Microsoft’s cloud gaming, known as Project xCloud, will soon get mouse and keyboard support and improved latency.
With Project xCloud, players with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription can stream their games to TVs, mobile devices, PCs and more. Without having to own an Xbox console.
Microsoft is constantly improving its cloud service and announced months ago that it would soon support mice and keyboards.
Now game developers should get ready for support via Xbox Cloud Gaming. After Microsoft Flight Simulator’s Jörg Neumann hinted that a mouse and keyboard could be available this summer, Morgan Brown, a software engineer on Microsoft’s Xbox game streaming team, told developers:
“Xbox has had keyboard and mouse support for a couple of years, and we’re working to expand streaming for PC users. But you can add it to your game right now, and your keyboard and mouse console users will appreciate it. It will appear in streaming as soon as we add it.”
The functions for playing Xbox games with a keyboard and mouse via the cloud could therefore soon be available. Sea of Thieves, Halo Infinite or Minecraft could be among the first compatible titles, although the list is likely to be relatively small.
However, the team at Microsoft has also been working on improving latencies. With the new “Display Details API” interface, up to 72ms of latency can be saved in cloud gaming.
The whole thing is made possible by “direct capture”, where hardware features are reproduced in software. This eliminates double-triple buffering, VSync latency, and even TV scaling.
Compared to the traditional display pipeline, where scaling and artifacts cost an additional 8 to 74 milliseconds of latency, Direct Capture can improve performance and reduce latency to 2 to 12 milliseconds.
However, direct capture also has disadvantages. Only a resolution of up to 1440p is supported. Dynamic resolutions and HDR are not even possible.
At 1080p on PC and in the web browser or 720p on mobile devices, the resolution should not be a problem for developers anyway.
However, higher resolutions using Direct Capture are to be expected in the future. But they don’t have a schedule for 1440p or 4K on the new (Samsung) Xbox TV app, Brown explains.
“We expect that to change over time depending on different devices, network conditions and improvements in the streaming stack. Tools will soon be available for developers to test their games and find out how they can support direct capture.”
Low latency with lag-free inputs is arguably the most important thing in cloud gaming to avoid giving the impression that you’re not playing on on-premises hardware.