Home Software Bethesda Softworks, id Software deliver ‘Doom’ and cloud tech

Bethesda Softworks, id Software deliver ‘Doom’ and cloud tech


USA Today reporter Mike Snider breaks down the biggest releases and newest developments coming out of E3 this year.

LOS ANGELES – “Doom Eternal” isn’t the only big development id Software and parent Bethesda Softworks have in the works.


The game makers are also joining Google, Microsoft and Amazon in focusing on video game streaming.

“Doom Eternal,” the latest first-person sci-fi shooter from id Software – Bethesda acquired the studio behind “Doom” in 2009 – is coming November 22. This time players must battle hordes of demons that have overtaken the Earth and travel into space and other dimensions to prevail.

Meanwhile, id Software and Bethesda have been working on technology to make it easier to stream games like “Doom” at lower internet speeds and with fewer data centers.

Google, during its most recent update of its Stadia service, suggested those wanting to stream 4K games with surround sound would need broadband speed of 35 Megabits per second. Standard high-def streaming would likely require 25 Mbps.

But the average household bandwidth is 18 Mbps, which likely leaves plenty of potential subscribers to cloud services out in the cold – or paying for a substandard experience. “They will be unable to provide effective service to basically half the American population and that’s not even beginning to get into the complexities of Europe,” said James Altman, Bethesda’s director of publishing.

Lags in connectivity for various reasons – called “latency” – is an even bigger issue for video games than for video streaming services such as Netflix. All video must be compressed to be sent over the net, but with games, “we don’t know what is going to happen from frame to frame, so we cannot buffer it (as video services do), ” Altman said. “It has to be done in real time.” 

As part of a multi-year project at ZeniMax, which owns Bethesda Softworks and id Software, the tech teams began working on technological solutions. “We felt game streaming was coming for a long time and we thought how we specifically at id, how do we do that?” Robert Duffy, id’s chief technology officer.

When Google made its initial reveal of its Stadia game streaming service in March, “Doom” was one of the games being tested on it. “They picked ‘Doom’ because it is the hardest problem to solve for streaming” because of the first-person shooter’s graphic intensity and fast action, Duffy said.

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As a trailblazer in game engine development, id began focusing on the game engine software itself as part of the solution – the earliest moment in the ongoing game streaming equation. Other current solutions focus on improved server hardware and deployment of more servers, so they are closer to gamers’ homes.

“We took a different approach,” said Duffy, who joined Altman on the stage here at the Electronic Entertainment Expo to demonstrate the Orion technology, a collection of patented technologies.

Bethesda and id recently showed USA TODAY a demonstration of the technology streaming “Doom” on a 4K TV and smartphones, with the game on servers in Ohio and Frankfurt, Germany.

Its technological advances have led to a 40% lower bandwidth draw and 20% faster speeds, Duffy said. Overall, compared to game video not using the Orion technology, action happens 145 milliseconds faster. “It will end up having serious implications for both the consumer and the service provider in terms of how much it costs” to pay for bandwidth or run a service,” Altman said.

Currently, there’s no game service partnering on Orion, but the software development kit can be used on platform. id and Bethesda expect to begin public trials later this year.

“On the business side, we want to make sure that it’s economical,” Altman said. “Delivering that much data to a huge number of consumers is expensive. The business models need to work and these optimizations we’ve been able to make will make those streaming services more economically viable.”

As for id Software, Duffy said, “We are very passionate about the people who play our games and we are obviously very passionate about technology. We don’t our players to have  compromised experience just because it is streaming.”

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

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