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OnLive... The Future of Gaming?
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S_D_J
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OnLive... The Future of Gaming?

GDC 09: OnLive Introduces The Future of Gaming
Next-generation "cloud" technology could change videogames forever.


quote:
March 23, 2009 - Before I dive into what OnLive is and how it works, let me start by saying that you should read every word of this article as this service has the potential to completely change the way games are played. If it works and gets proper support from both publishers and gamers, you may never need a high-end PC to play the latest games, or perhaps even ever buy a console again. That is not an exaggeration.

Just announced at this year's GDC, OnLive is an on-demand gaming service. It's essentially the gaming version of cloud computing - everything is computed, rendered and housed online. In its simplest description, your controller inputs are uploaded, a high-end server takes your inputs and plays the game, and then a video stream of the output is sent back to your computer. Think of it as something like Youtube or Hulu for games.

The service works with pretty much any Windows or Mac machine as a small browser plug-in. Optionally, you will also be able to purchase a small device, called the OnLive MicroConsole, that you can hook directly into your TV via HDMI, though if your computer supports video output to your TV, you can just do it that way instead. Of course, you can also just play on your computer's display if you don't want to pipe it out to your living room set.

When you load up the service and choose a game to play (I'll come back to the service's out-of-games features in a bit), it starts immediately. The game is housed and played on one of OnLive's servers, so there's never anything to download. Using an appropriate input device, be it a controller or mouse and keyboard, you'll then play the game as you would if it were installed on your local machine. Your inputs are read by the plugin (or the standalone device if you choose to go that route) and uploaded to the server. The server then plays the game just like it would if you were sitting at the machine, except that instead of outputting the video to a display, it gets compressed and streamed to your computer where you can see the action. Rinse and repeat 60 times per second.

To make this happen, OnLive has worked diligently to overcome lag issues. The first step in this was creating a video compression algorithm that was as quick as possible. The current solution only introduces one millisecond of lag to encode the video, which alone is completely unnoticeable to you. Obviously, a fast internet connection is required on your end to stream the gameplay video. A 1.5 mbps connection (which is usually what base-level DSL is rated at) is required for standard-definition video (480p), while a 5.0 mbps connection is required for HD (720p). The actual necessary speed is a tad less than advertised, so as long as your provider says you have these speeds, you should be OK.

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Your user page will show the last games you've played and more.


The cool thing here is that your only requirement is a capable internet connection and some sort of computer. In theory, you should be able to play Crysis on a netbook. A handful of us have played the game, at its highest settings, on a MacBook Air with the service. Not only is the game not normally available on the Mac (outside of running Boot Camp), but the MacBook Air is hardly a gaming device, and yet we were able to hop in and play it as smoothly as a nicely-specced machine. We also played Burnout Paradise on a similarly-equipped PC laptop, and despite how quick that game is, it ran and played fine as well.

Do the games run at 60fps? Technically, yes, but the video stream makes it feel less so. They're still smooth, but Burnout wasn't as brisk as it is on a PS3, for instance. But make no mistake - everything we tried was completely playable (and most importantly, quite responsive), and being that you're able to play these games without any dedicated hardware, that's a huge, huge thing.

As for the MicroConsole itself (which, again, is optional), the device is give or take about the size of a PSP game box and maybe twice the height. In other words, it's pretty tiny for a gaming "console". It features two USB inputs (you can use a hub if you need more), a mini-USB port for power, optical audio output and HDMI video output. There's also Bluetooth support for voice or wireless joysticks, keyboards and mice. Obviously, if you want to use this thing with an older TV, you'll need to pony up for some conversion hardware, but OnLive stresses that the MicroConsole itself will be fairly cheap. We'd expect it to be no more than $100, and a $50 price tag is certainly not out of the question.

With regards to the service itself, OnLive will work as a paid subscription service, similar to Xbox Live. OnLive isn't talking about pricing yet, which probably isn't even finalized internally yet, so we'll have to wait and see how that pans out. Once you're online, you'll have access to a Friends list, an online profile where other people can see what you're up to, your tied account stuff (which houses your save games and things like that), and Brag Clips. Brag Clips are 10-second videos of your favorite gaming moments, and the system works sort of like an instant replay on a DVR. Regardless of what game you're playing, you can hit the Brag Clip shortcut and OnLive will then save the last 10 seconds of your action for viewing and sharing later. Other folks can view your clips, and you can send them out to your friends to, well, brag.

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The games chooser will show you live video of other people playing.


As for the games themselves, while it will vary by title and publisher, you'll have a number of ways in which to purchase them. You can outright pay for a game and own it indefinitely, or you could opt to rent a title for a specified amount of time. This last bit is especially cool for PC titles as that sort of market simply doesn't exist as piracy would run rampant. But since everything is housed online, OnLive won't be subject to piracy, so game rentals can easily take place. Again, that'll be up to publishers on a per-title basic, but the possibility is certainly cool.

And of course, most games will have a demo available for play, which like everything else, launches instantly with zero downloading. OnLive is hoping that even if hardcore gamers stick with buying games as per usual and playing content locally on their own high-end rigs that its service will be a great place for trying out demos as you won't have to take time to download anything.

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The MicroConsole is small, but thanks to the servers, ultimately powerful.


A number of publishers have already signed on to have their games launch on the service, including EA, Take-Two, Ubisoft, Epic, Atari, Codemasters, Warner Bros. and Eidos. While we were able to play Crysis and Burnout Paradise and noted games like Grand Theft Auto IV on the intro screen, these titles may only be demo software for the time being as OnLive plans to launch with newly-released software when it goes live. We're hoping Crysis sticks around as some of us will finally be able to play it.

As for the launch timeframe, OnLive is going to have an open (though invitational) beta sometime during the summer, and plans to fully launch the system late this year (technically winter 2009).



confused


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Last edited by S_D_J on Mar 25th, 2009 at 02:19 AM

Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 02:09 AM
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Lek Kuen
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hmm interesting

I actually hope its as good as they say it will be


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 03:19 AM
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AsbestosFlaygon
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What about people with slow internet connections?


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 05:22 AM
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Morridini
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They'll just get everything with lower resolution.


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 05:40 AM
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S_D_J
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quote: (post)
Originally posted by occultdestroyer
What about people with slow internet connections?


that's a problem, I reckon not everyone's got fast internet access in the States as it's led to believe

... but yeah, you get lower 480 resolution


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 05:52 AM
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Ushgarak
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Well, it IS being touted as the future of gaming, not the present. That being so we know it cannot be far off to when high speed coverage will be as close to 100% as can be reasonably envisaged. The net is only going to get faster and 'wider'.


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 11:14 AM
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Scarlet Fox
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Meh I dont buy it. sure it runs smoothly when they are testing it. But they do not have results from millions of people going onto the servers at once. Even an ultimate server has limits. Not to mention the fact that not even 75% of people have internet. 50% probably have slow connections, and with the econemy not getting much better, thanks to Obama and his spending, I dont see much happening.


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 10:32 PM
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Mairuzu
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Hmm...


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 10:36 PM
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Ushgarak
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quote: (post)
Originally posted by Scarlet Fox
Meh I dont buy it. sure it runs smoothly when they are testing it. But they do not have results from millions of people going onto the servers at once. Even an ultimate server has limits. Not to mention the fact that not even 75% of people have internet. 50% probably have slow connections, and with the econemy not getting much better, thanks to Obama and his spending, I dont see much happening.


Once again, this is about the future. Compare internet connectivity today to twenty or even ten years ago. Twenty years from now most of these objections will no longer apply- slow economy or otherwise.


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 10:49 PM
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FistOfThe North
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i just saw this on xplay and the yahoo home page. it seems promising..

It's already being called the "console killer" which includes (xbox360, wii, ps3 and pc). i how they'd update the state of the art and that they have finally killed laaaa aa-aaaag.

if this flys and it's worth it i'd get it..

here's the (short) yahoo article..


http://videogames.yahoo.com/feature...bsolete/1299562


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 10:55 PM
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FistOfThe North
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i meant to write "I love how they would constantly update the state of the art of the system".

They'd need some competition though. Or they won't be as good as they can be.

But i love the idea alot.


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 10:58 PM
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Lek Kuen
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what are they doing about controllers?


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Old Post Mar 25th, 2009 11:42 PM
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S_D_J
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quote: (post)
Originally posted by Ushgarak
Once again, this is about the future. Compare internet connectivity today to twenty or even ten years ago. Twenty years from now most of these objections will no longer apply- slow economy or otherwise.


while it is the future, it's not as far away as it seems, it's going in beta testing in a few moths, and it's planned to be out by December... not all that far away... it would take a few years for it to work properly... but it seems it'd be out in less than a year. At the moment it's out, the objection would still apply

... but, yeah, as things are now, all current consoles are saved from this... next gen it's a different matter
quote: (post)
Originally posted by jalek moye
what are they doing about controllers?


You can use any USB or Bluetooth controller...


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Old Post Mar 26th, 2009 02:55 AM
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Ushgarak
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quote: (post)
Originally posted by S_D_J
while it is the future, it's not as far away as it seems, it's going in beta testing in a few moths, and it's planned to be out by December... not all that far away... it would take a few years for it to work properly... but it seems it'd be out in less than a year. At the moment it's out, the objection would still apply


But the subject of the thread is about this being the future of gaming. No-one ever pretended that the 9600 speed modem was the final say in technology, but you could still look at it as a modem and say "that's the future of computer communications."

So that being the case, does anyone actually have an objection to this idea that is not based around technological issues which will, soon enough, cease to exist?


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"You've never had any TINY bit of sex, have you?"

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Old Post Mar 26th, 2009 09:38 AM
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Lek Kuen
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nope i'm all for it and hopes it goes as planned


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Old Post Mar 26th, 2009 12:48 PM
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Reminds me of Phantom and if this thing doesn't flop it will deal a massive blow to the gaming industry.

Please flop.


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Old Post Mar 26th, 2009 01:48 PM
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Old Post Mar 26th, 2009 01:59 PM
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S_D_J
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quote: (post)
Originally posted by Ushgarak
But the subject of the thread is about this being the future of gaming. No-one ever pretended that the 9600 speed modem was the final say in technology, but you could still look at it as a modem and say "that's the future of computer communications."

So that being the case, does anyone actually have an objection to this idea that is not based around technological issues which will, soon enough, cease to exist?


no, none at all

I actually love the Idea... being able to play without a high end/expensive PC sounds great to me
quote: (post)
Originally posted by Raijin
Reminds me of Phantom and if this thing doesn't flop it will deal a massive blow to the gaming industry.

Please flop.


How so?


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Old Post Mar 26th, 2009 02:20 PM
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BoratBorat
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When is it out?

Old Post Mar 26th, 2009 02:30 PM
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Raijin
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Beta during the summer and possible release late this year.

@ S_D_J: Hmm I was missinformed about about a few things, but I can see this perhaps hurting graphics card developers. And to be honest this sounds much more promising than Phantom seing as EA, Take-Two, Ubisoft, Epic, and Atari have already jumped on board.


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Old Post Mar 26th, 2009 03:18 PM
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