Archive for the ‘OnLive’ Category

“A great disturbance in the Force. It was like a million voices crying out in unison, then suddenly silenced.”

Yes Star Wars, uttered by the famous Alec Guinness, as Obi-Wan Kenobi. And the reason why I am mentioning this?

http://www.ripten.com/2008/02/28/gaming-trends-part-2-the-state-of-pc-gaming/

I think this document says a lot about PC Gaming and the state of Piracy! It’s not about customers having to jump through humiliating loops in order to perform, and they are. It’s not about how illegal downloaders are laughing all the way to the bank, and they are. It’s not about the pure frustration the game publishers as they desperately try anything, and they are! It’s about the will of change, continuing to do something until they find a solution!

For the Pirates that are laughing, know this, piracy has forced a change in PC Gaming.

This change could go either way, after many times of losing sales and control of their products. Something had to give, and there are two choices, Stream Gaming, or something fair to both sides of the coin.

If the Game Publisher only released games on Streaming Platforms, they could charge what they liked and they will never lose control of their products. Since the conception of the computer, that has been the dream of any software developer, and others will follow suit. Do you seriously think that Microsoft will keep releasing MS Word 2003, 2007, 2010? No, but what if they had a cloud computing model where you buy a license for Word online, and they could charge you a flat fee, per month. Instead of encouraging you to buy newer versions, that looks just like the last one, they already have you paying for a monthly subscription.

Cloud computing! They wouldn’t dare do that for the PC Gaming industry! Would they? There are tonnes of negatives with this system, but from the publisher point of view there are none, the elimination of piracy and second hand sales. Are honest gamers taking the brunt because of the action of the few?

Perhaps Gamers have a point, Games are expensive, and DRM’s have been getting increasingly more restrictive! But piracy has done nothing except make Publishers angry, and gamers went about the complaint process the wrong way. We should not steal, and use justifications like the prices are too high, or because we don’t like the way things have been done! But gamers have made their bed, and it’s time to lie in it!

It should always be the customers who have the final voice, but this time, I fear that Publishers will win out. But I can’t disapprove of Publishers for wanting the Stream model, as it is a constant cash source.

Will the Publishers listen to the cry of the customer?

I think more to the point; did the customer listen to the cry of the Publisher?

Imagine a really fast sports car that costs €300,000, it does 0-60 in 3 seconds and looks real cool. Then imagine the car salesman forgetting to mention that you can never drive it on the road. What they’ll do instead is to keep it locked up for you. When you want to drive it, it can only be on their test track! Afterwards they pack it up, storing it back in the garage until you come to them next time!

Why would you want to do that?!?

OnLive recently released all across America (June 2010). It isn’t the first or the last, with many competitors such as StreamMyGame, OTOY, and Gaikai. It promises numerous benefits; just unfortunately none of them are for the PC gamers. Onlive uses Cloud computing, the idea is, a high power computer, will send you a video stream, of your game as you play it! The technology is great, but my head is full of alarm bells, and it’s time to wake up.

So the benefits (Taken from OnLive Presentation!)
• Video Games on Demand, No High End machine required.
• Available on any device (TV ,PC ,MAC).
• Next Gen Platform, Unprecedented performance, Never needs upgrading.
• Runs on home broadband connections (SDTV: 1.5 Mbps, HDTV: 5 Mbps).

All seems good and strong benefits for the gamer. But once you look at the angle of practicality, things start to look very shaky. I am impressed with the development and technology of Cloud Computing. I also don’t want to debunk any claims that these services won’t be able to deliver, I am sure they can. But as a gamer, my biggest grievance lies in the fact that …

You don’t physically own the game: Sure you can buy it, but it will never be yours, you’ll never hold it in your hands!
Video Games on Demand: is a great idea! Only for people who just enjoy gaming, but not having to buy a powerful machine. That is until you factor in your likely cost!
IF OnLive goes Bankrupt: They will not send you a copy of your game, and even less likely to send you your money back!
Latency becomes a huge issue: Any lag in the middle mile, the area of the internet between you and the website you are trying to connect to, will be detrimental. One of the main reasons why ISP won’t promise speeds, because they can’t guarantee what other networks might be running at.
True: OnLive has setup huge Data Centres, and you have to be within 1000 miles (1600km)! But if you read their support page (http://www.onlive.com/support/performance) you’ll find there are many things that can cause problems!
Currently the internet can’t handle that kind of bandwidth: ISP companies have been furiously rolling out fibre lines trying to keep up! Can the internet keep up with this kind of demand? And how will it affect the service?
OnLive Source “Improving Performance on the Internet”: (Which you can read here: http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2009/2/19323-improving-performance-on-the-internet/fulltext) Paints a hard picture of the increasing nature of the internet. Highlighting tonnes of issues that have to be overcome. (Fat File Paradox, Demand and orders of magnitude, latency of the Middle mile, Data Centers hit the “architecture scalability” wall). Onlive will suffer from all of these problems because it is a High bandwidth concern.
The Internet is based on old architecture and protocols: These increase latency and cause other problems to internet services that require high bandwidth like video streaming. These don’t have simple answers, and the answer we do have for them require time and lots of hard work updating the structures involved.
DoS: We have seen it many times, denial of service attacks. Most recently the attacks on UbiDRM, which cut out legal users from the service. Luckily the number affected was minimal. But then again the bandwidth connection was a small keep-alive signal. OnLive plan to send video streams, by comparison to a small stream feeding an ocean, this would be the planet underwater!
You can’t use Wifi Routers: so you can’t play on your laptop, you have to be plugged into the wall at all times.
Download Quota: some people have a limit per month, sometimes as low as 5 GB p/m, and if they go over that then they have to pay the extra at quite a premium.
55 Minutes of Gaming! So at the lowest bandwidth (Standard TV at 1.5 Mbps) this means that you’ll hit that limit in under an hour! Formula: (5000Mb / 1.5Mb) / 60 seconds = Time until Limit. For the sake of OnLive, I hope they don’t use the full 1.5 Mb per second!
18 GB an Hour: Forget about SDTV, if you opt for the HD service, your line had better be able to pull down 18 GBs of data for an hour’s gaming!
Nobody cares about upload: often ISP will tell you the download speed, and will boast about it. This means that the upload speed could be severely restrictive.
One Game is SDTV 32.4GB or HDTV 108GB: Let’s say you are a fast gamer and able to complete the latest shooter in 6 hours, this equates to a huge amount of data that has to be downloaded to your home!
Bandwidth cap (Fair Access policy): Users can be kicked off the network by their ISP for over usage of their internet connection. Downloading 5 or 18 GBs per hour is likely to draw attention to you and upset your ISP. This will particularly affect users who subscribe to Satellite and Cable providers. Constant over use of the network can be dealt by imposing restrictive limits on your speed and even banning you from the network. This may result in you having to go to another Internet Service Provider.
Most ISP can only provide burst speeds: This means that a connection speed is only deliverable for about the time it takes to download a webpage or a YouTube clip, for a few minutes at most. A constant draw on the bandwidth can mean restrictions, which your ISP may impose but not inform you about!
Only Child: Remember if anyone else is using the home connection this will double the pressure on your broadband connection. If you’re a child you better hope that your sibling isn’t a subscriber or doesn’t like watching streaming videos.
Contention Ratio: Broadband companies should state your connection speed, and tell you your contention ratio. At peak times, on a ratio of 24:1, it means there could be 24 people on the same 1.5Mbps connection, though this is highly unlikely.
No Promises from your Broadband Company: they will not guarantee a 100% connection speed! Just from a technical point, this is almost impossible!
Low Current Settings: Onlive only supports one setting at the moment, which is the HD version of this gaming system, at a very low resolution of 1280×720. (When compare to a capable PC processing power!)
Available on any device: Currently only available on PC and Intel MAC’s. Most PCs and Macs, that belong to gamers, the people likely to play OnLive system, will be able to play these games anyhow.
PC gamers have enjoyed a relatively low cost: compared to the console versions. But now, OnLive will be charging console prices for PC Gamers.
Offering gaming at a very low resolution: Granted PC, and MAC’s aren’t cheap, but with gaming on demand, you’re trading one set of problems for another. But offering Standard TV resolutions will only mean blurry images!
Your monitor has to be design for Video: One of the main problems of computer screens are the video playback problem effects.
You may have to resize your screen: Depending on your screen size, this could lead to poor quality video. Or even having to window your game!
HDTV at 720p: this means a resolution of 1280×720, progressive scan. And if you are playing powerful games, such as Crysis, this is a huge benefit. For all other games, the benefits aren’t as tangible, and your PC could probably play them anyway!
720p TVs are slowing being phased out: This requires more information to be sent, to upgrade to the next HDTV size 1080!

However, the fact that you’ll never have to upgrade the box is a cool idea: While that won’t be completely true, as there will always be something that will probably require some upgrade. For the main part, the system is behind the scenes, and most of the upgrading will be there, and therefore not seen!
Brag Clips: Yeah those are cool!
Playing on Mobile Devices: Very cool but comes with some problems too! They require Wifi access, and not a normal link, but a high speed connection!

I think cloud computing is a great idea; but it should aid the PC, rather than taking over completely. The PC is the driving force of the technology boom; all modern miracles owe something to the PC. Even if it’s just a secretary of the firm working on the PC, just to write that one letter more productively.

As for cloud computing, it’s a nice dream for Game Publishers, but the end of my dreams as an avid gamer! Oh and my apologies for picking on Onlive; I don’t hate them at all, I just think the method is flawed!