Mark Claypool, David Finkel, Alexander Grant and Michael Solano
Computer games stand to benefit from "cloud" technology by doing heavy-weight, graphics-intensive computations at the server, sending only the visual game frames down to a thin client, with the client sending only the player actions upstream to the server. However, computer games tend to be graphically intense with fast-paced user actions necessitating bitrates and update frequencies that may stress end-host networks. Understanding the traffic characteristics of thin client games is important for building traffic models and traffic classifiers, as well as adequately planning network infrastructures to meet future demand. While there have been numerous studies detailing online game traffic and streaming video traffic, this paper provides the first detailed study of the network characteristic of OnLive, a commercially available thin client game system. Carefully designed experiments measure OnLive game traffic for several game genres, analyzing the bitrates, packet sizes and inter-packet times for both upstream and downstream game traffic, and analyzing frame rates for the games. Results indicate OnLive rapidly sends large packets downstream, similar but still significantly different than live video. Upstream, OnLive less frequently sends much smaller packets, significantly different than upstream traditional game client traffic. OnLive supports only top frame rates with high capacity end-host connections, but provides good frame rates with moderate end-host connections. The results should be a useful beginning to building effective traffic models and traffic classifiers, and for preparing end-host networks to support this upcoming generation of computer games.