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    OnLive review - Part 1



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    OnLive review - Part 1

    Post  WhiteBoy on September 10th 2011, 11:13 pm

    Hey, all. Here's a little more in-depth review of OnLive than what I was able to fit in the podcast segment. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.


    When I first heard about OnLive a couple years ago, I was very skeptical. They were essentially promising the end of needing a high-end graphics card and CPU to be able to play the latest games. I just couldn't believe they would be able to pull it off.

    Traditionally in the world of PC gaming, in order to play the latest games you had to have pretty new hardware. This is because all the rendering of the graphics and calculations of the game are done locally on your PC. The promise of OnLive is that they would do all that heavy-lifting on their servers then send you over the internet a video stream of the game after it's been rendered. The result is on the user's end you are able essentially substitute high-end bandwidth for a high-end computer. So, as long as you have a good internet connection to their servers, the rat-race of keeping your PC hardware updated would be over. Or so they promised.

    I recently stopped playing World of Warcraft, so have been using my gaming time to try out some games that I've been missing out on over the past few years. (Hey, there's only so much gaming time a dad can spare!) While not a game, one of the things I wanted to check out was OnLive. It's been active for just over a year now, so in my mind they've had time to work out some of the stability bugs that inevitably come with launching a new service.

    After using it a little while, I think of OnLive as a game delivery service similar to Steam, and OnLive has many of the same features as Steam, so I will more or less use Steam as the standard to be compared to.

    Multi-platform. One of the coolest things about this is that it's multi-platform. In the background I am sure it's running on the PC platform, but the OnLive client gets around that. Since all the processing is done on their servers, all you need is a compatible OnLive client and you're good-to-go. They have full clients for both Windows and Mac. They have an “OnLive Viewer” that runs on Android and iPad tablets and at least one Android phone. This viewer doesn't let you play games (yet) but from what I read it allows you access to all the community aspects of OnLive. They also have a “micro-console” system that can connect directly to your TV like an Xbox or PS3 and is a full client.

    Delivery. When you buy a game from Steam, it downloads all the install files for the game, installs the game, and then you play the game locally. It's been around for years and I really like it. OnLive streams keyboard, video, mouse, and controller to you. That's it. There's no downloading the game for half a day before getting to play it. I must say I was quite impressed that I was able to pay for my game and be greeted by the game's load screens within about 15 seconds.

    Playability. To give a little bit of background, as best I can tell, OnLive currently has five server center locations: the CA Bay Area, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington DC. What this means is that if you're in the continental US there should be one close enough to you to give acceptable latency. I live in Arkansas so I'm likely connecting to the Dallas center. I have a 15 Mbit cable connection that runs pretty quick most of the time (5 Mbit is what OnLive recommends). I must admit that some of the time – though not all – I was sharing some of that bandwidth with my wife who was streaming Netflix at the same time. With that background in mind, during play sessions I would occasionally have “network errors” which would interrupt the game for a bit. Usually within about 15 seconds things would go back to normal. It would offer to reconnect, and my game would pick back up where I left off as if I'd paused the game as if I had gone to a game menu. It was disruptive and slightly annoying, but it did not happen enough to complain too loudly about it. I suppose this could be due to my router or any other number of things, but regardless it does highlight the importance of a solid internet connection.

    So far, I have only played single-player games, where latency isn't as big a deal. But I had no problems with latency at all. The games were very responsive...even first-person shooters.

    Community. OnLive has the ability to add Friends, but it's not a very clean interface and will quickly become unwieldy as your list of friends grows. You can easily tell if a friend is online by a green light in the corner of their avatar and if they are online you can see what game they are playing. However you cannot filter to show only friends that are online or friends that are in a particular game.

    Two unique features are the Arena and Brag Clips. Both of these are accomplished with separate video steams so it doesn't affect the player's experience. Arena is a feature you have to allow and it gives others the ability to watch you play a game. The real benefit (for me anyway) was watching others play. Some games you can demo for 30 minutes, but if you they do not offer a demo, or if the 30-minutes they allow for demos have expired, then using the Arena is an excellent way to check out a game. As you are watching, you can cheer/jeer the player (similar to liking/disliking in Facebook) or even do voice chat with whomever you are watching. Brag Clips are pretty much just that. You can record short clips of yourself playing a game which are then associated with your online profile and available for others to see. About to take down a buddy and wanna be able to rub it in his face later? Hit the record hot-key real quick then take him out. Smile

    Part 2 next week!


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