OnLive: Inside and Out

OnLive unveils their new console and aims to overthrow the existing gaming status quo.

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Check out our coverage of the GDC 2009 OnLive Press Conference for more information about this new technology!

Imagine playing a computer game without any hassles. Drivers, troubleshooting, installations, compatibility, performance--all thrown out the window. Upgrading? A thing of the past. All you have to do is click on the game, and seconds later, you're playing. That's what OnLive claims to deliver. Should it work half as well as advertised, expect to see the gaming world thrown into upheaval by a box no bigger than a deck of playing cards. The story gets even more unbelievable when you factor in price. According to company reps, OnLive intends to significantly undercut every existing console on the market.

At its core, OnLive is a subscription service similar to cable TV or Netflix. In other respects, OnLive is what you get when you pump something like YouTube full of steroids. Instead of just watching a pile of videos, you're streaming gameplay at HDTV resolutions and controlling your character in real time. You get Crysis on your HDTV at the highest-quality settings--run by a computer that's hundreds of miles from your doorstep. It's really no wonder Rearden Labs spent the better part of a decade perfecting and designing OnLive.

It's tiny Really tiny Front ports Another angle OnLive labeled

Hardware

Whenever a console comes out, we tend to dig in to all the gritty details--pixels pushed, mips mopped, and so forth. Sony has volumes written about its Cell processor, just like Microsoft and its tri-core CPU, not to mention their associated GPUs. By contrast, the humble little OnLive MicroConsole comes with practically nothing--just two USB connectors, a network jack, some AV outs, and some random bits and bobs stuffed in there. To make things even stranger, OnLive will run on just about any PC or Mac through a Web browser plug-in without the MicroConsole. Install the OnLive program and you're done. According to the company, even the lowly netbooks will run the newest games with high-quality details and excellent frame rates.

Here's how it all works.

All the magic happens elsewhere, and the hardware sitting in those rooms is considerably more powerful than anything the current consoles offer. Gaming PCs in far-off server rooms sit filled to the brim with SLI setups, quad-core CPUs, gobs of RAM, and ridiculous RAID arrays to make load times a thing of the past. In its racks, OnLive has a slew of machines ranging from the mundane for simpler games to SLI rigs to power the most demanding games. Every six months, OnLive will upgrade the computers to take advantage of new CPUs, GPUs, and more to give you access to the most powerful hardware available.

Surprisingly, OnLive already has competition on the horizon. A startup by the name of OTOY aims to provide high speed gaming, HD movie playback and more, by using a web browser plugin. The driving force behind OTOY is AMD’s Fusion Render Cloud, a supercomputer class machine capable of petaflop processing power with over 1,000 GPUs. In a conversation with Jules Urbach, OTOY’s CEO, he mentioned that OTOY will be entering beta in the summer and should be up and running in the year.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Streaming

Ridiculously good streaming software lies at the heart of OnLive's service. Nothing is stored locally on the MicroConsole or your computer's hard drive. The entire experience depends heavily on what kind of Internet connection you have. The faster your Internet connection, the better the graphics. Slower connections will default to SD resolutions. Faster connections will get a 720p video feed with surround-sound capability. You won't need a fiber optic hookup to get HDTV-level graphics. On the contrary, fairly normal cable Internet connections will suffice. A 1.5Mbps connection will work for SD, and a 5Mbps is required for HD.

Our experiences with Crysis and Burnout were quite favorable. Crysis looked fantastic and ran at a great pace. Burnout's fast-paced driving felt a little off, but it didn't detract from the gameplay too much. We'll likely get a better idea of how the service behaves in a large-scale environment when we get closer to launch. OnLive will have a beta of the system starting in the summer and will officially launch in the winter.

Games

Edge anyone? Crash! Lego Some publishers

As goes the usual refrain, it's all about the games. In the case of OnLive, it's all about third-party support. If the OnLive folks make any games, they certainly aren't aiming to outdo titles like Gears of War or Metal Gear Solid 4. OnLive's game backbone lives off of what's currently available on PCs. Pretty much anything built for the PC can run through OnLive with relatively minor tweaks. Currently, heavy hitters like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Take-Two, Warner Bros., THQ, Epic, Eidos, Atari, and Codemasters have all signed on to provide games from their PC stables. Should the experiment succeed, we imagine anything that comes out on the PC will be mirrored onto OnLive in short order.

At the Game Developers Conference 2009, OnLive demonstrated 16 different games, including Crysis and Burnout.

Additionally, developers will be able to easily launch game betas before developing a full game to determine whether there's interest in a particular game or an experimental style of play. The result gives gamers a better end product, while lowering costs for both gamers and developers.

OnLive will let gamers buy, rent, and play trial versions of games. The company has not announced any pricing scheme for rentals or purchases. And as we mentioned before, all gameplay will happen instantly. Once you click "buy" or "rent," you'll be playing in the span of time it takes you to hit the play button.

Video

Brag Clips Streams

OnLive's streaming technologies allow it to do some crazy stuff. Aside from being able to watch clips of games to see what they're like, you'll be able to spectate any game being played on the system. OnLive also lets you show off your coolest moments via the Brag Clip system. The service automatically records your gameplay at all times, and anytime you do something that looks cool, you can press a few buttons and save the last 15 seconds of footage. At that point you can share your saved clip with other friends who are part of the OnLive service.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Controllers

The Controller Front Side Head On

Every console brings its own controllers to the game. OnLive does as well, but it's not really required. OnLive's MicroConsole supports up to four wireless OnLive controllers. The controller looks similar to the Xbox 360 controller in terms of buttons and layout. The controller will also double as a remote control for video playback. OnLive representatives also mentioned that the controller was designed to work with much lower latency than third-party wireless controllers.

OnLive's control scheme is probably the most flexible of any console. Pretty much any USB wired controller will work without a hitch--including the wired Xbox 360 controller. Since we are talking about PC games, keyboards and mice will most certainly function. If you have a wireless controller that has a USB receiver made for a PC, it should work as well. The MicroConsole will also accept a USB hub to increase the number of devices you can plug into it.

Pricing

The OnLive MicroConsole will be priced well under all existing home consoles. The company hasn't mentioned any specific price points, but it isn't hard to imagine OnLive gunning well underneath the Wii. The browser plug-in for PCs and Macs will be free.

OnLive Menu Friends Profile

Unlike other consoles, which have one cost attached to them, OnLive has a base cost (or none, if you have a computer) plus a subscription fee. The real number we have to keep an eye on is what it costs to keep the service alive. Representatives have yet to announce how the subscription model will work, but they did reveal that there will be multiple price points.

Also unlike other consoles, OnLive improves over time. Top-of-the-line computers will be rolled into the server farms on a constant basis. Since video cards and CPUs update on a six- to 12-month cycle, users will get better performance for the same price as time goes on.

More beauty shots

Should OnLive succeed, the gaming landscape and more could change considerably. Predicting all the downstream effects is exceedingly difficult. Console upgrades could come to a halt. Outside of gaming, you could watch or buy movies, watch TV shows, listen to music, and much more. Like OTOY, the fact that OnLive can stream live gameplay means that it could act as a full-fledged computer at the flick of a switch, with its servers storing your data. Go from typing papers, to playing Crysis, to watching CSI, all from a tiny box. OnLive has an interesting future if everything works according to plan. We'll keep you updated on developments as we get closer to the beta this summer.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Discussion

841 comments
senjutsu
senjutsu

@ztron370: The hicups have nothing to do with your computer, I also an old ** as my computer but a good net connection and it plays perfectly, lol. PS: With my PC, I can only play starcraft 2 at the lowest settings on all, lol (no shadow, no antialiasing, etc), and it still plays perfectly Dirt 2 or Mafia, lol.

Moloch121
Moloch121

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

brendameistar
brendameistar

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ztron370
ztron370

I have a high end pc and their are still some hic-ups here and their but it sill plays.I will need to see more of Onlive.

Excedra
Excedra

I like real consoles better, sorry. That onlive thingy has no hard drive. I need a hard drive. I need my music, videos everything. Ill just stick to sony and ms. sorry dudes.

hoossy1
hoossy1

oh.... I think very few people have gotten some vag and/or dick from showcasing games and consoles on shelves.... at least I never have that way. This could be a good thing for nerds... it'll free up all that space for... Star Wars collectibles, DAMN that will make getting laid even harder I guess there is no hope for some

hoossy1
hoossy1

While onlive might prove to just be an experiment on what works and what doesn't on the cloud computing front.. you do realize that big rigs and consoles are pretty soon going to be the thing of the past right? Already, internet providers are offering 40-60 mbs in major cities around the country for prices not much more than what we pay now. I would say in the next 5 years, streaming gameplay will become a very easy and reliable form of video game delivery for all. Its just inevitable..... resistance is futile ;) ps - its just like how now I watch all of my tv shows streaming from sites, I don't download anything. Its easier and faster. Cloud computing, where all programs will be streaming over a browser will make information access truely seamless no matter where you are.

HarDcore_RpG
HarDcore_RpG

Im not liking this at all... I collect my consoles, its my pride as a gamer. This whole new concept doesn't seem right. And like RaikirBlaze said, connectionand maintenance is going to be a big nasty problem for them. Im sticking to my "big boxes".

maazbazmi
maazbazmi

this is really interesting and only by test drive we can see how this could work out. but to take down giants like xbox and the ps3 u have to work a lot on game designed exclusively of this

RaikirBLaZE
RaikirBLaZE

Yes true gamers need a box, physically to hold. You own it and nobody is taking it away from you. You dont have to pay a subscription fee for consoles. You can play when you want without worry of maintenance or connection problems. And that is what I see as the major downfall. What are you going to do when your deep into a very hard level, only to have a connection go down? What are you going to do when you come back home from a long day of work/school/whatever and want to play some games, only to see "down for maintenance"? And what about console exclusives? There's no way they are getting a hold of a game like Killzone or Uncharted 2. You may be holding a controller, but as it says, its being controlled hundreds of miles away from you.

luisfer17
luisfer17

Its a big advance in the gaming world, but i think there may be a lot of factors that may affect its purpose. Also, probably is gonna be a expensive service, but still i would never change my 360 =)

wiirkokonuts
wiirkokonuts

Sounds really cool. I just don't believe it will do as it says. Streaming an entire game from a location far away and not only that, but running at the best resolution and graphics possible. Either it won't work or it will and be really expensive. One question, this isn't really a problem for me but may end up being sometime in the future, what if you don't have that great of an Internet connection? Lag? Not working at all? Also, we will be able to play online multiplayer with our games, right?

dockholidaiy
dockholidaiy

Not having a physical game wont be to bad if i get a discount over the retail store version. Maybe like 60$ games become 45$ games. If they want more than that forget it. You have to pay a monthly Fee Plus Have Internet and Pay for games. Games must be cheaper or it wont work no way.

duxter1
duxter1

this looks interesting but will we be able to hook a keyboard up to play a rts

ideophage
ideophage

This is the future of gaming; people will obviously have a problem with not having a physical copy of their game, but in not too many years all media (be it music, film, or game) will be digital and your collection will more likely be a screen full of icons than a shelf full of cases.

Jeff_Boldt
Jeff_Boldt

only foreseeable problem: internet access will be required to play games, not a big deal but one of the reasons I very much like my consoles is that even when my connection flops (whether they're doing maintenance or some dick just jammed a shovel through the neighbourhood connection) I can still sit and solo all my games. Not a big deal at all though. The companies main concern should be that their idea is so radically different from everything we've seen in the past, and if one statement rings eternally true regarding the consumer market, we resist major change.

dark777888
dark777888

@Kai000001 I think thats GTA4 (Grand Theft Auto 4)

Kai000001
Kai000001

Sorry for the double post, but does anyone know what game that is on the far left column 3rd from the top of the grid of games, on the second page with the header "Video"? :D

Kai000001
Kai000001

I just thought I'd point out to those who don't know, "5 Mbps" is NOT "5 Megabytes Per Second", it's "5 Megabits Per Second" (MBps = Megabytes Per Second, Mbps = Megabits Per Second). So you need a connection capable of "640 Kilobytes Per Second" to get the game streamed in HD. For SD you need a connection capable of 192 Kilobytes Per Second. :)

Decrate
Decrate

i agree with most of you. not holding the game box in my hand, seeing the manual and the disk, is just not right for me. back when steam allowed you to download the games and pay for it online i felt uncomfortable and rather go to the store and buy the game in it's box. having a game simply connected to a user name isn't enough for me, i need to hold it lol, i have a strong connection with my final fantasy games from 7,8,9,10,10-2, and 12, it gives me pride seeing them side by side lol and i will continue to build that collection with FF13 and so on.

bennae66
bennae66

i like the design. i love tangibles more tho

lostnva5
lostnva5

I think this could be a big leap for PC gaming, but I really would miss having my game cases to show off on my shelf.....come on, every one should admit that that is one of the best things about dropping $60 on a game. I love building my collection and not having a tangible collection of games would be weird, it would almost seem that I would be paying for nothing. I don't know, but my Dell Studio 1537 can't run anything, so this would be cool.

Linkman0714
Linkman0714

seems like most people have a problem with not physically owning their games including me. i dont think its going to work.

pyroneus
pyroneus

in my perspective this little machine looks absolutely FANTASTIC!!! lol it can do so many things that you can think of and it is extremely small along with barely using any bandwidth. But.... My main concern is how much it will cost and if it will actually give everything it promises...

Imconfused2007
Imconfused2007

Too bad this relies on the internet infrastructure, which is horrible. Many area's have limited speeds, and unless you live in a moderately sized urban area, internet speeds of 5Mbps and up are hard to come by. Plus, some ISP's are threatening to go back to bandwidth limits, due to their poor ability to handle rising internet usage, since they showed more interest in pocketing profits over upgrading their networks.

leoleez
leoleez

how would this work for all those MMOs? like WoW and SWTOR?

leoleez
leoleez

@yachtboy ummm dude what u way makes sense I'd have a cheaper bill, until an earthquake hits and a solar flare disrupts all communication. It will interrupt ur perfect game of Tekken 4, and will disrupt your movie. lol just a theoretical situation. But yea i still like boxes and just giving money to those already leeching internet providers.

Apex3835
Apex3835

yeah like the speed of light

gamer082009
gamer082009

It sounds too good to be true if you ask me. There's always something to hold things back.

yachtboy
yachtboy

What would really make this idea take off is the idea of a home or family plan. Like 4 or 5 subs based on one ip address for a low fee. Think about the future where your living room and bedrooms all have one lcd and one onlive.... You get voip calling.... tv and movies through online.... pay for your $100 super fast internet conn to funnel all this data at high speeds to get hd.... NO PHONE BILL, NO TV BILL ALL HD and NO NEW COMPUTER the future is simple in looks but complex in design :) have to like it :)

perfect_chao
perfect_chao

as i said before, it has limits.. and still not as good as your own mid-high end PC which can be used to play awesome games and as playing entertainment

yogidonnie
yogidonnie

Sounds too much like the "phantom" console from Infinium from a couple of years back, "one consoule streaming all the PC games you could want." The "phantom" went no where too, except to bankruptcy court. Take a wait and see attitude on this one.

judge__judy
judge__judy

I didn't think this would be possible at the moment. Wouldn't there be a lot of lag in between pressing buttons and having the video streamed back?

FLCLdude50
FLCLdude50

Sounds nice, though I still want developers making games for my 360, wii, and ps3

leoleez
leoleez

dang, sounds really nice. However I really like game boxes... lol I'm a collector by nature. This will not satisfy my need, but its cool as a subscription service. I know some people will jump on the train just because. But I still don't understand how it can get Fallout on a not so great computer, and this service seems to only work with HD or broadband connection, what troubles me is if my connection is poor, that would be detrimental to my gameplay. Another thing to note, will they purchase unique licenses of games, or will they be hosted on the servers. Also will in install it on your computer or is it truly just a "buffering" sort of thing.

Shanana77
Shanana77

It sounds very interesting, I'll admit. I like the fact of not having to worry about making a game work (I've had to many cases where they didn't work for my PC). The only thing I don't like is having to pay a monthly bill...by the time we pay all that we could have just brought the game from the store install it and that's it (especially if you only like select games like 2 or 3), plus if this thing doesn't take off what happens to the games we purchased and all our money we put into it. I don't know to be on the safe side...I probably won't by this.

Lawnwake
Lawnwake

I like the idea, but I don't really want it to succeed that much. I for one like the flexibility of installing and tinkering with a game. I also like to own my own art box and dvd. And I certainly don't want to depend on a master company or the internet to work which in the end would limit you to their service only. To me it seems like a step back in freedom of choice, even thought the idea behind is really great. besides is what the other guy said. So if the company runs out of business or something we lose everything we own there. I don't know. To me it seems we are just putting a new middle man between us "the player" and "the game".

konradak
konradak

Wow. I'm just sitting here and waiting. Lets see what happens first.

0011992288
0011992288

Wow, this could either change everything, or it could change nothing. The scope of this project is so vast that it is difficult to anticipate all the repercussions. It messes with the console business. It messes with the game manufacturers and producers, and it messes with computer hardware business. It, well, could change everything about the gaming business. Is it like the electric car which was killed by those who business it sought to disrupt? The electric car could have changed everything about the way we travel by severely reducing the petroleum requirements. But auto manufacturers who would lose business and oil companies who would lose a large part of their market largely had the car destroyed, most famously in Arizona. Is this so different? The electric car had some serious opponents. Microsoft? Sony? Those are some big boys whose capabilities extend much further than the game industry. M$ could have this crushed if they so choose. I'm certain somebody far smarter than I is analyzing this for the big three right now. One must also remember the economic impact of reduced spending on the economy. Of course, this could change nothing. Even if this weren't swatted by some company not interested in losing out on the very pricey investment of making it into the console game (I'm looking at you MS), every project that is launched has a million things that could go wrong and this is no different. While it sounds smashing, few things are actually better than sliced bread, as this project claims to be. I feel ambivalent. It looks awesome. It sounds awesome. It tastes awesome (I assume). But the impact it could have is so vast, I'm not certain that it is good for the gaming industry. Time will tell.

stakex007
stakex007

@tony382 You know the first thing I thought about was the mod community... but after thinking about it, I see no reason you wouldn't be able to mod the games you buy as long as you were playing on a computer. Perhaps modding tools can even be run over the OnLive service. Speculation of course, but one of the main things keeping the PC market alive today are player made mods... this system might be able to EVENTUALLY over take consoles, but without mod support the PC will not fold.

faithlesssoul
faithlesssoul

no more bringing your game's to a friends house to play. no internet no games.

dolphins1354
dolphins1354

WHO IS FINANCING THE SUPER COMPUTERS. THEY HAVE TO COST A COUPLE MILLION A PEICE. FOR HD VIDEO YOU HAVE TO HAVE AT LEAST 5 MB'S A SECOND. NOT EVERY ONE IS GONNA BE ABLE TO GET THAT. IT'S GONNA COST U AT LEAST 20-60 DOLLARS A MONTH DEPENDING ON THE TEIR U PURCHASE I'AM SURE JUST LIKE GAMETAP.COM

tony382
tony382

Doesn't this kill the modding communities? Imagine play games like Oblivion, Fallout 3, MLB 2K9 with no mods. That's insane, but in reality, this is a great idea and I hope it succeeds.

polak123456
polak123456

How will this work for PC games, such as crysis?? What kind of computers will they use to give me the highest possible settings for crysis?? along with 5,000 other people??

quirkelchomp
quirkelchomp

Seems so unrealistic... i dont mean to be negative, but it doesnt seem like it will work, at least for the first few months after launch. Do u really believe they have the computing power to handle all the people who will be using their service? (at least at first)

WelBluVid
WelBluVid

Only downside is you're not given a GPU so you really can't play w/anyone everywhere. It's like a giant Lan party hosted here in 3 sections of the US only (West, Midwest, & East coast) & no we can't all play together. not until they figure out how to send info faster then lightspeed. Keep in mind the game developers will have to bite, if they don't publish they're games on the system we won't have them.