OnLive : review

Posted: September 17, 2011 in Games
Tags: ,

Onlive, announced soon in France, allows to play on PC games that aren’t yet available on mac, or that require a more powerful processor and/or graphics card (the computer becomes a terminal – rendering is made on remote servers). The client software (native application – not web) presents an array of video screens for current playing users, and also allows testing of most of listed games (15 to 30mn session time).

On a 2,4 Ghz mac mini with Nvidia 320M and 14Mbits/s connection games are really smooth (in fact better than on native versions – notably in Assassin’s Creed 2) and images are rendered at max quality on the server. However the required compression (to send these 30-60 fps through the network) leads to lower quality and lower resolution (depends from game to game), with many artefacts and blur (less sharp image). Here are results testing some games :

– Siberia 2 : the image size is medium and the ratio isn’t right (horizontally compressed image – switching to 1280*960 instead of a 16/10 screen resolution helps a little). The pointer experiences initial accelerating (not constant speed).

– Deus Ex : the game is smooth however the image (mid sized) is of low quality (lots of blur – the original textures of that old game also weren’t the best).

– Dirt 3 : the game is perfectly smooth and controls does not experience any lag. The original rendering is great and compensates the later compression (image size is also better).

– HomeFront : the game is smooth and rendering quality is also great before compression.

The price seems too much high for now (the same as for native versions – and about 3-5$ for a few days) however the technology seems the future of computer games (notably on macs where graphics card are not on part with PC ones).

Upcoming VDSL2+ connections will allow twice the actual bandwidth for most users and then better image quality/less compression (a settings to choose between max quality and max framerate would be great), despite leading to higher latency. This should not be a problem as connecting to US servers (125ms ping time compared with 45ms time for local/french servers) doesn’t lead to lag yet .

For now Onlive is a better way of testing games than Youtube videos. The interactive features (access tp live gamers sessions, audio and/or video chat) also help discovering (and then buying) of new games.

  1. Best ping time with Onlive’s Washington servers is 132 ms from Paris. The service opened in UK on September, 22, 2011 and is expected soon in Belgium, Luxembourg. Ping time to Luxembourg is 62ms, then it could be ok waiting for France based servers (42 ms).

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