Game designer, programmer, and fighting game enthusiast Jason Lu has been working through the ins and outs of using Parsec as a viable means of keeping fighting game communities (FGCs) going during the pandemic.
We asked him to tell the world about Cloud Parsec — the set-up that lets fighting games stay competitive even as they’re streamed over the internet.
What is “Cloud Parsec”?
“Cloud Parsec” is running Parsec and your game of choice on a virtual machine (or VM) instance provided by services like Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. The idea is to offload all the burden of running the game and the Parsec stream to a VM with high specs and commercial level internet speeds generally not available to the public.
With this method not only do you provide a high definition, 60 FPS experience for everyone (even if you don’t normally have the upload speeds to host), but it also puts every player on a level playing field since no one will have host advantage.
With the upload speeds boosting over 2000 Mbps, and readily available regions to select from, it is even more feasible for smooth connections when playing cross country.
(A very important note: VMs are billed by the hour. These are not free services. Running Parsec by itself is 100% free but launching a VM with any of these providers will cost money.)
Getting started with Cloud Parsec
Once you have Parsec installed, it’s time to choose your VM provider and get started. Follow these instructions, and you’ll be good to go.
- Select a provider that offers an area near you. You can use this chart to see different regions provided within the US for some of these services as well as different pros/cons, internationally can easily be figured out through a Google search.
2. Run the Parsec Script, install your game, and make a “save state” of your instance. You can find tutorials easily through Google with each provider, but here is a fantastic one with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud that walks you through the different steps needed to be taken before launching an instance, installing everything, making a save state, and finally launching again with the created save state.
3. Once you’ve created your save state, everything should be good to go! You simply launch an instance using your save state and when you login, you should see Parsec and whatever games you installed. The cost for an instance usually adds up to around $1 per hour and between $2 to $4 per month for the storage of your saved state. It’s very important to either stop or terminate your instance when it is not in use or you will be charged even if you are not “playing” on it. You get charged the moment an hour starts, so even if you terminate an instance because you made a mistake, you’ll still get charged for that hour.
Important notes for running tournaments
- Google Cloud only gives you 1 GPU unless you are a business, meaning you will only be able to run 1 instance at a given time. Amazon Web Services does not have this limitation and is considered the tournament standard at this time for that reason.
- When when making your save state, make sure to sign out of your Parsec account beforehand, issues have occurred when launching multiple instances with a save state that still had a Parsec account signed in. When trying to get competitors familiar with setting up Parsec themselves, this tutorial created by rtsRANGEL is perfect for both the initial setup and connecting to your VM instances for tournaments.
- When running tournaments, you launch however many instances you will need with the save state simultaneously. You then login via RDP into each of them and sign into the same Parsec account. You can easily rename each instance to something easily identifiable like “Station1”.
- Your competitors will add that Parsec account as a friend and see all the different computers listed under your Parsec account. You can then connect to each instance via Parsec on your local PC to launch the game, as well as accept the player’s request to connect to whatever instance when you have called their tournament match (unless you gave them permission to connect without your approval, which then players can easily connect to whatever station they need to go to).
Cloud Parsec and its future for online tournaments
With COVID affecting all of our lives, offline, physical tournaments are near impossible and many games’ built in netcode is unsatisfying for competitive players, Parsec had already been adapted by some folks, like Kevin Ha and TNS, as the standard for playing fighting games.
Through Cloud Parsec, tournaments with over 30 players are being run on a weekly basis by many different communities. While hosting on your local PC is fine for some, it’s not viable for tournaments as all the matches would have to be played on that one machine to keep things fair (which would take quite a while depending on the size of the tournament).
This issue is avoided with Cloud Parsec given you have the resources to run a tournament on the platform. You can read these interviews on how Cloud Parsec has greatly helped communities such as Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Samurai Showdown.
A growing community
With the explosion of Cloud Parsec within competitive fighting games many folks have been wondering how to get started as well as a place to get questions answered. I’ve created a Discord with folks from various different fighting games communities who are able to help out others. The Discord is a great place to get questions answered as well as discuss potential ideas and improvements to our current system of running Cloud Parsec tournaments.