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Antstream - It's Netflix for Games!


jon_cybernet
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The comments to that artstechnica article weren't too kind and this one was hilighted by the editor:

 

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One frame of streamed data is probably going to be bigger than the entire ROM for anything emulated on an 8-bit home computer. And oldschool games, even 8 and 16 bit console ones are notoriously lag-intolerant. 

Streaming is a horrible, horrible solution for a service of this type.

 

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Hmmm

 

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"When you talk to the IP holders, they're not happy that all their games are being downloaded and shared illegally," AntStream CEO Steve Cottam told Ars in a recent interview.

 

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Building a business around a collection of thousands of classic games is much more a legal problem than a technical problem these days. Cottam says it has taken three years of flying around the world to publishers in the UK, US, Japan, and Europe to gather the streaming rights for AntStream's library. "Sometimes we've identified rights companies had that they didn't even know they had," he said.

 

Excuse me, did you know your company owns the rights to all these games like Zub, 180 and Amaurote? Want to make money out of them and allow us to sue anyone who hosts the roms, because we're trying to save retro gaming "biz" from piracy?

 

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23 minutes ago, MidWalian said:

The comments to that artstechnica article weren't too kind and this one was hilighted by the editor:

 

Quote

One frame of streamed data is probably going to be bigger than the entire ROM for anything emulated on an 8-bit home computer. And oldschool games, even 8 and 16 bit console ones are notoriously lag-intolerant. 

Streaming is a horrible, horrible solution for a service of this type.

 

 

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 Cottam says their tests in the UK (where AntStream plans to launch first) have averaged about 45 ms of latency on a good internet connection. 

 

which, iirc, depending on if your game is PAL or NTSC is either 1.125 video frames or 1.35 video frames delay

 

But... I'm presuming that doesn't include the TV lag which will add in between 15-20ms latency for a TV with low input lag.

 

So you're really taking 1.8 frames delay for NTSC/30Hz games, 1.5 frames delay for PAL/25 Hz games. On a good internet connection.

 

There's maybe a reason why Nintendo don't stream NES games for the Switch, even though the Switch has games already available in Japan that use Google's Stadia streaming technology.

 

 

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11 hours ago, gone fishin' said:

 

allow us to sue anyone who hosts the roms, because we're trying to save retro gaming "biz" from piracy?

 

 

I'm fairly certain this isn't going to happen.

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On 18/04/2019 at 10:34, Omizzay said:

So this is basically RetroArch, ArcBrowser and other similar emulator front ends, but with the games being streamed with some lag instead of you having the roms already downloaded? 

 

Sounds ridiculous, especially given how easy it is to download roms.  I have pretty much every single rom pack from C64 and Spectum, all the MAME / Final Burn ones all the way to Gamecube and Wii.  And they all run flawlessly on my NVidia Shield with ArcBrowser.  Most of them run pretty well on my GPD XD handheld too.

 

It even looks lovely:

maxresdefault.jpg

 

So what's the point of this Antstream again?

 

What's the point of paying for any service when you can pirate the content? The answers to this are obvious.

 

Anyway, people worrying about lag forget that most people don't calibrate their TVs whatsoever, have £9 soundbars from Currys, can't tell the difference between 30/60/120fps or 1080p/4k. Average people won't notice or care, that's what Stadia etc are banking on. However the Venn diagram for people who take pride in their setups and people who want to play 30 year old arcade games probably has quite an overlap.

 

Best of luck in this endeavour all. Will definitely check it out.

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2 hours ago, Camel said:

 

I'm fairly certain this isn't going to happen.

 

But let's look at it from a competitive point of view..

 

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"It's like when everybody was downloading with Napster and Kazaa, and everybody said 'Nobody's going to pay for music, I can get it all for free,'" he said. "Then iTunes came along, they priced it reasonably, made it a really good experience: For $1 I can get this music, it's higher quality, no friction, works perfectly. It just makes sense. That's how I see us doing it. We have to offer the content at a really great value, and give a really great experience that's more pleasurable than doing things illegally."

 

Comparing this to how Napster and Kazaa and how iTunes delivered music is completely misguided. Yes, the "experience" when downloading music from Napster could be poor - because you often didn't know what the quality of the music would be - how well it was ripped, if it was the correct track (or not). With iTunes, you were guaranteed high quality and that the songs were correct, so for $1 it's a no brainer.

 

But with retro games, you mostly don't get "bad rips", you get roms that are verified as being correct. It's those exact same roms that Antstream is going to use for this service - so the "experience" of playing a game has nothing to do with the quality of the rom, it's to do with the quality of the gameplay experience - and that comes down to the emulator, the front end and any other additional features that you'd get over like online play, leaderboards, challenges etc.

 

So what do you get with Anstream over any emulator package that's freely downloadable with roms that are, currently, freely downloadable? Yes, you can now play retro games on platforms that you might not be able to before, like an iPhone or PS4. But you could say you are very likely to get a worse "experience" due to lag if you're sticking to a PC type platform (and lets be honest, you're not going to play these games on an iphone). 

 

Don't you think it's interesting that they've spent so much on IP licensing and even talk about it more in that article than you know, the platform itself? That they've actively sought out companies that weren't even aware they had retro game IP? Or that they've built up a library of 2,000+ licensed games, but yet only plan on having 500 at launch and then only drip feeding another 10 games per month, meaning it will take them 12 years to finally have the 2,000+ licensed games on the platform? Or that Anstream is being literally promoted as the "streaming service that wants to save the retro gaming biz from piracy"? 

 

Any commercial business is going to do a competitive analysis, and I'm sure Anstream have taken a look at freely available emulators and roms as a competitor. So if you can't offer a better "experience", how do you stop a competitor that's giving away their product for free? You use Intellectual Property to shut them down.

 

 

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What is the current legality of emulating games that you own. For example, if you own the games on c64, is it illegal to play them on a pc?

Is it a case where running it directly from tape would be ok but dumping the image is morally wrong and illegal?

How about ps1 and other disc based systems where you can easily run the game on an emulator on a pc from the original media?

 

Is dumping the image yourself ok but downloading someone else's immoral and illegal?

 

Not game related by how about ripping a cd you own to mp3? It's something that every piece of mainstream music software makes absolutely trivial, including automatically fetching the track names and album art etc.

 

From previous discussions I know we have people on this forum who think playing your own gamecube games on a wii u is immoral.

 

As an aside I'm curious about how antstream have sourced the roms, have they dumped them from tape themselves or did all these companies who didn't know they owned the rights happen to have digital copies of the games they didn't know they owned.

Or did they just get them from a romsite/torrent. Another benefit of streaming is that I guess nobody will be able to check and I'm sure that just like their use of open source emulators, that's a question that won't be deemed acceptable to answer here, as it isn't a reposted press release.

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3 hours ago, Moz said:

 

What's the point of paying for any service when you can pirate the content? The answers to this are obvious.

 

Anyway, people worrying about lag forget that most people don't calibrate their TVs whatsoever, have £9 soundbars from Currys, can't tell the difference between 30/60/120fps or 1080p/4k. Average people won't notice or care, that's what Stadia etc are banking on. However the Venn diagram for people who take pride in their setups and people who want to play 30 year old arcade games probably has quite an overlap.

 

 

I don't think streaming lag in an arcade game that depends on fast responses and someone using a cheap but serviceable speaker or 60fps vs 120fps are equivalent.

 

It's more like a movie streaming service with noticeably out of sync audio and video or an audio streaming service where all the songs are slightly out of tune/the wrong speed.

 

Stadia etc are counting on the lag not being a deal breaker when it means you can play cutting edge games without an expensive pc. Lag is much less of an issue in Assassin's Creed than it is in a 2d shmup. And streaming a top end pc for a monthly fee is a lot more appealing than streaming c64 roms that can run on even the cheapest/most underpowered semi-modern hardware.

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33 minutes ago, Mrs Horribleman said:

I wouldn't worry about it. If you want emulators and old games just download them. 

 

 I'm just curious what the situation is, as someone who owns a hard copy of every old game that I'd ever feel inclined to play.

 

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Unless it's been since rescinded or superceded, this suggests it's not even legal to rip your own CD to MP3 in the UK. I would assume this same law affects ripping games.

 

It's not illegal to play existing versions (be they hard copies or digital purchases) on emulated hardware. 

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I'm someone who bought the NES and SNES mini, buys retro releases, still buys Wii U Virtual Console games in 2019, buys old second hand games, etc, BUT...

 

...If anyone wants to play an old game that's unavailable or the only commercially available versions are botched, just download the ROM. In the grand scheme of things, what does it really matter?

 

Even when there's a good version of something but it's impractical or overpriced to play it, I wouldn't begrudge someone downloading Final Fantasy 6 because they didn't want to shell out for a SNES mini for that one game, or someone downloading a game that got a re-release on a system they didn't own.

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2 hours ago, partious said:

 

I don't think streaming lag in an arcade game that depends on fast responses and someone using a cheap but serviceable speaker or 60fps vs 120fps are equivalent.

 

It's more like a movie streaming service with noticeablly out of sync audio and video or an audio streaming service where all the songs are slightly out of tune/the wrong speed.

 

Stadia etc are counting on the lag not being a deal breaker when it means you can play cutting edge games without an expensive pc. Lag is much less of an issue in Assassin's Creed than it is in a 2d shmup. And streaming a top end pc for a monthly fee is a lot more appealing than streaming c64 roms that can run on even the cheapest/most underpowered semi-modern hardware.

 

I finished Cuphead via streaming to an Nvidia shield. If anything the pattern based nature of those type of games lends itself better to streaming than something which demands a lot of analogue control. Driving games are way more difficult for example.

 

My whole argument is people won't even notice in the real world. People don't notice motion smoothing or out of sync audio. It pains me.

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1 hour ago, matt0 said:

I wouldn't begrudge someone downloading Final Fantasy 6 because they didn't want to shell out for a SNES mini for that one game,

 

I think there's a moral grey area there, in that Square are actively selling the game. In addition to the SNES Mini, the game can be had on PS Vita or PS3, for example, and then there's the shitty graphics versions on PC and mobile (which could well fall into the "botched" category for some). If it was possible for me to emulate a PS4, I don't think it then follows I should just download Spider-Man. The ability to emulate the host platform shouldn't necessarily make something ethically acceptable.

 

I think it's interesting that we have this attitude - because like you, I don't really begrudge people for this. In the grand scheme of things, it's not costing anybody much.

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1 hour ago, Moz said:

People don't notice motion smoothing or out of sync audio. It pains me.

 

I feel your pain :hug:

 

 

So this service is basically a proof of concept for a generalist streaming service and they've just decided to target old games as that is a niche that nobody else is going after to stand out. The underlying technologies can be used for any purpose really and one thing streaming has over all other solutions to content delivery is piracy proofing as the content is only available while it is being streamed and copying it is futile in the case of games, unlike music or films, where you could still steal the content via streaming delivery.

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1 hour ago, TehStu said:

You can pinch the data from, say, Netflix or Spotify? I must admit, I haven't been paying attention to anything warez related since the start of the Xbox 360 gen.

 

I have downloaded copies of Star Trek Discovery (I have a Netflix sub too.) and all of them have Netflix intros so some people have definitely managed to extract Netflix vids.

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It’s pretty simple with a capture card. I pulled a couple of videos off my old SkyHD box with one of those Hauppauge HD streaming box things.

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30 minutes ago, metallicfrodo said:

Isn’t Nintendo’s point that they own the IP for the internals of their systems. So it’s fine for them to emulate it. (i’m not saying I agree with that, just it’s not quite what you are making out).

 

Nintendo stated, on their website, that emulation is illegal. Even when they were emulating themselves. Nothing about IP, rights, permissions or exceptions.

 

Just: “Emulation is illegal.”

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That article mentioned on the previous page had a bit on what is being used for the emulation. 

 

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MYSTERY EMULATORS

 

When asked what specific emulators were powering AntStream's backend, Cottam said strict licensing terms from a few image-conscious publishers prevented him from discussing it publicly. "From a quality perspective, they want to make sure their games are running as well as they possibly can," he said.

 

That said, Cottam admitted to using a mix of open source and commercial emulators, coded by third-parties and sometimes modified by AntStream's in-house staff. "There are some emulators that we'd like to use but we can't because the license is prohibitive," Cottam said. "FB Alpha is one we'd like to use, but [its price] currently doesn't allow us to."

 

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/05/the-streaming-service-that-wants-to-save-the-retro-gaming-biz-from-piracy/

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5 hours ago, deKay said:

Emulation is illegal according to Nintendo.

 

Although there seems to be some sort of workaruond that allows the old Rare back catalogue and Megaman games to be resold on non Nintendo hardware now. Commercially at that too.

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2 minutes ago, Unofficial Who said:

 

Although there seems to be some sort of workaruond that allows the old Rare back catalogue and Megaman games to be resold on non Nintendo hardware now. Commercially at that too.

 

No, you’re missing the point.

 

Emulation. Is. Illegal.

 

Doesn’t matter what you’re emulating, or how you’re doing it, it is illegal.

 

According to Nintendo.

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