Home' LAPTOP Magazine : September 2010 Contents Since it was first unveiled at the Game
Developer's Conference last year, many
people have been both amazed and
skeptical about OnLive. The online gaming
service touts itself as "the future of video
games," and it's easy to see why: games are
run on remote servers instead of directly from
the user's notebook. In theory, this means that
a budget notebook with integrated graphics can
play the same games through OnLive that would
normally require a powerful gaming rig.
It sounds too good to be true, and as a result
OnLive has its fair share of naysayers that claim
latency and compression could easily ruin the
experience. Demonstrations by OnLive's CEO
Steve Perlman blew us away, showing games
running lag-free even on an iPad. Now that
OnLive is officially available to the public, we
decided to give it a spin to see if the service
lived up to its promises.
Unfortunately, our first round of testing
was full of technical issues. When we tried
using OnLive in the office, the service said
our Internet connection was insufficient to
provide good video quality. As a result, we
tried it out on a 15-Mbps home connection.
During initial attempts, our connection was
constantly dropped after a minute or two.
Even once we established a stable connection,
there was enough input lag that most games
felt awkward to play. However, after installing
a patch the next day, we no longer had any
connection problems. It's likely that the high
amount of first-day traffic led to unforeseen
problems that were fixed via the patch.
To put OnLive's claims to the test, we ran the
service on a 2.5-year-old 13-inch HP Pavilion
dv2500 with integrated graphics and a Centrino
Duo processor. Once we logged in, we tried run-
ning a few of OnLive's 19 launch titles: F.E.A.R. 2,
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Shatter,
and Unreal Tournament 3. In PoP (an action/
adventure game released in May) and Shat-
ter (a less graphically intensive arcade-style
game), OnLive ran almost flawlessly. We didn't
notice any frame rate jumps, and the games
played as if we were running them directly
from the notebook.
Load times were consistently under 10
seconds. In F.E.A.R. 2 and UT3, which are both
fast-paced first-person shooters, we noticed
a slight amount of lag when aiming with the
mouse. While casual players may not even
notice this latency, hardcore gamers will find
themselves yearning for a little more precision.
All of the games we played looked great, and
while there was some compression, we only
saw it in F.E.A.R. 2 (most likely because of the
game's dark environments).
Each game is locked at a 1280 × 720 (720p)
resolution with preset video options. There's no
question that a fully decked out gaming laptop
could display these titles with better visuals.
OnLive's Arena feature lets you watch live
footage of other users' gaming sessions. While
the interface is impressive, it feels more like a
tech demo than anything else.
There are signs that OnLive rushed the service
out the door prematurely. While the iOS ver-
sion and a dedicated micro-console for HDTVs
have both been showcased at press events,
neither were available at launch. Moreover,
the dual-core CPU and 1280 × 720 resolution
requirements mean that most netbooks are out,
even though they would greatly benefit from
this service. Most alarmingly, as of press time
OnLive supported only wired connections.
Currently, new subscribers get one year free,
but they still have to pay for games separately.
Once OnLive starts asking for a monthly fee, in
addition to paying for games, consumers may
be turned off. The library also seems lacking in
spots. For example, Batman: Arkham Asylum c a n
only be purchased in three or five day rentals
for under $10, whereas Ubisoft games only
offer unlimited play for full retail price. One
game, Mass Effect 2, is not available on Macs.
And despite the fact that EA's Crysis was once
shown as the flagship title for the service, it
was clearly missing from the launch lineup. We
suspect OnLive will need to do some more work
with game publishers to fill in these gaps.
Once we finally got OnLive working, we
had a satisfying gaming experience. However,
technical issues currently hold the service
back from living up to its potential. While this
cloud-gaming approach could be a viable
alternative to buying a pricey gaming rig, we
would hold off a few months until the kinks are
* Note: As of press time, OnLive has not released
the price of the monthly fee that will apply to those
who sign up after Labor Day.
ONLIVE FIRST LOOK
Hands-on with the cloud gaming service that could change everything.
by Tom Briechle
LAPTOP | September 2010
NEWS & TRENDS
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