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A handy starter guide to Steam In-Home Streaming

With Valve officially releasing the In-Home Streaming to everyone, naturally, I wanted to see just how well it works, especially considering I have really slow Netbook that can't run pretty much anything. I was the perfect candidate.

Truth be told, it isn't as easy at the Steam Page makes it seem. Sure, all you really need to do is log in to the same account and that should theoretically then show the host computer's library on your secondary computer, but you might need to do some tweaking to make things run smoothly. 

First and foremost, you'll need to make sure that both computers that are logged into the same account, are also opted for Steam Beta Update. You can make sure this is enabled in the Settings menu on the first page.

Once that's done, it's time to optimize your experience so you're getting the most fluid gameplay possible. Upon my first bootup of Dark Souls II on my netbook, I was only hearing the game's sound but had a black screen everytime. Figuring that it could have been an isolated Dark Souls II issue, I also booted up DuckTales and Starseed Pilgrim, and they too resulted in a black screen. After updating my video drivers (which I strongly recommend) and still getting no results, I've started messing around with Steam's various settings.

First and foremost, if you're getting a black screen on the streaming computer, go into the Stream settings and uncheck Enable Hardware Encoding and Enable Hardware Decoding. These are found under Advanced Host Options and Advanced Client Options. Once I did this, I was able to see the screen. Success!

However, my game was extremely laggy. I have pretty awesome internet, so it definitely wasn't my bandwidth. However, unchecking both of those boxes before could have resulted in this problem. Therefore, the next thing I had to do was mess around with the Client Resolution. If I streamed the game at the native desktop resolution, the game not only played in super slow motion, it also had some crazy input lag. Lowering it down to 480p though managed to fix that problem completely. Sure the game didn't look as amazing as before, but considering the netbook has a relatively tiny 11inch screen, this wasn't really an issue.

I was actually surprised at how responsive the game was then. Dark Souls II and its games before that rely on twitch reactions to dodge dangerous attacks, and I was actually able to go up against a guardian dragon in Dragon Aerie and beat that entire area.

The TL;DR version in case you don't want to read through my entire experience.

  1. Update video drivers on both the Host and Client computers.
  2. Go to Steam Settings and enable Steam Beta Update under Beta Participation
  3. Try playing a game. If everything works right away, congrats, you're done! However, if you're getting a black screen go to the next step. If you're getting slowdown, go to step 5.
  4. On the computer that the game is being streamed to, go into Settings and In-Home Streaming Options and uncheck Enable Hardware Encoding and Decoding, found under Advanced Host Options and Advanced Client Options.
  5. Under Advanced Client Options, lower the resolution gradually (720p or 480p) until the game starts running without any slowdown and lag.
  6. Alternatively, you can also change the Client Options from Balanced to Fast, to lower the graphical fidelity of the game, but improve performance.

Hopefully going through these steps, you'll be streaming games to lower end machines in no time.

Charmander
Mike Splechta GameZone's Editor-in-Chief, retro game enthusiast, savior of kittens. Follow me @Michael_GZ
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