Limelight: who needs a Steam Machine when you have a Pi?

January 21, 2014 Liz Upton

I don’t think there’s anyone here at Pi Towers who doesn’t use Steam for PC gaming, and we were all watching the various Steam Machines that got trotted out at this year’s CES with great interest. There was one $500 Steam Machine from iBuyPower which pleased and surprised us by appearing to have a Raspberry Pi jammed into the bottom of the case. (Word of God here is that they’re using it as a temporary measure while in development to control the LEDs around the edges of the box, but we like to imagine that they’re using if for other, super-seekrit stuff.)

The iBuyPower Steam Machine. Note rectilinear green thing.

And then, over the weekend, DaveSpice pointed me at this thread on the Raspberry Pi forums. It made me think of iBuyPower’s Steam Machine, only with all the bits that aren’t a Raspberry Pi removed.

What Dave had found was a discussion about something called Limelight, newly ported by one of irtimmer, one of our forum members. Limelight is an open-source Java client which allows you to stream games from your home PC (as long as you have an Nvidia GTX 600 or 700 Series graphics card and enough bandwidth on your home network) to the Raspberry Pi that’s attached to your television. (You do have a Raspberry Pi attached to your television, right?) And it’s not just Steam games: any content can be streamed. Right now, only mouse and keyboard are supported, but there’s work being done to support other controllers too. So now you can play PC content from the machine upstairs in the study on that great big flatscreen monolith in the corner of your living room, from the comfort of your own sofa.

In the first-impressions video below from leCauchemarXY on YouTube, the screen on the left is displaying content streamed by the Pi. You’ll notice that there is some lag: enough that I wouldn’t be totally happy playing certain FPS games against certain people (or some RTS games like Starcraft, especially if I was playing Pete S, who is terrifying in charge of Zerglings). Your network may vary.

So what you have here is (kinda sorta) a Raspberry Pi that’s acting as a $35 Steam Machine. We’re going to be experimenting with Limelight here at Pi Towers when we’re finished with January’s education conferences and workshops, seeing how it performs in Cambridge, streaming over a fast network from DaveSpice’s gaming PC back home in London. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Limelight is available to download from irtimmer’s GitHub, where you’ll also find complete instructions on installing and using it. Please tell us how you get on in the comments!

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