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Dissecting the protocol and network traffic of the OnLive cloud gaming platform


Cloud gaming is a new paradigm that is envisaged to play a pivotal role in the video game industry in forthcoming years. Cloud gaming, or gaming on demand, is a type of online gaming that allows on-demand streaming of game content onto non-specialised devices (e.g. PC, smart TV, etc.). This approach requires no downloads or game installation because the actual game is executed on the game company’s server and is streamed directly to the client. Nonetheless, this revolutionary approach significantly affects the network load generated by online games. As cloud gaming presents new challenges for both network engineers and the research community, both groups need to be fully conversant with these new cloud gaming platforms. The purpose of this paper is to investigate OnLive, one of the most popular cloud gaming platforms. Our key contributions are: (a) a review of the state-of-the-art of cloud gaming; (b) reverse engineering of the OnLive protocol; and (c) a synthetic traffic model for OnLive.

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  1. To simplify the description of the OnLive session, we will name the different protocols and roles of OnLive servers that have been identified, although the different roles may be performed by the same physical server.

  2. While we have identified more fields and the different message types of this custom protocol, they are not described here for sake of clarity.

  3. This port is dynamic and larger than the OnLive’s 16,384 default one. The port number is notified to the client using the custom protocol encapsulated in echo RTP messages from the server.

  4. Interestingly, the muting audio option does not interrupt the audio flows, but simply notifies the client not to play them.





  9. This video frame splitting is performed at the application layer, that is, several RTP messages are generated, instead of a single UDP packet being fragmented by the IP layer.



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This work was partly supported by the projects: TEC 2012-32336, TEC 2010-12250-E and S-2009/TIC-1468, and by the Generalitat de Catalunya through the research support program project SGR-1202 and AGAUR FI-DGR 2012 grant. Also, this work was supported by the research project 036-0362027-1639, by the Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, and Ericsson Nikola Tesla, Zagreb, Croatia. The research leading to these results has also received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement no. 285939 (ACROSS).

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Manzano, M., Urueña, M., Sužnjević, M. et al. Dissecting the protocol and network traffic of the OnLive cloud gaming platform. Multimedia Systems 20, 451–470 (2014).

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  • Cloud gaming
  • Online games
  • OnLive
  • Protocol
  • Reverse engineering
  • Traffic modelling