Game Streaming From Home to Anywhere

In late 2017, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. After trying a few oral medications, I’m moving on to a biologic infusion. That means, at least for the first several treatments, I’ll be hanging out in a chair with an IV in my arm for a couple hours. I’ll need something to entertain myself. I find that I quickly exhaust my usual website reading rotation if I’m faced with a lengthy wait, and I’m not really a book reader. So I thought a portable game console, such as a Nintendo Switch, might be a decent buy.

To be honest, I’ve been trying to justify a Switch since I’ve been watching Super Mario Maker 2 on Twitch for the last month or so. This seemed like a great way to justify that purchase. Additionally, someone got Android working on the Switch a few days ago, expanding the the gaming possibilities to include streaming PC games. I knew Valve had a Steam Link app for Android and I figured it couldn’t be too hard to make game streaming work over the internet.

So I dug into the Switch idea a bit more. In order to hack a Switch, its firmware has to be older than a certain version. That means I can’t buy a new one to hack, and would have to search for a used one with a serial number in the right range. I found several eBay listings for hackable Switches, but the prices turned me off a bit. Most were asking about $160 for just the console, with no Joy-Cons, no AC adapter and no dock. After adding $50-$80 for new controllers and $15 for an AC adapter, it didn’t seem like such a great deal.

If I did get a Switch, I’d definitely want Super Mario Maker 2, which could be a problem with a hacked console. Nintendo has some means of detecting a console that has been tampered with, and can ban that console from accessing any features that require internet access. If the console was cheap enough, I could deal with that, but not for $250 or so. Then I realized that I didn’t even need a Switch. I could just use an Android tablet, and I already have one.

Almost immediately after that, I figured that I could probably just use my nice Windows laptop (a base model Surface Book 1). And it turns out I can. I tried to get Steam Link Anywhere going, but couldn’t figure it out. Which was probably a blessing in disguise. I decided to try Moonlight, which I was originally going to use on the Switch, and then the Android tablet. Turns out the people behind the project have developed a client package for just about anything with a network connection.

To use Moonlight, I first installed Nvidia GeForce Experience. Moonlight works by making your client look like an Nvidia Shield to Geforce Experience. Initially I was skeptical about this solution because I wasn’t sure it would work with UWP games, like Forza Horizon 4 or Sea of Thieves. I was wrong. GeForce Experience auto-detected the UWP games right away. I installed Moonlight on my laptop and gave it a try.

I was stunned at how well it worked. I launched Sea of Thieves, and after a bit of loading I was in the game, with it working as if I was sitting at my desktop. I bumped the resolution from the default 720p to 1080p, and it was just about perfect. The laptop’s trackpad wasn’t terribly responsive, but I plan on using a PS4 controller instead. I installed the Moonlight internet access utility on the desktop and tried it using my phone’s wi-fi hotspot. I didn’t want to use up all my data, so I only tried it for a tiny while, but it seemed to be just as good as the local network.

I’m really pleased with the results. It was so much easier to set up than I expected and the gaming experience was better than I hoped for. Now I just need to set up my Raspberry Pi to use a wake on LAN command to start the desktop and I’ll be all set. I’m looking forward to trying this out from another building. I’m expecting more perfection.