DF Weekly: Live stream quality can be awful – and it should be better

June 17, 2024
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This week’s DF Direct Weekly is what you might call a ‘come down’ episode. After the highs of the Sony State of Play, Summer Games Fest and the best Xbox Showcase in years, we take things a little more slowly – though we do spend a fair amount of time looking at Ubisoft Forward. While the gaming content gets plenty of commentary, it’s actually the quality of the live streaming presentation itself that we really take issue with. Why did it look so bad?

For years now, digital showcases have had a problem: the state of live streaming technology on YouTube. Low bit-rates, low resolutions, inconsistent frame-rates, terrible macroblocking. It got to the point where we’d need to watch the content twice – first to get the news via the live stream, then secondly to check out the individually uploaded trailers which looked an order of magnitude better from a quality perspective. The good news is that things are improving. Streaming 4K at 60fps with decent bit-rate is now possible. We saw it with the Xbox Showcase. Even Summer Games Fest streamed at 4K, even though it looked like nearest neighbour upscaling of 1080p content. In both cases, we’re seeing genuine improvement over their 2023 presentations.

However, Ubisoft Forward was a retrograde step. In fact, it featured just about every poor practice we’ve seen when it comes to live streaming new games. The first time I watched it I was shocked and when we consider the amount of money it takes to make a game like Star Wars Outlaws or Assassin’s Creed Shadows, the concept that these titles should look so bad during a major live streaming event is almost inconceivable, so what happened and how can things improve?

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