Headless game streaming

Feb 15, 2020
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Headless Gaming Setup
Hey PCG! It would be great to see an article or two on headless gaming. I've been living-room-gaming for about twelve years now and life has caught up with me. Most of our entertainment needs are now met by the Nvidia Shield Pro (2019) I've purchased. I'm now under pressure to move my HTPC/gaming rig elsewhere and I'm interested in converting it to a "headless gaming rig." I've found some threads on this on reddit and elsewhere, but they're rather specific and narrow in focus. I don't have much time to experiment anymore and I'm not able to spend money frivolously either, so I'm hoping to learn what works before I commit to funds for licenses or extra peripherals. Here's what I think I know, with questions I'm hoping the community or PCG experts can help me (and maybe a wider audience interested in this area) with:
1) I need to ensure the PC can provide full GPU capability over the network. I've read that an HDMI emulator dongle can do this. There are a lot on offer on Amazon, with a wide range of prices from around $8 to around $30. Are there any specific features that are required?;
2) I'll need remote desktop capabilities to troubleshoot and control the PC. Anydesk is an app available on Android TV, while the Microsoft Remote Desktop can be sideloaded. Is there a preferred app for this? What settings should be enabled on the Shield and Win10 PC for maximum utility (e.g. wake on LAN? Sleep settings to conserve power until triggered);
3) The heart of my in-home gamestreaming experience will be either with the Steam Link app or Moonlight. I was impressed with Geforce Now but now that it's a paid service, I can't justify the cost. Are there preferences and preferred settings for these apps?;
4) To conserve space in my living room, I use a wireless gaming mouse and a Logitech G13 gameboard. The gameboard needs the Logitech gaming software to work properly. I've read about VirtualHere as a USB server, but haven't gotten it to work on early trials. Are there settings/preferred equipment for this (i.e. should I buy a more recent type of available gamepad to better work with existing software/tech), or will I be stuck with using a full wireless keyboard and mouse if I stream through the Shield TV Pro?;
5) My intended placement will be in the basement where I can access my router via Cat 6 cable through a hole in the floor. I'm assuming that this will be the only connection leaving the computer. I have an old wired keyboard if it's required for the PC to boot and to function normally;
6) Are there tech limitations to attempting this? My specs are:
i5-3470; Asus P77-Pro; EVGA 1060; Win10; and Nvidia Shield TV Pro (2019) with one USB using a 128 Gb USB for expanded storage and a 4 port USB hub to support peripherals in the other; and
7) Anything someone more technically inclined can think of.
Thanks for your time!
I got a Shield and have done this. I'd recommend a cabled connection from your router to your PC and to your Shield. For 1080p, it might work over wifi, but I haven't tried. Other than that, all you need is a bluetooth wireless mouse and bluetooth wireless keyboard, or an Xbox controller with BT. Steam Link works fine.
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I'm somewhat curious as to what changed after twelve years of living room gaming, but I realize that's also none of my business and not the point of the post. Anyway, I agree with Slasken, you're better off with a cabled connection if at all possible. Based on my own anecdotal experience, at least. I don't *think* the keyboard needs to be wired, but it doesn't hurt anything either, so why not.

I don't have much else of substance to add, other than this prompted me to google "Headless Gaming" as I was unfamiliar with the term. (I'm still not 100% clear on it, as none of the Google results gave me a definition. I'm assuming it just means "remote living room gaming.")
Headless is just a PC without the monitor :)

So the PC that runs the games is headless (no monitor), and streams the games to another device, e.g. Nvidia Shield.

I've found streaming from a desktop to an old laptop with Moonlight to be excellent (wired connection) and expect the same via Nvidia Shield as mentioned by would the way to go. Really good fidelity and next to no noticeable latency. Didn't have such a good experience with Steam in home streaming when I last tried it, though it's been a while and others say it's pretty good now apparently.

I can't speak for the shield, but when using Moonlight on a Windows laptop, you can select 'Steam' as a game to launch and it just gives you full control of the remote desktop PC - you can change settings, and do anything you could as if you were sat in front of it. It doesn't play 100% nice if the remote PC has multiple monitors (you can't move things over from the other screen - which you can when using a Steam Link device) but since the remote PC in this case is to have 0 monitors I shouldn't think that would be a problem.


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