Standards Take Online Gaming to the Next Level

Guidelines are in the works for e-sports and cloud gaming

3 min read
A cloud with game controllers inside.
iStockphoto

THE INSTITUTE It's no surprise that with people staying home more because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global online gaming market, including e-sports and cloud gaming, has grown by record amounts. The industry grew nearly 22 percent last year and generated more than US $21 billion in revenue, according to Statista. The consumer data company estimates there are currently 981 million online gamers and forecasts that number to surpass 1 billion by next year.

E-sports is one of the most popular game forms. Statista reported that last year there were about half a billion e-sports followers. Team competitions are played at stadiums around the world before thousands of fans watching on screens and many more streaming the event from Twitch or a similar website. Dota 2 and Fortnite are among the most popular games. Some winners earn millions of dollars. In-person tournaments are expected to be held again once COVID-19 restrictions ease.

International e-sports organizations have been established in the past few years to professionalize the pastime.

Cloud gaming is catching on because users can stream games stored on a remote server to their mobile device, eliminating the need for gaming consoles and PCs. People can play games on different devices, access content through apps or browsers, or share the game with others. Grand View Research forecasts the size of the global cloud gaming market to reach more than $7 billion by 2027.

With the growing popularity of both types of online games come concerns that the industry isn't doing enough to address issues that might slow down its progress.

They include the lack of technical standards to address bandwidth, connectivity, interoperability, and latency issues. Other concerns include security risks from viruses, Trojan horses, and plug-ins. The need to prevent cheating and ways to improve the quality of the live events and streaming sessions are other areas that need attention.

The new IEEE Computer SocietyOnline Gaming Standards Committee plans to address the challenges. It is developing technical standards to cover online gaming and e-sports development, publishing, and operations, and has established two working groups: Technology for Electronic Sports and Cloud Gaming.

Here is an overview of what each group is working on.

IMPROVING INTEGRITY AND PRODUCTION VALUE

As with other professional sports, players in e-sports tournaments compete for titles and cash prizes. Some players try to obtain an advantage by cheating. In e-sports, cheating is often done by using technology to slow down or disable an opponent or fix a match.

IEEE P2946, Guide for Electronic Sports Integrity, creates a uniform guide to stop, detect, and record cheating. The document includes procedures and methods to prevent identity theft, the fixing of matches, and the unauthorized use of devices. The guide includes a review of technologies that could help stop fraud, such as facial recognition; voiceprint comparison; and position, plug-in, and spoofing detection programs.

Spectators who watch e-sports tournaments increasingly want a better immersive experience during live broadcasts. IEEE P2947, Guide for Broadcasting Electronic Sports Events, addresses the technical aspects of how live matches are presented. The standard covers how to handle the coding, recording, and transmission of in-match action. In addition, it considers contingency plans should a live broadcast be interrupted, such as backing up the data and the user profiles.

COMMON FRAMEWORK FOR CLOUD GAMING

Key technical features and components of a cloud gaming system are different from those of traditional mobile games, so a standardized framework is needed. IEEE P2948, Standard for Framework and Definitions for Cloud Gaming, details the roles and streaming modules of cloud gaming from the perspective of users and the system. The framework provides a reference architecture for the design and construction of games. In addition, the standard defines and categorizes genres of games and their technical requirements.

Because cloud gaming involves streaming from remote servers, it can have disadvantages compared with traditional games, including poor audio and video quality. IEEE P2949, Recommended Practice for the Evaluation of Cloud Gaming User Experiences, aims to improve that by creating a comprehensive set of evaluation methods and models and a description of what the user experience should be. The document addresses how to evaluate audio and video quality as well as the stability of games.

SEEKING PARTICIPATION

Whether your background is in game development or e-sports tournament organizing, or even if you're simply a dedicated gamer with a passion for seeing the industry reach its potential, consider joining the IEEE Computer Society Online Gaming Standards Committee.

To receive updates about the committee and its working groups, subscribe to the public e-mail distribution list.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

The Conversation (0)

Get unlimited IEEE Spectrum access

Become an IEEE member and get exclusive access to more stories and resources, including our vast article archive and full PDF downloads
Get access to unlimited IEEE Spectrum content
Network with other technology professionals
Establish a professional profile
Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
Discover IEEE events and activities
Join and participate in discussions

The Inner Beauty of Basic Electronics

Open Circuits showcases the surprising complexity of passive components

5 min read
Vertical
A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.
All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay
Blue

Eric Schlaepfer was trying to fix a broken piece of test equipment when he came across the cause of the problem—a troubled tantalum capacitor. The component had somehow shorted out, and he wanted to know why. So he polished it down for a look inside. He never found the source of the short, but he and his collaborator, Windell H. Oskay, discovered something even better: a breathtaking hidden world inside electronics. What followed were hours and hours of polishing, cleaning, and photography that resulted in Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components (No Starch Press, 2022), an excerpt of which follows. As the authors write, everything about these components is deliberately designed to meet specific technical needs, but that design leads to “accidental beauty: the emergent aesthetics of things you were never expected to see.”

From a book that spans the wide world of electronics, what we at IEEE Spectrum found surprisingly compelling were the insides of things we don’t spend much time thinking about, passive components. Transistors, LEDs, and other semiconductors may be where the action is, but the simple physics of resistors, capacitors, and inductors have their own sort of splendor.

High-Stability Film Resistor

A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.

All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay

This high-stability film resistor, about 4 millimeters in diameter, is made in much the same way as its inexpensive carbon-film cousin, but with exacting precision. A ceramic rod is coated with a fine layer of resistive film (thin metal, metal oxide, or carbon) and then a perfectly uniform helical groove is machined into the film.

Instead of coating the resistor with an epoxy, it’s hermetically sealed in a lustrous little glass envelope. This makes the resistor more robust, ideal for specialized cases such as precision reference instrumentation, where long-term stability of the resistor is critical. The glass envelope provides better isolation against moisture and other environmental changes than standard coatings like epoxy.

15-Turn Trimmer Potentiometer

A photo of a blue chip
A photo of a blue chip on a circuit board.

It takes 15 rotations of an adjustment screw to move a 15-turn trimmer potentiometer from one end of its resistive range to the other. Circuits that need to be adjusted with fine resolution control use this type of trimmer pot instead of the single-turn variety.

The resistive element in this trimmer is a strip of cermet—a composite of ceramic and metal—silk-screened on a white ceramic substrate. Screen-printed metal links each end of the strip to the connecting wires. It’s a flattened, linear version of the horseshoe-shaped resistive element in single-turn trimmers.

Turning the adjustment screw moves a plastic slider along a track. The wiper is a spring finger, a spring-loaded metal contact, attached to the slider. It makes contact between a metal strip and the selected point on the strip of resistive film.

Ceramic Disc Capacitor

A cutaway of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor
A photo of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor

Capacitors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of static electricity. They’re used in countless ways, including for bulk energy storage, to smooth out electronic signals, and as computer memory cells. The simplest capacitor consists of two parallel metal plates with a gap between them, but capacitors can take many forms so long as there are two conductive surfaces, called electrodes, separated by an insulator.

A ceramic disc capacitor is a low-cost capacitor that is frequently found in appliances and toys. Its insulator is a ceramic disc, and its two parallel plates are extremely thin metal coatings that are evaporated or sputtered onto the disc’s outer surfaces. Connecting wires are attached using solder, and the whole assembly is dipped into a porous coating material that dries hard and protects the capacitor from damage.

Film Capacitor

An image of a cut away of a capacitor
A photo of a green capacitor.

Film capacitors are frequently found in high-quality audio equipment, such as headphone amplifiers, record players, graphic equalizers, and radio tuners. Their key feature is that the dielectric material is a plastic film, such as polyester or polypropylene.

The metal electrodes of this film capacitor are vacuum-deposited on the surfaces of long strips of plastic film. After the leads are attached, the films are rolled up and dipped into an epoxy that binds the assembly together. Then the completed assembly is dipped in a tough outer coating and marked with its value.

Other types of film capacitors are made by stacking flat layers of metallized plastic film, rather than rolling up layers of film.

Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

A photo of a cutaway of a Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

At the core of this capacitor is a porous pellet of tantalum metal. The pellet is made from tantalum powder and sintered, or compressed at a high temperature, into a dense, spongelike solid.

Just like a kitchen sponge, the resulting pellet has a high surface area per unit volume. The pellet is then anodized, creating an insulating oxide layer with an equally high surface area. This process packs a lot of capacitance into a compact device, using spongelike geometry rather than the stacked or rolled layers that most other capacitors use.

The device’s positive terminal, or anode, is connected directly to the tantalum metal. The negative terminal, or cathode, is formed by a thin layer of conductive manganese dioxide coating the pellet.

Axial Inductor

An image of a cutaway of a Axial Inductor
A photo of a collection of cut wires

Inductors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of a magnetic field. They’re used, for example, in some types of power supplies to convert between voltages by alternately storing and releasing energy. This energy-efficient design helps maximize the battery life of cellphones and other portable electronics.

Inductors typically consist of a coil of insulated wire wrapped around a core of magnetic material like iron or ferrite, a ceramic filled with iron oxide. Current flowing around the core produces a magnetic field that acts as a sort of flywheel for current, smoothing out changes in the current as it flows through the inductor.

This axial inductor has a number of turns of varnished copper wire wrapped around a ferrite form and soldered to copper leads on its two ends. It has several layers of protection: a clear varnish over the windings, a light-green coating around the solder joints, and a striking green outer coating to protect the whole component and provide a surface for the colorful stripes that indicate its inductance value.

Power Supply Transformer

A photo of a collection of cut wires
A photo of a yellow element on a circuit board.

This transformer has multiple sets of windings and is used in a power supply to create multiple output AC voltages from a single AC input such as a wall outlet.

The small wires nearer the center are “high impedance” turns of magnet wire. These windings carry a higher voltage but a lower current. They’re protected by several layers of tape, a copper-foil electrostatic shield, and more tape.

The outer “low impedance” windings are made with thicker insulated wire and fewer turns. They handle a lower voltage but a higher current.

All of the windings are wrapped around a black plastic bobbin. Two pieces of ferrite ceramic are bonded together to form the magnetic core at the heart of the transformer.

This article appears in the February 2023 print issue.

{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}