Last year, Valve Software announced that they were introducing their own entries into the world of gaming consoles. Their approach differs from that of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo; they have gone the way of Android, where they have created their own Linux distribution called SteamOS, and are encouraging PC manufacturers to create their own hardware boxes called Steam Machines. While SteamOS can run any Steam game that has been ported over to Linux, its other big selling point is In-Home Streaming, which will allow players to control and play a game from one system while the game itself runs from a second system. Thus, a person with a Steam Machine could play a Windows game from a Windows-based PC on the same network.
Also last year, NetherRealm Studios surprised many fans by releasing a port of Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition to PC, thus ending a fifteen year drought of PC ports of Mortal Kombat games. Later in the year, they also released Injustice: Gods Among Us to PC as well. As a result, it would be fair to say that the next Mortal Kombat will likely eventually find its way to PC.
While both games are available for PC, they are only available for Windows. NetherRealm Studios have been mum as to whether they would support SteamOS. Assuming that they would not, I was curious: would a Mortal Kombat game be playable on a Steam Machine via streaming?
Recently, Valve brought their In-Home Streaming service into beta, and gave access to anyone who joined the group called Steam In-Home Streaming. One does not have to run SteamOS in order to stream; as long as you have Steam (with the appropriate betas enabled) installed on more than one PC on your network, you can stream between the two. I decided to give it a test.
For reference, I used my desktop PC and my personal laptop to conduct this test. My desktop PC is a custom-built machine with an Athlon II X2 245 (2.9 GHz) CPU, 6 GB of RAM, and an nVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti video card. The laptop is a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 with an Intel Core i3 2350M (2.3 GHz) CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000. Mortal Kombat runs close to console speeds on my desktop PC at 1080p, with the exception of arenas with a lot of activity in the background.
I ended up testing it three times, with different variations. In the end, the answer I came back with was, “At this stage, it’s not ready for prime time.”
Given my setup, the game ran extremely slow. The CPU is the biggest bottleneck; not only did it have to run the game, it had to push the game audio over to the client and re-render the video in the laptop’s resolution. The network speed matters as well; as slow as my game was, it was almost unbearable when I tested via wifi (802.11N). I ended up plugging my laptop directly into the router in order to get some semblance of a good test. Checking the Steam discussion communities shows that this is hardly an isolated problem.
Other problems can be explained away via glitches in the beta client, that may be fixed upon release. For example, my 360 gamepad was not immediately recognized, and did not work until I actually responded to a couple of prompts using the keyboard. In addition, the game does not cleanly exit; more than once I had to kill the streaming client process on the laptop to get it to exit properly.
To give everyone an idea of what the final results looked like, I used my iPhone to record the game playing a demo match streamed to my laptop.
In the end, I simply cannot recommend playing Mortal Kombat via In-Home Streaming. It runs too slow to be enjoyable; even people with hardware more powerful than what I am using have noticed the severe gameplay lag. Unfortunately, unless NetherRealm decides to port their next game to SteamOS, it looks like it won’t be feasible to play it on your Steam Machine.