Still skeptical as to whether or not OnLive can live up to the lofty promises it’s made? Well then, now’s your chance to take a peek behind the curtain and finally reveal the smoke and mirrors, alien technology, or whatever else is back there.
OnLive’s beta has officially begun. If you want in on the action, just head over to OnLive’s official site, enter some info on your connection speed, and wait a bit. With any luck, you’ll nab a golden ticket, and you’ll be running Crysis on your TI-84 calculator before you know it.
Seriously, though: 60 FPS? 720p? On, say, a machine that hasn’t seen the light of day since 1997? It sounds too good to be true. But we want to believe. OnLive, please don’t break your promises. We’ve been hurt so many times before.
Crytek boss Cevat Yerli’s desire to be the Miss Cleo of the videogame world is becoming a tad transparent. First, he conjured up visions of the next console generation’s arrival in his crystal ball, and now, he’s predicting that Cloud gaming services like OnLive won’t be viable until – at the earliest – 2013.
"We had our research in 2005 on this subject but we stopped around 2007 because we had doubts about economics of scale. But that was at a time when bandwidth was more expensive," he said.
"We saw that by 2013 - 2015 with the development of bandwidths and household connections worldwide that it might become more viable then."
So why was Crytek’s computer-crippling shooter Crysis plastered all over OnLive’s demo screens at last week’s GDC? Apparently, that was out of Crytek’s hands.
"We're not involved, we just allowed Crysis to be tested on it," he said. "It will be interesting to see how it happens under millions of users. Let's say more than a few hundred users, how it will behave.”
Sounds like he’s really raining on Cloud’s parade. Yeah, we got nothing.
Doing the impossible can certainly score you all manner of fame and publicity, but as online gaming service OnLive has recently proven, merely alluding to the fact that you intend to do the impossible can earn just as many ears. Last week, after hearing about the service only a few days prior, gamers looked on with a mix of horror and grim satisfaction as OnLive’s big talker received his first stern talking-to, courtesy of Eurogamer’s Richard Leadbetter.
Now, though, OnLive CEO Steve Perlman is firing back. Check out his retorts below.
Problem #1: Servers are too expensive.
“Regarding server costs, [Leadbetter] does not understand server economics. It doesn’t matter how many subscribers you have per server. It matters how much revenue you earn per server.… OnLive servers earn many dollars per user each month (many orders of magnitude more than a CPM-based business), and when one user is offline, another user is online, so even a server that is only serving one user at a time (e.g. for Crysis), is reused by many users each month.”
“And lastly, the cost of a server is much less than a home gamer PC: we don’t have the case, disk drive, optical drive, etc. And we don’t have to worry about retail markup, customer service, etc.”
Problem #2: OnLive’s encoder can’t possibly run at 1000fps.
“He’s confusing compression latency (1ms) with frame time. The frame time is NOT 1ms (which would imply 1000 fps). It’s 16.7ms (which implies 60fps). Just as linear video compression time is much HIGHER latency than one frame time (e.g. 500ms latency does NOT imply a 2fps frame rate), interactive video compression is much LOWER latency that one frame time.”
Perlman also concluded by noting that many “top-tier game publishers” spent years behind the curtain with OnLive, verifying that their technology is more than just smoke and mirrors. Otherwise, one can infer, they wouldn’t have thrown their support behind OnLive in the first place.
Seems pretty air-tight to us. OnLive launches this fall. We’ll be there on day one, slurping down every last bit of pudding, searching tirelessly for the proof.
Love the idea to pieces or think it flies in the face of everything PC gaming stands for, you can’t deny that OnLive’s ambitions are a bit lofty. After all, saying that you'll invite the PC back into the cool kids' club is one thing, but converting big talk into much, much bigger action is something else entirely. And according to Eurogamer’s resident tech expert, that “something else entirely” is “impossible.” Reason numero uno?
“To give the kind of performance OnLive is promising (720p at 60 frames-per-second) realistically its datacenters are going to require the processing equivalent of a high-end dual core PC running a very fast GPU - a 9800GT minimum, and maybe something a bit meatier depending on whether the 60fps gameplay claim works out, and which games will actually be running. That’s for every single connection OnLive is going to be handling,” said Eurogamer’s Richard Leadbetter.
But that’s still technically possible; it’d just require a subscription fee that’d make even Rumpelstiltskin go white with sheer terror. Now how about this little number?
“First of all, bear in mind that YouTube’s encoding farms take a long, long time to produce their current, offline 2MBps 30fps HD video. OnLive is going to be doing it all in real-time via a PC plug-in card, at 5MBps, and with surround sound too.”
“It sounds brilliant, but there’s one rather annoying fact to consider: the nature of video compression is such that the longer the CPU has to encode the video, the better the job it will do. Conversely, it’s a matter of fact that the lower the latency, the less efficient it can be.”
“OnLive overlord Steve Perlmen has said that the latency introduced by the encoder is 1ms. Think about that; he’s saying that the OnLive encoder runs at 1000fps. It’s one of the most astonishing claims I’ve ever heard. It’s like Ford saying that the new Fiesta’s cruising speed is in excess of the speed of sound.”
Hit the link to see Leadbetter’s solution to OnLive’s colossal conundrum. Even with that in mind, though, the rub of it all remains the same: OnLive seems a little too good to be true.
After seven years of stealth development at Rearden Labs (a startup incubator), OnLive today unveiled itself as a new game service to deliver on-demand games. Basically, instead of running your games on a PC or console at home, you connect your HDTV to a small MicroConsole which receives compressed video from a remote server that actually renders and processes your games. The immediate benefits of the service is its low entry cost, since you don't have to build a high-end gaming PC or invest $500 on a next-gen gaming console. Games purchased with OnLive are activated on remote servers and the only data that is streamed to you is gameplay video and audio. You never have to download software, patches, or handle physical media. Think of it as video-on-demand but for games.
We met with OnLive's founders at Rearden Labs last week to get a sneak preview of the service, try out some games, and grill the developers about how OnLive actually works.
Think streaming video is impractical for gaming? You might be surprised...