sony way is the best if you are in such a hurry.
 

eforce

Posts: 171   +192
Usually downloading a game while trying to play it via streaming means that the streaming quality will suffer. I cannot see this working without the most perfect internet connection combined maybe with properly configured modem. Why to go through such trouble for a feature that is not necessary? The Blizzard/Sony way is the best if you are in such a hurry.

It's so they can milk anyone that tries to do anything vaguely similar.
 

Watzupken

Posts: 197   +176
Usually downloading a game while trying to play it via streaming means that the streaming quality will suffer. I cannot see this working without the most perfect internet connection combined maybe with properly configured modem. Why to go through such trouble for a feature that is not necessary? The Blizzard/Sony way is the best if you are in such a hurry.
I was thinking the same. If one's internet connection is fast, this may make sense, but it also means the download speed for the game may slow down in the background. If one's internet speed is slow, both the streaming and download will suffer.
 

Ravey

Posts: 296   +127
Usually downloading a game while trying to play it via streaming means that the streaming quality will suffer. I cannot see this working without the most perfect internet connection combined maybe with properly configured modem. Why to go through such trouble for a feature that is not necessary? The Blizzard/Sony way is the best if you are in such a hurry.

Also A definite isse with people who live in busy households that are all using the internet. Of course if you can stream the game instantly then perhaps there will be an option to pause the download while you play then just download the game when your pc/console is Idle.

Something else to point out, given that it's EA applying for the patent you can bet they will place this "instant play streaming service" behind a pay monthly pay wall.

Really we want to hope that they are not awarded a patent so more than just EA can adopt this technology for the benefit of consumers and fair trading.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 3,345   +1,510
MS and Sony bringing games to PC and EA being the good guy?
(Also see: EA giving more freedom to devs)

What planet is this? lol
 

BSim500

Posts: 793   +1,744
The one thing that digital versions of video games cannot provide is instant playability. Depending on connection speed and the game's size, downloads could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. And that is not even considering the time it takes to install.
Solution looking for a problem. As others have mentioned if you start streaming whilst downloading then either your download speed slows down or the streaming bitrate suffers. As for re-installing large "digital" games a 2nd, 3rd, etc, time, GOG solved that a long time ago with offline installers. Download, throw onto a backup drive / NAS and the "download" time is completely skipped. Maybe GOG should patent "Not needing the Internet for stuff you have stored locally"...
 

ET3D

Posts: 1,754   +401
I agree with others that it depends on the download bandwidth and the bandwidth requirements of the streaming. Thought I can definitely see it working okay if download is, say, 100Mbps and streaming takes 10Mbps (or even less if streaming at 720p). Sure, it will slow down the download a little, but the ability to start the game should compensate for that.

This deserves a patent? Makes me wonder if instant coffee won a patent.

Patents aren't for the idea, but for the implementation (one can patent an idea with a trivial implementation, because the patent system lets that slip through, but it can be invalidated).

There are definitely technical issues to address, such as ensuring quality of service for streaming while a download is in progress, and seamlessly transferring the game state from the streaming game to the local game.
 

Jpe1701

Posts: 60   +62
You should add that there are people who it takes more than a week to download a game living right in the 48 lower states to that "few minutes or few hours" . Good luck streaming a game when just watching Netflix and doing anything else takes almost the whole bandwidth. Hopefully this is the last year of it here though because with schools in the area all closed the internet is becoming a bigger issue so all the surrounding towns are getting faster internet and the crews with the lines are right over the mountain from us. Just have to wait for our towns turn.
 

McMurdeR

Posts: 274   +260
That's actually not an awful idea, but you'd need the bandwidth to handle both the stream and the transfer.
Although if sufficient bandwidth was available, I'd prefer the Blizzard approach.
 
This deserves a patent? Makes me wonder if instant coffee won a patent.
Instant or soluble coffee was invented and patented in 1881, by Alphonse Allais, France, under patent number 141520. In 1890, David Strang of Invercargill, New Zealand, under patent number 3518 sold under the trading name Strang's Coffee citing the patented "Dry Hot-Air" process.