Stadia lets you play people's screenshots, and it feels kinda like the future

An alien vista
(Image credit: Q-Games)

I'm not entirely convinced by Stadia yet. Despite having a fast internet connection, I get a lot of frame rate jitter in 4K, which makes me not want to play games on it. But there's no denying the technology is impressive, specifically the State Share feature. Take a screenshot or record a video clip and a URL is generated, which people can then click on to play the level you captured—providing they own the game themselves. Seeing a screenshot and not just looking at it, but diving inside it like some haunted painting, is an incredibly powerful concept that works amazingly well.

This week I've been playing PixelJunk Raiders, a new roguelike developed exclusively for Stadia by Q-Games, which makes particularly good use of this feature. Levels in this game are procedurally generated, so if the algorithm spits out something especially cool, you can take a screenshot and share it online, letting people experience it for themselves. A small community has sprung up around this feature, with people sharing interesting, challenging, or otherwise interesting levels in public spreadsheets.

(Image credit: Q-Games)

There's also an asynchronous multiplayer element to it. You can go into someone's game state and drop weapons or handy gadgets like turrets or jump pads, then share the state again, creating a chain of people helping each other. Some players are even using states as supply drops, dumping weapons that you can scoop up then take back to your own missions—which is very handy for PixelJunk Raiders in particular, a game that is both punishingly difficult and frequently stingy with its loot drops. You'll take any help you can get.

Players can also use emotes to silently communicate across these chains. Seeing the shimmering outline of another player giving you an encouraging wave or a cheer next to a stack of powerful swords is a nice feeling. It's all very reminiscent of Kojima Productions' Death Stranding, which had a similar approach to indirect player altruism. But being able to share states via links in a web browser takes this to the next level. After experiencing this, capturing a static screenshot and posting it on social media seems very old-fashioned.

It's a shame PixelJunk Raiders isn't a better game. It certainly looks gorgeous, with a vivid art style inspired by colourful '70s sci-fi comics. But the weightless combat, repetitive missions, and lifeless atmosphere let it down. Even so, being able to share levels with other players in this way, and help them in the process, is pretty special. Only a handful of Stadia games support State Share right now, including the Hitman trilogy. But even at this early stage it's impressive. Being able to show a friend something in a game and not just say "look at this", but actually let them play it themseves, feels kinda like the future.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.