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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OnLive - Gaming in the cloud

Thanks to the right star alignment and generous invitation from my co-worker I was lucky to be in the audience of the OnLive service announcement. After 7 years of secretly developing (can not imagine how anything related to game development could be hidden from public eyes and ears for so long), absolutely mind-blowing OnLive gaming service was finally announced today to the crowd of game developers.

It is hard to believe that high-end gaming experience will be available soon for most of the mortals who have simple PC, MAC, or TV with a small adapter.

Technology is, basically, high end game servers hosted in the data centers with low-latency compression boards and light-weight clients. Client could be either small (1Mb) browser plug-In on PC/MAC or game adapter for TV that connects to home-grade DSL/fiber/cable modem.

Why OnLive is great? (at least on the demo, need to test myself at home):

  • unprecedented performance approaching realism

  • access to high-end games + games developed specifically for online experience

  • User hardware does not get obsolete

  • Extremely high-performance shared serves with 1-2 GPUs

  • Special card for HW video compression
  • 1 [ms] latency (can you believe that?)

Minimum requirements for the end-user hardware:

  • bandwidth 1.5 Mbps for regular video resolution
  • HDTV experience 5 Mbps downstream (very light for upstream, great for DSL)

Typical Social features (something that is really expected these days:

  • Arena
  • Brag clips
  • Spectating roles

Plenty of Games already available on OnLive:

  • Family games (LegoBatman is there)
  • Did not see any cooperative games but who cares – killing is more fun
  • Sport -spectator games are there. Are they more fun than “real” sport? Claim is that it will be possible to have 1 Mil people watching games. Hard to believe but - why not? Technologically it is possible these days

Gamers will love:

  • Simplicity
  • Gaming (and good gaming, finally!) on MAC
  • For Multi-player games – fast connection between game servers (LAN party environment)
  • OnLive makes easier to watch the game, why bother clicking and tapping when you can see masters at play.

Game Publishers will love it: rental model + exposure to bigger market. No surprise that big names are already there:

• Electronic Arts
• Ubisoft
• WB
• Take two
• Epic Games
• Eidos
• Atari
• 2D Boy
• CodeMasters

Game developers will like it:

  • Single code – 3 devices
  • Social features integrated

Hardware Companies will hate it:

  • No need to buy and upgrade expensive game PC

Why I am still skeptical?

Networks are optimized for bandwidth – not latency, will that ruin the experience?

I am waiting (patiently) for the winter ’09 general service launch…