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    OnLive review - Part 2

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    WhiteBoy
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    OnLive review - Part 2

    Post  WhiteBoy on September 26th 2011, 1:28 am

    Interface. The interface is probably my biggest complaint. It's going to have to improve. It's very flashy, but not very slick and does not scale well. Even with the somewhat limited number of games they have to offer (compared to Steam, anyway) moving around and finding the particular game you're looking for is cumbersome. Same for the Friends interface which I already mentioned. There's a couple ways to sort the games. One thing I'd like to see is that if you could hit “T,” for example, to jump down to the T's in the list. Right now, you have to scroll all the way down! Blech!

    They *just* released an update (after I'd recorded the audio for the show) that improves the inteface. You can now search for games by title, or filter based on genre, what games are on sale right now, games that are part of the Play Pack, and new releases. So this is a marked improvement over what they've had, but it could still use some work.

    Game selection. Compared to Steam, the game selection is limited. But I do see that they are continually adding titles. This is a relatively new company, and for a game developer to be able to deliver via OnLive I know it does take some development resources on the game developer's part. But so does a game developer who wants to integrate with the “SteamPlay” features of Steam. I imagine that it requires relatively small resources, but to be honest I really don't know. My point is that it's one more cost and game developers have to decide if it's worth it to invest those resources to be able to deliver their game via the OnLive. Obviously as more people join OnLive, that delivery channel is more attractive to the game companies. It does have some of the games I've looked for (like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood) but not all of them (like Mass Effect 2). Steam has almost all of them.

    Value. I see the value of OnLive as being moderately high. They have a few different plans to choose from. My favorite is finally the ability to rent PC games! Consoles have had this for years but PCs just have too much capability to steal the game so this has never been allowed before. (I have heard a rumor that GameFly is going to start renting PC games as well, but we'll see.) With OnLive's delivery being only streamed video, I am guessing at least some publishers trust it enough allow rental. You cannot rent all games, but on the ones that you can it runs $6.00 (er...$5.99) for three days or $9 for five days. I don't know why not all games are rentable, but it's definitely something I wish they would add to all games.

    The second option is what they dub “PlayPack.” This is an option to pay $10 per month for all-you-can-eat gaming from a select group of games. Currently there are 84 games in the PlayPack group and that number has been steadily rising over the few months I've been a member. The main issue here is that they are not new games; they are B-list and C-list games. Some of them were A-list games when they were released, but that's been a couple years. Some of the more popular games are Supreme Commander, FEAR 3 (multiplayer-only), Bioshock (the original), and Deus Ex (the original). There are others, too, but the majority are indie or casual-type games. This is fine.. just know what you're getting. If you haven't played some of these older games and/or enjoy indie and casual games, this may be a great option. Also, just recently they have started offering some pretty good discounts on purchases if you are subscribed to PlayPack.

    As for purchasing games, they have learned from Steam and have deals continually going... and sometimes very good ones. For example, I rented Splinter Cell: Conviction and beat it, but decided to pick it up anyway just today because it was on sale for $5. I figured I could get at least $5 more out of it in multiplayer or the single missions. I must admit I have a concern about purchasing games which leads me to my last point.

    Cloud gaming. Maybe I'm old school – OK, I AM old school – but I like to own my games. It's very rare, but I still occasionally load up an old game of Warcraft III or maybe the original Deus Ex. When you buy a game from OnLive you are essentially buying a license to play that game. I see four things that could disrupt my being able to play the game that I bought: 1) the contract runs out with the game company, 2) my internet connection status changes, 3) OnLive starts charging for their service again, or 4) OnLive goes belly-up.

    Regarding #1, when you purchase some games from OnLive it will tell you something like “You are guaranteed to be able to play this game until [a particular date]” and the date would be sometime 2013, for example. So, if you haven't finished the game by 2013, you are outta luck. OK, OK...most of you just said the obvious that if I haven't finished it by 2013, I'm probably not going to. And you're right. My point is that when buying a box or over Steam, I can if want to. The choice is there, because I own the game instead of it being licensed to me.

    It might or might not be my choice that cause #2 to take affect. If I move, the new location might not be able to provide the bandwidth needed to keep playing via OnLive. Or what if I'm at the same place, but over time my ISP starts overselling their bandwidth too much where performance just isn't there. Or the ISP raises their rates too high so I have to drop them. Any of these situations would mean I've lost the game that I bought.

    On #3, originally OnLive itself wasn't free...you had to pay just to connect to OnLive and be able to use the community features, etc. Imagine Steam charging you for it's community services, being able to view demos, etc. OnLive appears to have learned their lesson on this, but if they ever went back to this, I would almost certainly bail and thus lose my game.

    Finally for #4, Steam has been around for several years and is backed by Valve who's been around even longer. Even if Steam broke off on it's own (which maybe it should, but that's another discussion for another day), I feel more confident in it's long-term stability. I haven't heard anything and OnLive seems to be making good progress. I'm just looking at the fact that they are a relatively new company starting during an economy that is less than good. My confidence will grow over time as they prove they will be here for the long term.

    This is something I'm still working through in my own head, but I had to share my thoughts on the issue and would love to hear yours.

    Conclusion. In the end, the potential of “cloud gaming” is being shown, and I for one have been impressed. While clearly OnLive is not perfect, I think it has made a solid start. I hope the short comings will improve over time. The core of the technology was the main thing I had doubts of and OnLive has proved they can do it. They already have a solid enough of a platform that I think the game companies will be looking at it increasingly as things progress.


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    Rickster

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    Re: OnLive review - Part 2

    Post  Rickster on September 26th 2011, 3:43 am

    is it free just to watch others play? that was one of the features it offers right?

    WhiteBoy
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    Re: OnLive review - Part 2

    Post  WhiteBoy on September 26th 2011, 10:52 am

    Yeah, your account is free and you can watch others play for free. You don't have to own the game to watch them.

    Also, some interesting things that have turned up since I recorded that:
    • They give discounts for purchases if you subscribe to the PlayPack (I think it's typically 30% off). If you buy many games this could pretty easily pay for itself.

    • Also, I've seen some deals where if you pre-order a big title game, they give you a free console or a free game (your choice). Not bad.


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