One of the more interesting features that both Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One gaming consoles offer is one button video sharing. Here's how it's supposed to work: You're enjoying a game when something amazing happens. You hit a button (or if you have an Xbox One and Kinect, you can just shout "Xbox record that") and the last few minutes of gameplay gets saved for posterity. You can then easily share it to social networks or YouTube. That's the hype anyway.
We don't yet know how well this feature will work on next gen consoles, but PC gamers got a taste of a similar feature yesterday when Nvidia released the latest version of its "Geforce Experience" app. Until yesterday Geforce Experience (which as the name implies, only works on systems with Nvidia Geforce video cards) was a way to keep your video drivers up-to-date and to optimize graphics settings in your game.
Nvidia has always said this was just the beginning and yesterday's update added the ability to stream games to the Nvidia Shield handheld gaming system, and the first beta version of Shadowplay, which is what I wanted to talk about.
Shadowplay is a way to record gameplay by using the H.264 encoders on your GeForce GTX 650 (or higher) desktop video card. The claim is that recording video won't impact your gaming experience since the work is offloaded to dedicated hardware. You can use Shadowplay two ways. First you can just record gameplay in much the same way you'd do using something like FRAPS. Turn it on, record something, then turn it off again.
The second, more interesting feature is the ability to record something that's already happened. Shadowplay is constantly recording the last few moments of your game, DVR-style, and when you hit a key-sequence (ALT-F10 by default but you can change it) it saves that gameplay to disk for later sharing. You can set Shadowplay to buffer anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes of gameplay on Windows 8 and 1 to 10 minutes on Windows 7.
I gave this feature a quick test and while it has a lot of potential there are a few limitations (but this is beta, after all). Read the following with a grain of salt as I didn't have time to do really extensive tests, plus I'm sure Nvidia will be iterating on features fairly quickly.
The first and most obvious is that it has to be a game that Geforce Experience supports.
The second limitation is that you have to run your game full-screen. As I have dual monitors I tend to run games Windowed (Borderless) when that option exists. Nvidia is getting plenty of feedback about this limitation in their forums and I'm hoping they can address it fairly quickly.
Third is that, as far as I can tell, there's no way to capture out-of-game audio. So if you're roaming around with some friends and chatting via TeamSpeak and something really funny happens, you can capture the gameplay but not the wise-cracks your friends made.
[Update: See comment section for more on out-of-game audio. It seems I had it exactly backwards; out-of-game audio is captured by default and there's no way to avoid it. Apologies to anyone who was misled by my error.]
Last is that once you've recorded some gameplay, you still have to leave your game and fire up a program to edit/upload it. I used Windows Movie Maker since it was free and works with the .mp4 files that Shadowplay generates. Ideally there'd be an (optional) way to share a clip from the Shadowplay app itself.
Still, it's a good start, I think. In my casual testing I didn't notice any impact from leaving Shadowplay running while I was playing. I'm sure there was some and if you're in a competition or something it might matter, but regular gamers ought to feel OK leaving Shadowplay running all the time just in case something happens that they want to record.
It's probably worth saying again that for now, Shadowplay is for local recording, not livestreaming. Nvidia says that Twitch.TV livestreaming support is coming, though. We're just not sure when.
You can learn more about Shadowplay at Nvidia's site.
To give you a rough idea of the quality you'll get from Shadowplay, here are a couple of sample YouTube videos. They were captured with a GeForce GTX 760. PC is an Intel i7-4770 with 32 GBs of RAM running Windows 8.1. I trimmed them using Windows Movie Maker and uploaded them to YouTube directly from Movie Maker. They should play at 1080P.
I chose these games (the first is Marvel Heroes, the second is Rift) just based on the fact that I had them installed already and Geforce Experience supported them. Please don't judge my old-man gaming skills too harshly.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.