I have what one might call unusual needs when it comes to gaming. My primary gaming systems are all up in my office hooked up to the same 43 inch 4k television that I have written about in the past. That said I maintain a laptop downstairs that I can game on while hanging out on the sofa with my wife and either watching television or just functionally being in the same room. This has been one of the secrets of our marital bliss is the fact that several nights a week I hang out downstairs within easy talking distance rather than being completely sequestered up in my office all of the time. This means that I ultimately need to maintain two different gaming setups and end up splitting resources between the two of them.
The biggest issue with this equation is that gaming laptops are horrible. What I mean by that is that while yes they are more powerful than a normal laptop… they also have a greatly stripped down feature set of a gaming desktop. They usually run some sort of mobile specific version of a graphics card… which tends to perform roughly the same as one product generation lower. What I mean by that is my current gaming laptop has a 960M in it… which instead of performing like a GTX 960 it performs far closer to a GTX 760 (given that they jumped the 8 series of cards). Similarly the processors also suffer from this same issue with a mobile i7 greatly under performing a desktop i7. Then of course there is the fact that you are ultimately going to pay a significant premium for a machine that is pretending to be extremely high powered but that is a whole other discussion.
One of the core problems that I am dealing with right now is I am starting to reach the end of the viability of this laptop for any sort of modern gaming. Sure it can run older games just fine and does an admirable job at a lot of the MMORPGs that I enjoy playing, but I have a long string of games that just will not function on the device. The first game I encountered like this was Dishonored 2… which I still have not finished playing through because it simply will not run in anything other than the most potato of resolutions on the laptop. Traditionally the downstairs experience is where I play a lot of my single player titles… and with the inability to actually do this thing games like Dishonored and Assassin’s Creed Origins that will not run on the laptop at all just sit there un-played.
Steam In-Home streaming I thought originally was going to be a unique tool that I could employ to stream games from my Desktop to my Laptop and be able to skirt all of these problems. However after years of piddling with it… I still have issues. There are times where a game window may get stranded or launch in a weird resolution and with that not being an actual remote desktop tool there is little way to right the ship once it capsizes. I’ve read of individuals having good luck with Splashtop desktop/streamer but the latency there was so high that I simply could not handle it and now only use it as a way of remoting in to the gaming machine if I am absolutely in a desperate state. Even if I could get Steam In-Home streaming working… there was always the problem of not being able to easily run all of those games that I have that for one reason or another do not go through the client (I am looking at you Dragon Age Inquisition).
This is where in my travels yesterday I happened across a mention of a product called Parsec. The company effectively does a couple of different things, the first being rent virtual boxes that you can use to install all of your games on out in the cloud and then remotely connect to. The second is that they have very highly tuned and low latency streaming software that allows you to connect to a machine, be it one of their virtual machines or your home machine and play games off it. Lastly they add additional functionality of being able to play the couch co-op experience remotely through a social and online play system. While I was supremely jaded by my other experiences I gave it a shot last night.
The setup is pretty straight forward in that it requires you to install the parsec client on the host machine and the client machine. They have clients for Windows, MacOS, Android, Linux and Raspberry Pi 3… which gives you a few options for even creating your own homebrew Steamlink sort of device for streaming to a television. For me I wanted a pretty straight forward set up of installing the software on my gaming desktop upstairs and adding it as a host… that you can see in the client above. Yes I named my gaming desktop Serenity… I love me some Firefly. Then downstairs on my laptop I installed the client again but this time just connected to the Serenity computer profile by hitting play. Immediately I was presented with a remote desktop like experience that allowed me to pretty much launch whatever the hell I wanted to on my machine.
It was at this point that I just started testing all sorts of games… I played some Crucible in Destiny 2 with no noticeable input delay in a fashion that was comfortable enough to actually do competitive tasks. I played some Dauntless where I took down the stupid thunder lizard Drask that had been giving me fits before. Essentially any game that I launched was able to run just fine and in a completely playable and honestly beautiful state. I had some issues with Steam games at first, but after troubleshooting that came down to something I had done yesterday in trying to set up my iPad as a third monitor. Apparently the software that is involved with that does not play nicely with the Steam DRM. However after uninstalling and rebooting all of those steam games that I struggled with before like Dishonored 2 and Assassin’s Creed Origins worked lovely as well.
I am known for doing some silly things… but there is a level of madness with Parsec that I am not entirely sure if I am willing to go through. They have a blog post up outlining how they have managed to get a console working through the Parsec software and I would absolutely try this… if it did not involve two hardware purchases that I do not currently have. I have been wanting to get an Elgato Pro… so this might be something I do at some point. This would honestly be the perfect set up if I could somehow get all of my consoles playing through Parsec as well. I have wanted a sort of virtual KVM for consoles for years… and in theory I might be able to actually make this thing to work using Parsec. If nothing else however I thought I would talk about my experiences this morning in case someone else out there is looking to do something similar. I am greatly pleased with this process and I play on fiddling around with it some more tonight… maybe actually working on some of those single player games that I have failed to make much progress in. At face value though… I am supremely impressed with Parsec and will definitely be following their updates.