Thin to Win? Network Performance Analysis of the OnLive Thin Client Game System

Thin to Win? Network Performance Analysis of the OnLive Thin Client Game System


Mark Claypool, David Finkel, Alexander Grant and Michael Solano

In Proceedings of the 11th ACM Network and System Support for Games (NetGames)
Venice, Italy
November 22-23, 2012


The growth in network bitrates and server-based processing has provided a renewed opportunity for thin client games, where the server does heavy-weight computations, sending only the visual game frames to the client, and the client displays frames, sending only the user actions to the server. Understanding the traffic characteristics of thin client games is important for building traffic models and classifiers and planning network infrastructures to meet future demand. This paper provides the first detailed study of the network characteristics 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, with comparisons to traditional game clients and streaming video. Results indicate OnLive rapidly sends large packets downstream, similar but still significantly different than live video. OnLive less frequently sends much smaller packets upstream, significantly different than traditional game client traffic. The results should be a useful beginning for building effective traffic models and classifiers, and for preparing end-host networks to support this upcoming generation of computer games.


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