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OnLive - Why its head is in the clouds.

OnLive - Why its head is in the clouds.

OnLive - Why its head is in the clouds.

OnLive the future of gaming? OnLive is being billed as 'the future of video games', but what exactly is it? The concept and system were demonstrated at the GDC (Game Developers Conference) recently. You can watch the video of this here, be warned it's quite long at nearly an hour. Basically the premise behind it is that it's supposed to allow high-end games to run on entry-level PCs or even through your TV.  In doing this there is very little processing performed on the resident side (your end) of the connection, allowing OnLive's remote server farms to pick up the slack and crunch the numbers. Sounds good so far? But remember that the data is then needed back on your local end of the connection to allow you to see what's going on and interact with the game. This will require a livestream of constant game data going back and to across your internet connection, those of us with slower connections can forget this right now. It seems to me that OnLive are banking on the Internet providers backing this idea and model, bandwidth costs substantial money, especially when you think of some of the numbers being bandied around regarding the streaming speeds. Rumour has it that a 720p stream would require *at least* a 5Mb connection. That's a speed that only people reasonably close to the exchange can expect so already cuts out a large chunk of the population. No worries though, the service at the moment is only due to be launched in the US. So can the US ISP infrastructure cope with this? Not according to one of the guys at Aggregame - "Think about Verizon FIOS; arguably the fastest consumer network provider you can find. You get backbone fiber optic speed for downloading, and a pretty significant amount of upstream bandwidth as well. However, what about the "other guy" you are playing against? The rate at which a broadband service like FIOS is being adopted is far too slow. This is almost the equivalent of retrofitting every gas station in the country with hydrogen fuel stations to make alternative or hydrogen fuel cars a reality - it is going to take a long loooong time. OnLive is about 10 years ahead of itself." There isn't just the networking aspect to think about, what about game developers? How will they adopt this technology? Will they have to develop their games to specifically run on OnLive or will they 'just work'? I didn't pick up on the answers to these questions from the presentation video, but would be interested if anyone knows. Personally I think this is more likely to attract console gamers, rather than the 'hardcore' PC gamers who simply like having the best hardware and squeezing every last frame out of them. But that's just my opinion, what do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Judging by that, it's going to take a significant investment, from more than just the OnLive creators, for this to take off. I honestly think it's a good concept but some aspects of it don't leave me feeling like it's going to have an impact in the short term. Thanks for reading, Chris.

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Not applicable
no thanks. they can stick onlive with the ps3. my xbox is staying firmly where it is. never mind the fact that i would need to find an extra 2mb to be able to run onlive 720p. like it says its 10 years ahead of its self
Not applicable
What about lag? Apparently they claim they've eliminated it, but I get 30ms ping times to the edge of the Plusnet network, so I don't see how they'll overcome that! Having used Virgin Media's VOD service which I suppose is not a dissimilar concept, there's still a millisecond delay between pressing pause on the remote and the video stream pausing. It's an interesting concept, I'll be watching to see how it works in practice.
Not applicable
I think it will work - possibly not right now, but it will work. Some clarifications - it is not "at least" 5Mb/s for 720p it is "5Mb/s - possibly a little bit less - ie it peaks at a bit below 5Mb/s. Average speeds were quoted at about 2Mb/s. If you are content with standard res, then 1.5Mb/s is enough. Games written for PC will run on the system with very little modification as I understand it. Advantage for the consumer - no need to jump on the constantly upgrading hardware wagon, possibility to demo, rent or buy games. Possibility to view other gamers playing, platform independent. Advantage for the publisher - consumer has more money to spend on games (as he doesn't spend it on hardware). Only one platform to develop for (assuming consoles are effectively eliminated). Piracy is eliminated. Overall cost advantage - game hardware is shared amongst a number of users - instead of having a high end gaming PC in use for gaming perhaps 4 hours/day, and sitting idle the rest of the time (or used for mundane tasks a low cost PC could do) it is in use 24/7. This obviously has to be offset against bandwidth costs. And just look at how the technology is advancing - virgin offer 50Mb/s now. BT will be rolling out 21cn over the next couple of years - look at how speeds have changed over the last 5 years. I think it is ahead of its time - but not 10 years, more like 5 IMO. Considering it won't roll out in USA for nearly 12 months, and consider that an extended beta (whatever their plans are - it will still be a beta in reality). Then it wont hit UK for at least 3 years. Then it is only 2 years ahead of it's time. Probably the biggest technical challenge to solve is latency. That video stream must reach your PC probably in less than 30ms or so to avoid the lag being noticeable.
Grafter
Being a ps3 owner I don't need to worry about this since it is 12 years ahead of itself, so I'm pretty future proofed. However it's seem obvious but also silly for this to run in the US first. We all know that America has to get everything first but with the kind of infrastructure this onlive would need in order to thrive the US is too big and vast. Whilst there are pockets of great broadband connection there are also vast areas with possibly none but at best 0.5mb connections. At least in the UK it's all tightly knit and would provide the perfect basis for this to succeed but is still too soon. BT's roll out of fibre optic not coming until 2012 is an indication of that. Maybe America can be our guinea pigs for this and then we get a better working version thats cheaper too Smiley
Community Gaffer
Thanks for the comments so far all, very good points raised. Especially from Tony. I agree that the main factor to overcome is the lag of the service, after all don't we all want to be able to game as fast as possible?
Grafter
The UK's average speed is quoted at 1Mb so most people would miss out on even standard def gaming. Since 21cn really doesn't improve peoples performance unless they are close to the exchange this really has no relevance to onlive. So unless you already achieve 1.5Mb or 5Mb or at least are close to those figures then 21cn will hold no benefit. Plus 30ms might be alright with gaming on consoles and PC's directly but when your movements on screen are delayed by that then it would be tough for gaming. Console gaming latency doesn't effect your movements on screen since they happen when you operate the controls but when your button pressing has to travel upstream and downstream before you see it's effects, it'll be painful.
Grafter
The only reason the Internet works well'ish right now is because of Contention Ratios, if x amount of people was downloading large amounts of data all at the same time, then the internet would slow to a crawl or even worse crash altogether. Plus 90% of ISPs have FUPs/Caps/Traffic Management @ peak hours. Why do you think they use these things? Maybe cause the UK internet is already under huge amount of stress. I think it will fail badly, even 10 years from now we might all have 100/100mbs but latency will always exsist.
Not applicable
This seems like a totally mad idea to me, unless it is intended for very occasional use by customers. The massive-bandwidth and low-latency required multiplied by a large number of users makes the alternative (the status quo of owning a computer or console) seem cheap! I think any argument for this in terms of price would focus on the elimination of consumer hardware and ignore the fact that the hardware would still need to be owned by the service provider anyway (at equal cost) and would probably make the assumption that the cost of the bandwidth demand will be absorbed by the ISPs.
Not applicable
[...] On the horizon is something called “Onlive”, an attempt to get more gamers playing, without worrying about their PC. You can see the blog about OnLive by my esteemed colleague Chris Parr here: http://community.plus.net/blog/2009/03/27/onlive-why-its-head-is-in-the-clouds/ [...]