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Do I want this? Game changer? Or just another game provider service?
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Spike
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March 12, 2010 - 12:56 pm
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I don't read a lot of gaming news (sorry guys), but I read this today and am wondering if it will offer anything that I can't get from another site.

Potential console killer OnLive to go live June 17

OnLive, a service aiming to knock off the traditional video game console model by delivering streaming games at high frame rates regardless of the power of a user's computer, will launch June 17 with partners like EA, Ubisoft, and 2K Games.

(Credit: OnLive)

Update 10:35 a.m. PST: This story has new details regarding where the OnLive service will be available and why it was delayed.

SAN FRANCISCO–OnLive, a streaming video game service that, if properly implemented, could threaten traditional console makers like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, announced Wednesday that it will launch on June 17.

In a speech at the Game Developers Conference here, OnLive CEO Steve Perlman said that the service will go live in the 48 contiguous United States during the E3 video game conference in Los Angeles, and, at an initial price of $14.95 a month, will offer consumers the ability to rent or purchase AAA games from the likes of Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, 2K Games, THQ, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

For OnLive to officially announce its launch date at GDC is appropriate, given that the service was first unveiled at the conference a year ago. At the time, gamers wanting to play full-scale console games were excited by the service's potential for obviating consoles like the Xbox, PlayStation 3, and Wii. According to OnLive, the service will work on most PCs or Macs via a browser plug-in, or on high-definition TVs via what the company is calling a MicroConsole adapter.

At GDC last year, OnLive said it expected its service to open to the public the coming winter. On stage Wednesday, Perlman admitted that the company is late, but said that since it's still winter right now, they will only be about three months late, and that the delays were partly based on wanting to make the service better than had been planned last year.

Upon its unveiling, OnLive promised that gamers would be able to get high frame rate, no-lag performance out of most console games, regardless of how powerful their computer is, and as long as they have minimum Internet connection speeds of 1.5 Mbps for standard-definition play, and 5 Mbps for HD.

"The really hard problem," said Perlman on Wednesday, "is how to get this to work reliably over consumer connections. [There are] packet drops, packets reordered, and other people using the connection." So, he said, OnLive builds error correction and error concealment into the data compression. "We don't have time to ask for a new packet, if the packet is lost or corrupted…We have to deal with what's coming in right then."

Last year, the company explained that it was able to deliver high-performance streaming of games due to a series of patented and patent-pending compression technologies. Rather than having consumers download the games, OnLive will host them all and stream them from a series of the highest-end servers.

OnLive argues that, among other things, this infrastructure model future-proofs customers because they will never have to upgrade their equipment. Rather, all the technology advances will happen on the back end.

However, many critics have questioned whether such a system can work under real-life conditions. Some have said that if users are too far away from OnLive's servers that there would be no possible way that the performance would be as good as advertised.

But on Wednesday, Perlman said that the service is intended to work as long as the customer is no more than 1,000 miles from a data center. And with data centers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Dallas, it hopes to obviate that problem. Still, getting an optimal connection isn't automatic on the Internet, he said. So the company has developed technology that finds the optimal route when someone connects.

Additionally, OnLive will likely have to have a significant budget for infrastructure upgrades every six months if it hopes to keep its servers up to the task of streaming the increasingly more powerful games coming out of the major game companies.

Of course, the question of whether users' proximity to the OnLive servers affects their quality of play is the most important question OnLive has to answer. If performance degrades as users get farther away from the company's servers, its potential user base will be much smaller than what is needed to seriously challenge the console makers, or any of the other companies, such as InstantAction, that seek to deliver console-quality games over the Internet.

OnLive CEO Steve Perlman speaks about the service at GDC in San Francisco.

(Credit: Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

If it does work, however, users may flock to the service in droves, particularly because they would be able to play their favorite games anywhere they can access a computer with the OnLive plug-in and a high-speed connection.

And, Perlman said, the service allows users to run their games on many kinds of devices. To demonstrate, he showed that it was possible to play games over OnLive on an iPhone.

First slate of games
With its Wednesday announcement, OnLive was a bit cagey as to which games will be available to players at launch. It said that it will officially announce the list of launch titles before E3, but also said that "anticipated" games include Borderlands, Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect 2, Assassin's Creed II, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, and Metro 2033.

The company also said that for their $14.95 a month fee, users will get a constantly expanding library of games. In addition, the first 25,000 "qualified" people to sign up for the service will have the fee waived for the first three months. It said interested gamers should go to its Web site for details on who qualifies for that offer.

The company said last year that it will likely offer free trials of some portion of games in a bid to let users make informed decisions about what they want to purchase. OnLive knows that some players will likely use that offering as an opportunity to test games and then buy them for their consoles, but as long as people come to OnLive, the company will probably be happy.

And given that social play is one of the most important elements of any gaming service, be it Xbox Live, Facebook, or an iPhone, OnLive promises that users will have access to a wide range of social features including spectating, a social feature in which users can digitally watch others play games in real time. As well, following the Xbox Live model, OnLive will offer what are known as "brag clips," which are 15-second replays of game action that players can share with friends to demonstrate their skills. That's possible, the company said, because the OnLive service is continually recording the last 15 seconds of action.

Now the question is whether OnLive can deliver on its promise. If it can, the Microsofts, Sonys, and Nintendos of the world will have something very serious to worry about. If not, it will be just another technology that offered to change the game but didn't execute.

"…you just keep on trying 'til you run out of cake."

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Yapette
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March 12, 2010 - 7:24 pm
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Spike, not sure which part of this service interests you.  However, or whatever, please be advised that your $15 monthly subscription fee will not include any games (to play). Those must be purchased separately. At least according to yesterday's news. Perhaps today's launch stated otherwise?

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xtal
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March 12, 2010 - 9:41 pm
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This is that "revolutionary cloud computing service" right?

I think this thing will take quite a bit of time to be fully realized and even accepted widely. If it also involves re-purchasing everything I already own, no thank you for now.

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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Spike
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March 14, 2010 - 2:15 pm
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I just read another article about the upcoming OnLive service.  I won't be getting onto the bandwagon.  The article explained that in order to have a good experience with the service we will have to have a very stable internet connection without lag/down times.  With Comcast this isn't possible, at least where I live.  In January I had to have a technician come out to figure out why my connection was, on any given day, either slow, intermittant, or down for hours at a time.  The signal coming inside was very weak he said.  And on further testing he determined that the amplifier that services my node of users needed to be replaced.  I don't know if the amplifier was ever replaced, but although my connection is somewhat more stable (technician told me he did something or another that would be a temporary fix), it isn't as it shoud be.  Having my connection go out at a crucial point in a game?  What's the point?  I can't see one.  This (internet technology) is just one of those areas where the US lags behind other countries.  Maybe some day....

"…you just keep on trying 'til you run out of cake."

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Helmut
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March 15, 2010 - 1:11 pm
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We looked at this a year ago or so. The basis of this is service are racks and racks of servers with high end graphics cards. The interesting development is their claim to having found a way to compress video frames quickly and apparently cheaply. You would play Crysis on their hardware and they send the images to you at a playable framerate over the network. Since the decompression on your end is fast and cheap, almost any computer can do it. That should mean the end of computer upgrades since everyone's computer is fast enough for the video work.

This idea has a number of interesting side effects. The video output can apparently be multicast to all the users of the server, so you can watch what any of the other users are doing. The video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....5oIr4o_MIk illustrates the idea of thousands of feeds being visible at the same time. What would be impossible with normal processing is easy when you think that the virtual desktop you're seeing is just a crunched image processed on their server and sent to you 30 times/second.  The broad notion of public tv broadcasting should also fit into this scheme.

As far as I can see, this would be the end of piracy, since the games wouldn't even be released to the public, only to the OnLive service, hence a certain attraction to some developers.

All your user interaction goes to the server, mouse, keys, and that is a permanent lag. Most players are pretty used to nearly instantaneous response to user controls locally with a certain amount of network lag in multiplayer games being expected and accepted. Network magic or not, this has to increase with distance and hops and I think this is the critical item in the service's success.

I used to think that it would matter how often the OnLive servers were updated with the latest H/W, but the success of consoles shows that people are good with less than cutting edge technology. If it becomes really popular it might even cannibalize the home CPU and GPU industries and become a victim of its own success. Personally, I suffer reasonably frequent outages in both networking and power, and am loathe to trust or depend on the cloud.

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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