June 18th, 2010
First announced last year, California start-up OnLive promised to stream high-definition video games to any computer or TV this month, regardless of the processing power (or lack thereof). As promised, the company opened its server-based gaming doors today on a “first come, first serve” basis. So is seeing believing?
I’m on the waiting list to try the service myself. But at least one developer has experienced encouraging results at launch, despite the assumed bandwidth bottlenecks. “I have the cheapest, residential Comcast plan possible -- nothing special,” blogs Wolfire developer Jeff Graham. “All I can really say is that ‘it works for me,’ at least under the light beta load.”
Graham’s early review comes with several caveats, however. For one thing, a slower broadband connection such as DSL won’t even let you access the system. That’s understandable, but it leaves a hefty amount of players outside looking in (at least an estimated 50%).
What’s more, Graham’s stress test was done under “light load,” something OnLive is continuing to control by only allowing a trickle of new customers at current. What happens as more people logjam the line? “We may soon find out if OnLive works on a larger scale,” admits Graham.
Lastly, control latency “is definitely noticeable,” says Graham, aftering playing F.E.A.R. 2, Batman, and Unreal Tournament 3 over the service. “It takes a moment to adjust to,” he says, “But I quickly got used to it.” Graham is at a regional advantage, however, simply by living in San Franscico, where OnLive is headquartered. What about the guy living in Des Moines, Iowa?
On the subject of connection and relay bottlenecks, Graham writes, “OnLive seems to be addressing this by having many geographic data centers and by striking deals with various ISPs. They are very tightlipped about the specifics.”
Nevertheless, he says, “OnLive is the most impressive demo of cloud computing to date. The fact that [they] have apparently tackled this beast pretty well opens a ton of possibilities.”
I’ll reserve final judgment until after I test the system from my own home. And while I won’t deny what Graham calls an effective “proof of concept,” OnLive will forever remain a concept (or at least one with isolated availability) if the system doesn’t open itself up to millions of players with imperfect connections.
|Stories you may have missed:|