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Jamie Starke

I develop for my career, but I also develop for fun, and whenever I think it can solve a problem I'm having. This has lead me to create side projects, such as Rental Map and BusTimes, among others.

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I previously wrote about my initial foray into Cloud Gaming in my previous post Adventures in Cloud Gaming: Streaming with Parsec. In that post, I shared my exploration into a number of cloud gaming services and some of my initial findings. If you’re in the market for some gaming in the cloud you may want to read both of these posts as they will likely explore a bunch of the tradeoffs between the different services. I’ll revisit some changes since my last look, but if you want the full details, check out that post.

An update on the Cloud Gaming Space

In my previous post I mentioned my initial enthusiasm for Stadia, but was reluctant to invest in it due to “The Google Graveyard”, Google’s tendency to kill off any products that aren’t integrated well with its Ads business. Since then, Google has killed off Stadia, so I guess I made the right call.

Google Graveyard: Stadia on the chopping block for January 2023

Nvidia GeForce Now, Amazon Luna and XBox Game Pass each still have limitations on the titles that are available on their service.

When I went to do some research for followup on the Cloud gaming space, one thing on the XBox Gamepass page really caught my eye.

Brotherhood of Steel Power Armor Helmet

After seeing it, it took a surprising amount of digging, but it turns out that, since the Microsoft acquisition of Bethesda parent company Zenimax, all the Fallout games now appear to be on game pass, or at least in PC Game Pass.

Fallout games appearing on XBox Gamepass PC

The XBox Game Pass appears to be limited to everything that has been released on XBox, which kind of makes sense.

Fallout games appearing on XBox Gamepass

If you’re specifically looking at Cloud Gaming, you’ll require the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership to use the Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta). I suspect that with XBox Cloud Gaming, you’ll be restricted to just the Xbox titles.

Full disclosure, I haven’t used it personally, for reason’s we’ll get into later. But for now, what has changed for me.

Feedback on options from my previous post

In my previous post, I mentioned how I had found Paperspace, a cheaper alternative to Amazon, who’s prices for what I needed were cheaper than Amazon’s on-demand prices, and close to their spot prices. It worked great. Despite the fact that the servers were hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area, I frequently forgot that I was streaming games. By the end of December, I racked up 48.6 hours of play time, at a price of $28.35 USD ($37.11 CAD).

After my reading my previous post, a few people pointed me to Shadow, another cloud service provider.

Fallout games appearing on XBox Gamepass

The big differentiator that Shadow offered though was a flat monthly fee which at the time was $14.99 USD (it’s since gone up to $29.99). Given that with my casual usage on Paperspace, I’d already racked up $28.35, it was a no brainer to try it. I signed up right away, and it took a few days to get provisioned. Everything worked pretty much as I’d expect, so for me, I was playing just as I had before, but paying less, and not having to think about how and when I was playing.

Things were great!

News from Shadow

When I started with Shadow, I couldn’t figure out how they could offer their services for so much less than everyone else in the market. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when in early March 2021, Shadow filed for bankruptcy. While they said that their current customers wouldn’t be effected in the short term. This made me start looking at some numbers.

While at $14.99 USD/month would only add up to ~$180 USD/year, if Shadow fully shut down and I had to go back to Paperspace, that would probably end up closer to $30/month (I stopped using Paperspace near the end of December when I got my Shadow box). $30 USD/month adds up to $360 USD/year. If I were to amortize a system over 3 years, I could justify a system up to $1080 USD, or about $1450 CAD at the time. While $1450 would not buy a top tier system, it could definitely buy a mid-tier system.

Finding my new system

At this point, I hadn’t owned a desktop in some time. I built a custom computer for a media box back in 2008 or 2009. I replaced that with a Mac Mini in 2014. It was fair to say that I was fairly out of date on what was decent at this point. I’d heard good things about the AMD processors, especially their price to performance ratios. The fact that several generations of processors reused the AM4 socket meant that there was potentially an upgrade path for them as well, without having to upgrade the motherboard as well. Of course, now I know that the 5000 series is the end of the line, but there’s still upgrades available without changing too much.

I talked with a few friends of mine, and eventually a friend recommended this configuration to me.

The system I was recommended

He had his old 3700X that he was willing to sell me for $300, which at the time was still available at a lot of stores, and still selling for around $350 before tax. Another friend had the power supply from that list that they got in a NewEgg bundle, and would be willing to part with it at a deal. The biggest missing piece was a Graphics card. Fortunately for me, a colleague had an RX590 Fatboy he was willing to sell me for $200, which was the price he paid for it before the GPU market went insane.

The rest of the components were pretty easy. I just went to my local Memory Express with the printout of the components I wanted from PC Part Picker, including what the price was somewhere else. They confirmed the prices and price matched. In a few places they suggested other components that were either as good for cheaper, or better for the same. In the end, I ended up with this system.

Fallout games appearing on XBox Gamepass

I hadn’t originally intended to get any LEDs, but it turns out my motherboard had them anyway, and when combined with the dark tempered glass, I just liked the way it looked, so I ended up switching to the Cooler Master Hyper 212 RGB Black. Since I nerd out on ambient awareness, I ended up switching the LEDs color to be changed based on the temperature of the CPU. Blue LEDs? It’s running pretty cool. Red, it’s pretty hot.

Most importantly though, the system could easily handle pretty much any game I wanted to play. It may not have been able to handle the latest AAA titles, like Cyberpunk (I didn’t actually try), but that doesn’t matter to me, because I’m frequently either a few years behind on higher end games, or I’m playing stuff that’s less resource intensive to begin with.

Hilariously though, even through I now have a system in the house, I still usually use Parsec to stream it to my laptop, because since I work from home most of the time, I like to keep a separation between my work and personal spaces.

An update on Shadow

Despite what I originally thought, Shadow has not gone away. Instead, shadow was bought by OVH founder and president Octave Klaba. Their pricing has increased to $29.99 USD which makes them more sustainable, but also less of a no brainer.

Which solution is best for me?

The honest answer is, it depends.

With Shadow you pay $29.99 USD/month on the base plan. You only pay more if you need more storage or want to upgrade your box. With Paperspace, you’ll likely pay at least $7 USD/month for the block storage (100 GB), then $0.45 USD/hour.

This means at a basic level that Shadow is more worthwhile, so long as you’re using it more than 51 hours per month, or about 1.7 Hours/day on average. Under this amount, you’ll pay less to spin up a Paperspace box on demand when you need it.

One of my original assumptions was that as newer technology comes out, the cloud provider would end up upgrading you for the same monthly fee. For Shadow at least, this hasn’t held, and if you were to sign up for a new subscription today, you’d be using a machine with the same specifications that I had when I signed up in late 2020.

Shadow Technical Specifications 2000 and 2022

If instead you’d put that money into a modest machine, like the one I purchased above, you’d likely be less than a year from having put the same amount of money towards your own machine, and then you could be putting the new extra money towards new upgrades. As well, while looking at the specs, my modest machine may actually be more powerful than the one I’d have in the cloud, but I’d still have to pay for my own power.

New posts coming

I plan on writing a series of new posts about the new projects I’ve been working on, including some non-gaming things I’ve been doing with my computer since then, and some automation I’ve done. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, sign up for My Projects on my newsletter.