First experiences with remote-gaming by using Steam and Steam Link

This week I want to write about remote-gaming or inhouse-streaming because I’ve invested some time in this topic over the last weeks. In this post I’ll describe my expectations and difficulties I’ve experienced during the setup.Because of my job I’m constantly on projects from monday until friday and can’t be at home every evening. This is the reason I imagined the following scenario to continue my gaming hobby:

How great it would be if I could log into my gaming computer and use the benefits of it from the hotel or any other place.

To reach the goal I’ve investigated the possibility of remote-gaming. Steam (my prefered gaming platform) already implemented this technology some years ago. Their website promote their inhouse-streaming with the following key features:

  • cross-plattform compatibility (Windows, Linux, MacOS)
  • lower redundancy (install once, play on multiple devices)
  • seamless comfort (at switching streaming devices)

So Steam allows you to receive streams / play on every device which can host an instance of steam within the same network.

With Steam Link offered Steam a dedicated device for remote-gaming. Shortly before the christmas holidays Steam reduced the price of the Steam Link from 54,99€ down to 21,99€. I accepted the special offer and purchased one. The delivery included all you need to start gaming, except the controller and the screen. After I plugged in the included cables (HDMI, LAN, power supply) and attached my Steam controller I was ready to go. My laptop and gaming computer were instantly recognized, because they were online via WiFi and LAN.

Problem #1 – denied access

Steam Link found my computer but was not able to access the stream. In some posts (1,2,3) in the Steam-Community I found the reason for this behaviour. The issue is known for quite some time now. The earliest post I found was published January 2014. The reason for the denied access were an active remote desktop connection. In my case is this problem a game stopper because I only want to use my gaming computer headless for inhouse-streaming. After some time I found the solution in this post and this is how I fixed it in my environment:

  1. these commandline will force the active connection to quit if you’ll run it as administratorDepending on how many sessions are active you may vary the sessionname parameter depending on your setup.

    In the post this commandline was suggested, but didn’t work for me:
    C:\Windows\system32\TSCON.exe %sessionname% -DEST:Console
  2. Sadly after executing the command the commandline interface is still visible on the screen and can disturb the gaming experience. To avoid this behaviour I created a one line .bat file which I use to execute as administrator. This workaround works fine for me now, because I don’t have to use the remote desktop conncetion often.

Problem #2 – low resolution

I stumbled over another problem as soon as I was able to connect to my gaming computer. The resolution was incredible low! I only was able to use 1366×768 resolution on our 42” screen, which was kind of painful and no option to play at all! No chance of changing the resolution in the Steam Link or the streaming host (neither in windows configurations or Steam streaming options). After some research I found these posts (1,2) refering to that problem. To sum up the behavior:

The streaming host uses the resolution of the connected main screen configured in the OS

The issue also appears when the screen is switched off or the power saving option “deep sleep” is activated like in this wake up issue. I suspect, that without some marginal signals transfered via HDMI the graphic card won’t recognize a monitor.

Conclusion:
The issue will occure when there is a montior plugged into the grafic card with a lower resolution as the streaming device or no monitor plugged in at all.

In my case I’ll run automatically in that issue, because I’m running my gaming pc headless without exceptions! Because of that fact, I’m only capable of using the painful low resoltion. One solution was suggested in the post which uses a dedicated device for headless machines to simulate a monitor which is plugged in. I found a provider of these kind of devices (google: headless hdmi) who is offering multiple variants (gaming, 4k streaming) for HDMI and DP connections.

My (sketchy) solution is an old (defect) 1080p monitor plugged into the grafic card via HDMI which is not even switched on (but power supply is connected). This signal seems to be enough for the grafic card to adapt it’s resolution for the Steam streaming.
So in short to medium term I won’t be able to avoid this kind of simulating device for headless computers.

But considering the initial problems and the workaround at problem #2 I’m confident, to have a lot of fun with this setup. The first games were already tested and played during the last days. Especially the Steam Controller was a fun alternative to the xBox Controller, I used until now. Within the next weeks I’m planning to setup the SteamOS on my host computer. Furthermore I’m interested in how a remote connection via VPN will affect the gaming quality.

When you are interested in the topic and have some questions, don’t hesitate to ask your questions in the comments below. I try my best to answer it.

Until next friday.

 

This post is also available in deutsch.

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