Gaming

Google Project Stream: Beta sign-ups, how to play and more

You’re carefully sneaking around ruins, darting in and out of bushes, picking off guards, hoping that a high-powered mercenary inching ever closer doesn’t decide to bust up your stealthy maneuvers. But more of all, you’re hoping your connection doesn’t dip and you’re forced to run a bandwidth test.

That’s what it’s like to use Project Stream, Google’s ambitious joint experiment with Ubisoft that allows beta testers to play the recently released Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey for free. What’s the catch? You’re subject to the whims of your wallet and internet provider. Project Stream is the latest in a long string of attempts to replicate the experience of playing blockbuster games over the internet, without a physical or digital copy required.

So far, it ranges from surprisingly excellent to mildly irritating, assuming your internet connection is strong enough to start with.

When your connection is solidly above the bare-bones minimum 15-megabits-per-second connection (they ask for 25Mbps but it’ll continue to run down as low as 15), with latency lower than 40 ms and 5 percent loss, the experience is strikingly comparable to that of the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. You’ll notice a bit of latency when trying to quickly respond to attackers, but the game typically hovers around 30 frames per second, and the resolution will bounce up and down between what appears to be around a muddy 720p and a crisp 1080p on a strong network.

Currently in beta, Project Stream is the latest attempt to stream cloud-based games with high graphical fidelity in real-time to hardware that would otherwise be unable to run it. It’s the same basic genre of past services like OnLive and current offerings such as PlayStation Now and Nvidia GeForce Now. And it will go head-to-head with upcoming services like Microsoft’s just-announced Project xCloud, as the future of gaming moves from consoles and PCs to on-demand, possibly ownership-free models. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves — let’s dive into how it works and how you can start actually playing a (free!) version of Odyssey in your browser.

How do I sign up for Project Stream?

A number of access codes have gone out in the days following Project Stream’s announcement in early October, but you can still sign up to take part in the beta here. Note that you should be at least 17 years old and have an internet connection greater than 25Mbps. Other than that, the only barrier to entry is the limited number of codes Google’s sending out. Just make sure you have an active Ubisoft account, too.

If it’s in a browser, how do I actually play it?

Here’s what you’ll need to get started with Project Stream:

Internet: Once you’ve got your Ubisoft account and Project Stream beta invite, just go to the Project Stream site while in the Chrome browser, and test your connection. If it’s deemed worthy you can start playing immediately.

Be warned, though: a worthy connection isn’t necessarily a stable one. So if you’re on a network that just passes the minimum threshold, don’t be surprised if you have to run intermittent tests that force you to reconnect to the game.

Hardware: Compatible systems run the gamut from Windows, Mac, Chromebook and even Linux.

Controls: You can actually play Odyssey with a mouse and keyboard, or if you’re truly a rule-breaker, a keyboard and trackpad. But you’d never actually want to do that to yourself. You’ll be a much happier camper by wiring up your Xbox or PS4 Dualshock 4 controller to the computer instead.

Does the Stream ever end?

Yes. Unfortunately for those without a lot of free time to explore the extreme depths of Odyssey’s content, the test will end in January. But until then, you can play to your heart’s content, across whatever instance of Chrome you decide to hop into.

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