Build An Amazon EC2 Gaming Rig

PC gaming is better than console gaming. Now that we’ve said something controversial enough to meet the comment quota for this post, let’s dig into [Larry]’s Amazon EC2 gaming rig.

A while ago, [Larry] bought a MacBook Air. It’s a great machine for what it is, but it’s not exactly the laptop you want for playing modern AAA games on the go. If you have enough bandwidth and a low enough ping, you can replicated just about everything as an EC2 instance.

[Larry] is using a Windows Server 2012 AMI with a single NVIDIA GRID K520 GPU in his instance. After getting all the security, firewall, and other basic stuff configured, it’s just a matter of installing a specific driver for an NVIDIA Titan. With Steam installed and in-home streaming properly configured it’s time to game.

The performance [Larry] is getting out of this setup is pretty impressive. It’s 60fps, but because he’s streaming all his games to a MacBook Air, he’ll never get 1080p.

If you’re wondering how much this costs, it’s actually not too bad. The first version of [Larry]’s cloud-based gaming system was about $0.54 per hour. For the price of a $1000 battle station, that’s about 1900 hours of gaming, and for the price of a $400 potato, that’s 740 hours of gaming.

44 thoughts on “Build An Amazon EC2 Gaming Rig

  1. Interesting. Although your rather basic math is wrong. 1000/.54 is 1851.85 or rounded to 1852. 400/.54 is 740.74 rounded to 741. So the first estimate is way over, and second is almost right. Either way you should stick to either doing the math or estimating the same way, it’s not really appropriate to give an almost exact number for one side and then fling a number out that’s almost a percent off because it looks cool.

    1. The engineer in me says they did it the right way. You start with a number with 2 significant digits (0.54). It makes no sense to keep digits past this. They rounded to two digits in both cases, 1.9e3 and 7.4e2. And as you said, it is less than a percent off.

      1. Rounding rules are not really rules. They are suggestions. It takes the brain to decide what is an appropriate value to round to.
        given the scale of the rounding of the second number (nearest single integer), I agree with Erik that rounding 1851.something to 1900 was an inappropriate rounding. He suggests up or down to 1851 or 52 with the later preference.
        I think 1850 would be the most practical number to round to. Its within 2 integers of real. It is under rather than over estimating (which, again, brain should tell you that in this instance, under estimating is more “safe” than over). And numbers ending in zero roll of the tongue (which was the cause for stating 1900 in the first place).

    2. Why have the comments on Hackaday become more of picking at syntax (or opinions of proper reporting of math in this case) than discussing the article?
      It’s a shame that the comments aren’t moderated for content, because even this comment has been posted here to waste people’s time.

      1. And here I thought this site was meant to be for learning! ;) Point taken, people (I include myself in this) can be nitpicky or go off on a tangential subject, but often make valid points that can serve to educate people and improve their skills. The use of significant figures is a valid suggestion, though I may disagree with the above posters’ particular implementation.

      2. “It’s a shame that the comments aren’t moderated for content”

        I have two choices. Either I moderate comments for content, or I am literally Hitler, with fascist tenancies hell bent on violating the first amendment. Because, you know, I’m legally obligated to allow any idiot to voice their opinion on a privately owned web page. Oh how I long for a sarcasm tag…

        I do quite enjoy this comment, as it allows me to quantify the pedantry of the comments here. It turns out it’s less than one percent error. I would like to see [Erik]’s proof that he graduated from a university with a >99% average in all his classes, just to see if he can walk the walk as well as he talks the talk.

        1. Just checked his math and it appears to be a bit off (did not check first time). Erik stated the first value was almost 1% off. This appears to be incorrect. (1900-1852)/1852 is actually 0.02591792656587473 or 2.591792656587473%. Which interestingly (or not) if don’t do rounding and calculate

          (1900 – 1000/.54) /(1000/.54) is EXACTLY 0.026 or 2.6%

        2. your damned if you do and damned if you dont. hitler. its the joys of internet forums, everyone has an opinion and can hide behind a keyboard to voice it :) I for one am greatefull to you guys and our overlords.

        3. My point isn’t that everyone is perfect, but it’s nice when things are consistent and well edited, doubly so on a highly read site. Am I perfect, no, did I graduate with a perfect 4.0 in college, no but the point is that I learned. Rereading my previous comment I can see how it may have come across as condescending to some, but that’s not how it’s meant. When I publish something I make sure it’s well written and correct as is reasonable. My biggest problem with this site in general as of late is a bunch of half-assed posts that look quickly written. I get better quality from reddit some days (when it’s not purely stolen from there) and that’s saying something. Brian this is not meant as a personal attack, it is just that in general this site needs a shove towards quality over quantity anymore.

      3. Because the content is generally so lacklustre, nitpicking in the comments is our reprieve. I’m happy with an article every few days, like way back when, rather than scraping the barrel for articles several times per day. I wonder if their sponsor has anything to do with it.

  2. This is something in which I’ve been interested, though running on local virtual host rather than EC2 – I’ll have to revisit this ahead of the Fallout4 launch.
    The big benefit, for me, is that I ought to be able to describe a virtualized gaming rig in Puppet, and spin it up on my fairly beefy local vm hosting infrastructure.

    1. At work I manage a server farm with Nvidia graphics cards for virtual desktops. I get 30-120fps without much issue on most games, the kicker access can be over a web browser using HTML5. I cant really complain. My latency to work over the town’s fiber plant is 1ms. So just as fast as being onsite. Expensive at first but given that 200+ other desktop session share these cards at the same time and I can run more then a dozen “gaming” sessions exactly like the one above as well. Times they are a changing. O ya and the entire thing runs on an SSD’s array with NVRAM cache drives. Boot times are about 5-7 seconds and games vary but most load in a few seconds and level loads are almost inappreciable. Much better then my water cooled $3000+ monstrosity of a home computer I built a few years ago, I even get multiple screens streamed, the only limits appears to be the network protocol and bandwidth because the quality of the image is moderate and suffers at times. You do have to remove the fps cap the virtual vendor and the video drivers put in the sessions to help even the load but still its a simple reg tweak without need of a reboot. Overall if you have a chance to give spin something up your self, I wish you luck and if/when it works its dam impressive and a sign of whats in our future.

    1. It could really change game reviews. No more vendors sending certain reviewers $4k rigs or forcing them to come on-site in order to review pre-release games. Just give them credentials for a server instance. Should streamline things and give vendors more oversight into what reviewers see/experience.

  3. If you ignore paying for high speed low latency internet, that ends up cheaper than any cybercafe, but good luck finding an internet provider good enough. I’ve never lived anywhere that even had the option of fiber internet. [insert cable hate rant]

    1. That argument only matters if you do all your gaming at cybercafe’s which I’m sure some do. For those that use their own computers the cost of internet is included whether they build their own, buy it, or use EC2.
      I wouldn’t trust cable/dsl to get you into the final round of an FPS competition but for single player and non-FPS games it’s probably good enough.

    1. Main cause of latency in game streaming is mainly input and display latency.
      Use a wired connection [definitely not wireless] to get your input latency down and maintain a MUCH more robust, consistent connection.
      Second, also very important, make sure you have hardware encoding enabled and working on the host, and hardware decoding working on the client. I was originally using software encoding on my client, and while it is more than capable of providing enough CPU grunt to do 1080p software decoding, I was absolutely blown away by how much enabling hardware decoding reduced latency.

      Of course, you may have already done this and may still not be satisfied, but I guess streaming isn’t an option if you’re one of the people who runs CS:GO graphics set to potato ;-)

  4. Perhaps people with high end PC’s could rent their time out, assuming they have a decent symmetrical internet connection. Think of a service where you sell your off-hours PC time to gamers, where the price is set based on the PC specs and connection quality. Might even be better than Amazon EC2 as you may get paired with a local game, thus lower ping times.

  5. I think the title is misleading your not building anything you are just configuring an EC2 instance. Also the pricing is dependent on the region where the instance is running you can also spot request an instance to try to get a cheaper price per hour. I myself would rather build my own rig then rent one from Amazon.

  6. It works. and it works reasonably well, but the audio is junk. You won’t get 5.1 Surround Sound out of it as it currently stands, either.

    The cost also mounts up if you don’t want to setup the OS every time, too, because it costs money for AWS to keep hold of hard drive images. So yes you can just ‘wind it up’ every time you want to play, but depending on how you’re setting up the server you might not get it for the ‘bid’ you put in for per hour cost and you may have to setup all the software every time.

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