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EGX Diaries: OnLive

Netflix for gaming. What’s not to love?

I was lucky enough to catch up with two of the OnLive dudes for a wee chat about their product and their vision of its future. They had to put up with some of my questions.

Interface 2OnLive is a pretty sweet application. It allows you to play games anywhere you have a decent enough connection, think of it as Netflix for games. Not sold on it yet? Well I wasn’t sold outright at first too, so the questions came.

At first I was sceptical, it all sounded too good. But my friendly faced sherpas of knowledge guided me towards the light that could quite possibly be the future of gaming. Thanks to stream software such as Netflix, people have become more accustomed to not owning, but trying for free (minus the subscription). So OnLive doesn’t seem like such an alien concept anymore.

I was told of the redesign of the user experience, this was done primarily so that the app could run on almost any sized device. Currently limited to Android, in regards to mobile devices, OnLive allows you to play graphic and processor intensive games on any system that has the app, and also allows HD video to stream to it.

Cloud LiftAfter this I was given a demonstration of it’s power. On the huge TV behind me they had the application already running. They then offered me a controller and let me loose, I opted to play Batman Arkham Asylum (a pretty intensive game) to fully test out OnLive. It handled it perfectly, there was not visible lag and this was all done through the convention’s internet. I was amazed, the video quality was perfect, the controls were responsive and the sound was spot on.

This was explained to me as the look on my face was that of a childs. Bandwidth only determines how much you can get, so it fluctuates between higher and lower speeds. The OnLive servers detects how much is available and adjusts it’s stream so that you are consistently getting 720p at 60 fps. A lot of you will suggest why not 1080p? Am I right? Well it can do that, but it would only be at 30 fps, so OnLive made the executive decision of increased frame rate. Another note that was added, it was a boast but an impressive one, is that OnLive has not had any downtime in 5 years. 5 years! That is an extraordinary amount of time when it comes to technology.

OnLive currently have 2 products to whet your appetite. On March 5th, of this year, a drastic change happened to OnLive, it was called CloudLift. CloudLift is where you can take the Steam games you own, and play them on your phone, work computer and even android TVs (if OnLive has a license for them). The major selling point for me here was letting me play AAA games on my phone. What’s not to love? This also allows you to save to the cloud so that any progress you make will carry on.

Play PackThe second product on offer is PlayPack. PlayPack is the Netflixy side of the service. You are given a hoard of games to choose from, for free, that you don’t have to own. This might not be for everyone, but I saw a lot more potential in PlayPack than I did in CloudLift. PlayPack updates frequently with additional content. This seemed like a possible avenue for indie developers. They would be able to get far more coverage of their game, as I feel people are far more likely to try something they haven’t heard too much about if they don’t have to pay for it. Another note for this side, if there was a recommended section or OnLive choice section to show what they have been playing. Also a new section or indie section wouldn’t go amiss here.

When it comes to OnLive and android phones, you do need to have a controller connected (HID input) to play the games. Luckily for all you Moga and Moga Pro users OnLive works with them. OnLive has partnered up with GreenManGaming too, this allows them to sell games, that users enjoy, to the OnLive users. Partnerships are how OnLive will break through their boundaries and into the public eye.

My GamesMy thought throughout the entire interview, passed my initial stumbling of coming to terms with the service and products, was that this should be the future of gaming. Imagine not having the need to buy hugely expensive hardware updates for your computer just so you can play the latest game. Imagine not having to wait upto an hour to play the latest game in your favourite franchise, just click the play button and be the first to get that achievement. Imagine you and all your friends being able to play the same game, without someone needing to buy it to fit in. This is inclusive gaming, it feels like it should be the future of competitive gaming and it will save us money on huge purchases of computer parts. It also gives visibility to unknown games. I may have walked in wary of what was to happen, but I walked out with a smile at how impressive it all was.

Watch this space too, as I have subscribed to the service and I will write a follow up feature about what it is like from a user’s standpoint. So far it is awesome!

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