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LiquidSky 2.0 Is More of a SpaceX Crash Than a Launch

Posted on April 5, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

At CES 2017 cloud streaming service LiquidSky promised that when their company launched their public beta later this year they would offer “the world’s first free gaming PC” by providing free game time to users in exchange for the ability to serve advertisements to free tier users. After months of anticipation LiquidSky 2.0 was set to roll out globally on March 14th – now that we are 3 weeks removed from the launch date it is clear that LS 2.0 is nothing short of an absolute dumpster fire.

The Promise

Back in January LiquidSky unveiled a series of different packages that users can choose from alongside the basic gist of what their service was and how it would be delivered. For the uninitiated LS renders a user’s game using highly powerful server grade hardware, not unlike those found in the N-Series of Amazon Web Services (complete with dedicated GPUs, SSDS and the like). In theory, LiquidSky is able to offset the costs of this hardware in their data centres by connecting several instances per server, allowing the company to charge as little as $0.50 USD/hr for their lowest tier package in the closed alpha phase. Now their revenue is collected by either accepting payment from their customers or serving them advertisements.

Personally, I’d used LiquidSky 1.0’s paid service from its closed alpha for several months before the March 14th public launch. Users would connect directly to the server instance, and were presented with a virtualized Windows desktop where they are able to install Steam, Origin, Uplay or any other content delivery platforms onto their virtual machine. While participating in the closed alpha I played a few games for dozens of hours while using an old MacBook that could never dream of playing them on even the lowest settings. I experienced enough server lag while connected to their California data server that games requiring “twitch” responses (Overwatch, League of Legends) were unplayable but MMOs certainly were an excellent experience at a solid 30 frames-per-second. It was far from perfect, but LiquidSky 1.0’s closed alpha showcased the potential of the service, and I couldn’t help but share my excitement and hopes with my friends in the tech industry: that LS could be something really special.

A Comedy of Error Messages

As a user of the previous 1.0 closed-alpha, I should have simply been able to download the LiquidSky 2.0 client, migrate my old account to the new system and be able to use the existing “Sky Credits” for whichever of the three performance packages that I desired for my games; the execution thus far is nowhere near the promise showcased during the closed alpha.

After downloading the LiquidSky 2.0 client and allowing it to patch, I have attempted to migrate my old account a number of times and even attempting to create a new account has resulted in the same error for the past two weeks: LS 2.0 attempts to find the closest data center to me (hint it’s California until their Seattle datacenter comes online) in an endless loop forever.

See this screenshot above? I’ve sat and watched the globe spin for hours in an attempt to get LiquidSky 2.0 to do anything other than take up hard drive space for weeks.

While writing this article I fired up a VPN, and was finally able to validate my connection’s ping rate against the endless loop of “finding closest data center”. Unfortunately, my previously paid Sky credits did not transfer over to the new system after migrating my existing account to 2.0. The client’s splash screen informed that I should purchase a package in order to access my Sky computer once again. Any attempts to watch advertisements for free credits also failed with the error “there are no opportunities to earn sky credits at this time”.

Give us money to access the virtual PC you already gave us money for.

Screaming Into The Void

By now I have been partially successful in accessing LiquidSky’s service. With some VPN trickery and at least a touch of patience, it is at least possible to bypass the endless “searching for data centers” loop. A cursory glance at the LiquidSky community forums shows that a number of users throughout the world haven’t been so lucky.

(Image source)

Here is just a brief summary of the common errors that have gone reported on the LiquidSky community forums without any official word from the company just in the past 24 hours:

The above three examples are but a small fraction of the recently opened threads on LS’ “report a bug” forums and none of the threads browsed for this article contained an official response or resolution from the company itself.

To their credit LiquidSky has been quick to issue a few patches for the client – most notably to fix input delay and a nasty bug that would kick users off their session after thirty minutes.

Wrapping Up

As it currently stands, I can not recommend LiquidSky to anyone. Even for early adaptors who might live within the recommended 1500KM of the nearest datacenter: my own personal experience with bugged out ping tests, reports of input lag and paid credits going missing make LS 2.0 an instant no-go. Perhaps once the service has matured and the apparent infrastructure problems have worked out then LiquidSky can fulfill its promise of a “free gaming PC” for everyone but as it stands right now trying to use the service is an exercise in frustration.

Disclosure: Broken Joysticks writers have in the past received press materials, stock images and embargoed details from LiquidSky in advance of publication. The author of this piece purchased $20 USD of “SkyCredits” during the closed alpha period of LS 1.0 last year and used the service for a number of months before the publication of this article with the intent to carry them over to LS 2.0. An attempt was made both on the official LiquidSky community forums and through Public Relations contacts to bring a remedy to the account problems and technical hurdles the author experienced but we never heard back from anyone at LiquidSky.


Liquid Sky To Feature Radeon GPUs When Free Service Rolls Out March 14th

Posted on March 2, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

AMD’s brand new Radeon Virtualized Encode platform will power the full release of LiquidSky’s cloud gaming platform on March 14th. The CEO of LiquidSky Ian McLoughlin took the stage to demonstrate Battlefield1 being rendered on the newly announced hardware. Both AMD and LiquidSky touted the announcement of Radeon Virtualized Encode as bringing the power of high end graphics cards to the masses through affordability.

CEO Ian McLoughlin At The AMD Ryzen / VEGA Event.

LiquidSky’s upcoming March release will enable anyone to earn up to 2 free hours of gameplay time using their new “Gamer Package” – which is the equivalent to the top tier package on offer during their closed beta – by watching sponsored advertisements. Players will be able to use the LiquidSky mobile app to earn “Sky Credits” (free time), which is stackable up to 14 hours per week. Ian also mentioned during the AMD event that players could use all of these free hours in one shot – want to save up all of our hours and play a 14 hour stretch of Overwatch? You can.

Alongside the launch of LiquidSky 2.0’s new datacenter and mobile app is a brand new client for Windows and Mac which will allow users to hang out in themed chatrooms known as the “Sky Lounge” to connect with other players while waiting for their games to install. One downside to the datacenter upgrades to the VEGA platform is that all LiquidSky services will be down from March 7th – 14th and all existing computers will be wiped.

Check out our previous coverage of LiquidSky 2.0 – We will be covering the launch of their new service later this month once it has launched.


LiquidSky’s New Free Tier Offers Cutting Edge Gaming Performance To All

Posted on January 6, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

Playing the latest AAA games like DOOM, Battlefield 1 and Tom Clancy’s The Division at high or ultra setting can be a daunting task even for some top-end rigs. Trying to play the latest games on PC at the best graphical fidelity while on a budget can be a literal give & take scenario – sacrificing some graphic options for others in order to maintain stability. Cloud gaming provider LiquidSky aims to make these sacrifices a thing of the past as they open up their platform to everyone as their product approached the end of beta at CES 2017.

LiquidSky allows players to offload the graphical processing and complex computation of today’s’ games to their cloud-based infrastructure – delivering the rendered image and accepting controller input from a number of different devices. In theory, this opens up the world of high-end gaming to a number of folks who do not possess the dedicated hardware necessary for complex games – Imagine being able to play The Witcher III anywhere from your Macbook Air to an iPad to right on an Android powered smartphone. This is exactly the kind of universal accessibility that LiquidSky promises to offer to not only potential subscribers but everyone when the service’s new range of tiers launches in February.

Other streaming services have offered similar tantalizing visions of a cloud-based gaming future, most notably Gaikai and Online, Both of those services either ended up folding or being acquired – OnLive underwent a number of iterations and product line-up changes before being dissolved in 2015 and Gaikai was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2012 to develop the backbone of both the PlayStation Now and Remote Play services. LiquidSky says that their services will not repeat the latency issues of prior cloud providers. During their CES presentation LiquidSky quoted speeds of up to 1GB/s down and 100MB/s upload when using one of their Sky Computers.

Gaming PCs For Everyone

Potentially the most exciting announcement during their CES Keynote was the unveiling of an add supported free tier which will provide players with up to 3 hours of gameplay per day with 100GB of storage in exchange for 6 minutes of ads per hour. This works out to 10% of total playtime being used for advertisements in order to subsidize the cost of running the latest titles.

In terms of system specifications, LiquidSky comes in a number of configurations depending on a user’s preferences. The company is poised to offer three levels for the average consumer:

Free Plan
3 Hours of Gameplay Per Day
100GB of Online Storage
Add Supported

Pay As You Go Plan
100GB of Storage
No Advertisements
Priority Support

$9.99 Gamer Plan
1TB Storage
Roll-over of unused Pas As You Go credits
No Advertisements
Priority support

One might wonder what kind of system specifications are available under these plans. During their CES presentation, LiquidSky mentioned a number of different system configurations available to players. Depending on the type of performance, the price of the packages increases in the company’s Pas As You Go “Sky Credits”.

Here is a look at the different virtual computer configurations and their in-game targets:

Gamer Package
2GB Virtual Videocard
3 Virtual CPU Cores
8GB Virtual RAM
Will run most games @ 30 FPS at 1080p

Pro Package
4GB Virtual Videocard
6 VirtuaL CPU Cores
16GB Virtual RAM
Most games @ 60fps at 1080p
Elite Package
8GB Virtual Videocard
12 Virtual CPU Cores
32GB Virtual RAM

A World of Support

Unlike previous cloud gaming providers LiquidSky allows users to bring their existing gaming libraries with them to the services. This means that players won’t be paying full price for a game and then having that game tied specifically to one service. Initially supporting Battle.net, Steam, Windows Store and Origin users of Liquid Sky will be able to sign into their virtual machines using the launchers and chat platforms that they are already used too. A LiquidSky Sky Computer also comes with complete USB 2.0 pass-through meaning that existing gaming mice, specialized controllers, headsets and other peripherals will be supported right away.

Support isn’t just limited to the end-user, LiquidSky’s platform also offers a number of features that should entice developers to support players on LiquidSky’s network. While users can install applications & games through any of the approved launchers the platform also has built-in DRM protection baked in, preventing players from launching illicit versions of games. The company also makes mention that they have a program in place to allow developers to be paid from a user’s SkyCredits to ensure that developers are paid for their titles being paid, further information on how exactly this would work was not available as of press time.
Speaking about the accessibility of the service CEO of LiquidSky said:

“By delivering the power of an ultra gaming PC to nearly any device for free, with the convenience and simplicity of consoles, we’ve made gaming more accessible than ever. Gamers across the world can finally enjoy experiences previously unavailable to them at home or on-the-go through the power of LiquidSky.”

Final Thoughts

The promise of LiquidSky has me genuinely intrigued and I write those words not just as a games journalist or independent developer but someone who travels with an older Macbook Pro and who is cut off from her expansive library of games while away from home. I look forward to being able to try the free tier of LiquidSky’s service on my Macbook Pro, even on less demanding titles like Eve Online. Being able to check up on my daily market transactions or get in a quick round of Overwatch or DOOM while away from home is something I don’t currently have the luxury of and for work I’ve never seen the point in spending $2.000 CDN+ on a gaming laptop. I can also definitely see the appeal to gamers who aren’t as fortunate as I, with access to a high-end gaming rig at home. Being able to stream the latest titles from the cloud could introduce the world of PC gaming to an entire market of people for whom it has been out of reach.

We will have more on LiquidSky’s free tier of service when it becomes available.


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