Review

Neowin Review: OnLive cloud gaming service

OnLive main screen

Earlier this month a company named OnLive unleased a new type of online gaming to the web. The service allows you to play the games they offer online without the need to install anything more than a client for OnLive.

New games can have some hefty hardware requirements, take up drive space and take a little while to install. With OnLive you don't have to worry about any of that, the OnLive client is only a 544Kb download, the system requirements are fairly simple and after you purchase a game it is up and running in almost not time at all. The minimum requirements for OnLive are:

  • PC: Windows® 7 or Vista (32 or 64-bit) or XP (32-bit)
  • Mac: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
  • Processor: Dual-core CPU
  • Screen Resolution: 1280x720
  • Internet Connection: 5 Mbps located inside the contiguous United States (wired connection required)

One of the key items to note from the requirements is the wired connection. The software checks to see if you are connected to a wired or wireless connection, if you are on a wireless connection you will get an error telling you to plug in before you can use the service. OnLive did say that they will support wireless in the future but at this early stage it would add another layer of complexity to the development.

To get access to the OnLive service it is $4.95 per month. The subscription fee pays for you to access the service which lets you play the game demos. While testing the service the demos lasted for 30 minutes at a time. To play a game you have to buy a PlayPass which gives you unlimited access to the game for the duration of your pass or until the game is removed from the service. OnLive says that the average life of a game on the service is three years but they intend to leave the games on the service as long as they are being played.  

Logging into the OnLive client is pretty simple, you enter your username and password, they client checks your computer to be sure it meets the requirements and you are ready to start gaming. I loaded two different games as demos to see how quickly they would load and how smoothly they played. The first game I opened was Assassin's Creed which loaded in almost no time at all. The video below, which is only 30 seconds, shows how long it takes to go from the menu to the game being loaded. Once in the game everything went along with out any issues. As the service grows I suspect the load time will be a little longer.

Since everything went so well with Assassin's Creed II, I moved onto Borderlands which loaded up even quicker and the game play was just as smooth. While playing the game I noticed I wasn't able to skip the in game videos. I suspect that OnLive uses the video time as a chance to load more of the game but I haven't played Borderlands outside of this demo so it may have been like that by design.

One of the other features that stuck out was the Arena, inside there you can see a live view of all the gamers connected to OnLive and a live stream of them playing their game, it was kind of fun to go in there and be a spectator. Overall I would say that the OnLive service has been executed quite well and I think they have a bright future ahead of them. But, I still have a hard time getting used to the thought of paying for access to play the game rather than buying the game itself.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Hulu Plus announced with support for iPad and iPhone

Next Story

Cisco working on Android tablet for the enterprise

32 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Any ideas on whether or not they will allow this in Canada, where the laws are different there?. I was just wondering because i was thinking of sites like Hulu and Netflix which are not allowed in Canada due to the laws.

CoMMo said,
My wireless G connection runs just fine. Speedtest.net just clocked me at 11.8 Mbps.

They're not saying wireless isn't fast enough to handle the service.

If Comcast in our area has its way, eventually they will try to prevent these services so you can run "interactive games" on their set top boxes just like this... then they have control of the video game industry, the internet, tv, phone...... they are tryign to kill off movie theaters with "in home theater" with the movies in your house the same day they are in the theater...... etc... companies like them are getting too much control..... how long until someone like comcast buys onlive?

Like the guy above me, this kind of service is doomed from the start if ISP's have their way. Anyways, I want to be able to play my games the way I want, with or without an internet connection, mod/tweak, and not suddenly lose all my game progress or the ability to play through again if (when) the service goes under.

Essentially, to me, this service takes all the perks of a PC -mouse/keyboard, and takes them away. I'm better off on a big screen playing my 360

problems...... lag...... ISP caps on monthly downloads / daily downloads in some places..... game selection....

and I hope you have a good system that can decode MPEG-4 fast (one reason they want a fast system is for video decoding)... I hope they are offloading that to the GPU on systems that have a card that can do hardware decoding of that video

ISP Caps are the dealbreaker here whether Onlive takes off or not. In my situation I'd have to play midnight onwards just to not worry about the cap. These caps that ISPs impose can't stay around for long and need to be gone with the way the Internet and content delivery is heading.

neufuse said,
problems...... lag...... ISP caps on monthly downloads / daily downloads in some places..... game selection....

and I hope you have a good system that can decode MPEG-4 fast (one reason they want a fast system is for video decoding)... I hope they are offloading that to the GPU on systems that have a card that can do hardware decoding of that video

More likely being handled by the CPU. They do have dual-core in system requirements after all. If you had the machine to run those games anyway, why bother with OnLive instead of buying the games? I didn't see any console exclusives in their selection and when I was trying out a couple of games to test the thing, I was getting instructions for keyboard + mouse rather than console buttons. Not sure how that is going to be handled either as I didn't see anywhere I could do controller configuration in the software.

Then you run into a game like Heavenly Sword where the Sixaxis tends to be a heavily used feature and you can't really play the game as you don't have something like that.

Answered my own question. They posted more information in their FAQ about the wired requirement (http://www.onlive.com/support/performance):

#

Wi-Fi:

Currently, to use OnLive, you need a wired Ethernet connection to the Internet. If you normally use Wi-Fi in your home, you'll need to connect your computer directly to the Internet with an Ethernet cable. Also, you'll need to make sure that your computer is using the wired connection as its preferred connection to the Internet, not the Wi-Fi connection. This may require you to disconnect from the wireless network you are using.

We realize that not currently supporting wireless could be a major hassle for many of you, and we'd like you to understand why:

OnLive technology does indeed work well with good quality Wi-Fi connections, and in the future OnLive will support wireless. But OnLive is a very new technology that uses the Internet in ways it has never been used before. During initial stages of the rollout of the OnLive service, we need to be able to understand and address Internet connection issues as they arise. Since wireless connections are subject to interference and drop-outs, when users are connected to OnLive through wireless, it adds another layer of network issues that are hard for us to separate out from Internet issues. Once OnLive is better established, we will be able to allow wireless connections. Bear in mind that at such time as wireless is supported, OnLive will require a good quality Wi-Fi connection to provide a steady gaming experience.

We apologize for the inconvenience of requiring a wired Internet connection at this time.

Hmm, it doesn't seem smooth at all for me by these videos.
Were there any issues with the recording or did they really run like this?
I'm already really excited about this service even though it will probably take some time to reach Europe...

Thrasko said,
Hmm, it doesn't seem smooth at all for me by these videos.
Were there any issues with the recording or did they really run like this?
I'm already really excited about this service even though it will probably take some time to reach Europe...
What doesn't look smooth was my fault with the clicking and the movement I fail at games.

I'd like more details on why they require a wired connection. I think some people may actually be interested in the "complexity" bringing in a wireless connection. What is being utilized, etc. If it's laggy, that's fine - I'd like to know whether it was really caused by poor wif connection or something else. I would think Wireless-N would be fast enough these days to really keep up with a wired connection, guess not.

Tarrant64 said,
I'd like more details on why they require a wired connection. I think some people may actually be interested in the "complexity" bringing in a wireless connection. What is being utilized, etc. If it's laggy, that's fine - I'd like to know whether it was really caused by poor wif connection or something else. I would think Wireless-N would be fast enough these days to really keep up with a wired connection, guess not.

yea, most people use computers are mobile because its easier and more effective for work and for gaming, not many people have desktops because they are old and clunky and its onlive's fault for not including wireless. No we dont get the same amount of bandwidth speed but its still efficient for what the company is asking for. Oh well =(

Xypro said,
yea, most people use computers are mobile because its easier and more effective for work and for gaming, not many people have desktops because they are old and clunky and its onlive's fault for not including wireless. No we dont get the same amount of bandwidth speed but its still efficient for what the company is asking for. Oh well =(

Laptops are more effective for gaming? News to me. Heck, my mom's year-old laptop can't even run League of Legends and the problem comes from the graphics card, which you can't really replace on a laptop. Then there's the whole thing with the keyboard being rather tiny and the keys being uncomfortable. You could hook up a keyboard to it, I know, but how mobile are you then? Are you going to lug a laptop with a mouse, mousepad and a keyboard attached to it all over the place? Should we also look at screen size too? Or are you going to hook up a monitor to your 17" laptop as well?

I'll stick with my desktop for gaming, thank you very much.

Metodi Mitov said,

Laptops are more effective for gaming? News to me. Heck, my mom's year-old laptop can't even run League of Legends and the problem comes from the graphics card, which you can't really replace on a laptop. Then there's the whole thing with the keyboard being rather tiny and the keys being uncomfortable. You could hook up a keyboard to it, I know, but how mobile are you then? Are you going to lug a laptop with a mouse, mousepad and a keyboard attached to it all over the place? Should we also look at screen size too? Or are you going to hook up a monitor to your 17" laptop as well?

I'll stick with my desktop for gaming, thank you very much.

Uh...my laptop works great for gaming, and it plays everything I own just fine. Buying some cheap laptop designed for surfing the web and writing office documents is a complete assinine and BS example for what a well designed, graphics card equipped laptop can do. So is the keyboard size; its not a netbook, and for many games having keys *slightly* closer just means easier to reach keybindings. They're a more expensive upgrade for the next big thing, that's it.

thornz0 said,

Uh...my laptop works great for gaming, and it plays everything I own just fine. Buying some cheap laptop designed for surfing the web and writing office documents is a complete assinine and BS example for what a well designed, graphics card equipped laptop can do. So is the keyboard size; its not a netbook, and for many games having keys *slightly* closer just means easier to reach keybindings. They're a more expensive upgrade for the next big thing, that's it.

Keys being closer is uncomfortable for me. I can usually pull out 60 WPM easily on a keyboard, but on a laptop that number drops down to 30-35 and I haven't had any kind of formal training in that regard. Kind of a waste of time if you ask me overall. Not to mention that there really is no need to have keys being closer for gaming to begin with. How many games that run with a keyboard and mouse do you need to use the whole keyboard as opposed to half of it that you can reach with one hand?

As to the laptop in question being cheap, well... it did cost me something around $1,500 at the time I bought it. I don't remember what it had inside off the top of my head, but it had at least 2 gigs of ram out of the box, though I did upgrade that to 4 at some point, the graphics card is still crap, and while it can play stuff like WoW and NWN 2 without any hiccups, it does so at a roughly medium-level of detail. Now, if it were a desktop, the issue could be solved with something like $150-200 to get a top of the line graphics card as opposed to going to buy a new laptop for another $1,500-2000 that will be outdated in another year or two where you'd have to spend another nice wad of cash for it rather than swapping out components that are cheaper in a longer period of time.

Metodi Mitov said,

Keys being closer is uncomfortable for me. I can usually pull out 60 WPM easily on a keyboard, but on a laptop that number drops down to 30-35 and I haven't had any kind of formal training in that regard. Kind of a waste of time if you ask me overall. Not to mention that there really is no need to have keys being closer for gaming to begin with. How many games that run with a keyboard and mouse do you need to use the whole keyboard as opposed to half of it that you can reach with one hand?

As to the laptop in question being cheap, well... it did cost me something around $1,500 at the time I bought it. I don't remember what it had inside off the top of my head, but it had at least 2 gigs of ram out of the box, though I did upgrade that to 4 at some point, the graphics card is still crap, and while it can play stuff like WoW and NWN 2 without any hiccups, it does so at a roughly medium-level of detail. Now, if it were a desktop, the issue could be solved with something like $150-200 to get a top of the line graphics card as opposed to going to buy a new laptop for another $1,500-2000 that will be outdated in another year or two where you'd have to spend another nice wad of cash for it rather than swapping out components that are cheaper in a longer period of time.

All those problems minus cost are your own, and I acknowledged cost. And honestly, the whole "fat finger" problem, is BS. Most 15" and larger laptops have very generous keys these days.

thornz0 said,

All those problems minus cost are your own, and I acknowledged cost. And honestly, the whole "fat finger" problem, is BS. Most 15" and larger laptops have very generous keys these days.

Seeing how we went into mocking, this discussion is officially over.

Gameplay was a little laggy for me. Hopefully it gets fixed before launch ... But I would still definitely consider purchasing a PayPass for a PC game exclusive that I couldn't play on consoles otherwise. I just hope they can keep their prices competitive ... perhaps have sales like Steam?

Borderlands looks laggy.

I have two question:
-Why the requirement include to have a dual core?.
-What is the quality used in the games? Full-detail or some mix?.

Magallanes said,
Why the requirement include to have a dual core?.

I think because you need to render a 720p video stream on your processor

What about response time, is there any input lag? I get my arse kicked in FPS games enough as it is.

What games are currently available?

DARKFiB3R said,
What about response time, is there any input lag? I get my arse kicked in FPS games enough as it is.

What games are currently available?

Response times are okay. I tested the service for a bit and it played FPS fine. Then again, it depends on your connection latency. The list of games at the moment is pretty short, but you can easily go to their website (http://www.onlive.com) to get the full list. Assassin's Creed II and Borderlands are pretty much the things worth mentioning there at the moment, though.

mrmckeb said,
Innnteresting. I think this kind of service may well be the future... once connection speeds improve everywhere.

I agree, I can't play it because I only have 1 Mbps DSL connection and the minimum is 5 Mbps connection. But I hope that in a few years the price of DSL drop dramatically so I can able to pay for 5 Mbps connection.