The Emperor Has No Clothes! (OnLive)

Lots of gawking and fawning about OnLive coming out of GDC and from folks on Twitter. People who I usually feel are pretty lucid are buying into this product in a way that startles me.

(On the off-chance you haven’t heard about OnLine, I wrote a post about it for ITWorld.)

OnLive sounds to me like a really neat tech demo. A system that works wonderfully under ideal circumstances.

And OK, it might even be a neat system for non-twitch games. Board games, RPG’s with turn-based systems, and things of that nature. But FPSers and driving games? No way. At least, not in a way that is going to be dependable all the time.

Just think about how often you’re sitting at home and you hit a site that feels slow. Now it might be that the server that hosts the site is bogged down. But it could be any of a number of other reasons between you and them, too. I work on the web. I spend a lot of time tracking down “the site is really slow!!” problems, and about 70% of the time, it isn’t the site itself. It’s a router being wonky or DNS being sluggish or our local connection being bogged down or something else.

If any of those things happen while I’m playing Need For Speed over OnLive, my experience goes right into the crapper. And for most of it, there’s nothing you can do but wait.

If OnLine launches and becomes popular, we’ll be back to the old “bandwidth hog!” jokes of a few years ago. If you want to play a game and someone in another room wants to stream video, you’re screwed. You may even be screwed if your next door neighbor is bit-torrenting his porn collection to the world. Got an VOIP phone? Well don’t try to play while someone is talking on it!

And then there’s the question of bandwidth caps from your ISP.

Here’s what Brad Wardell of Stardock has to say about the server. Now granted, he isn’t exactly objective… but here ya go: Stardock CEO speaks about OnLive.

*Maybe* all of this will work out and OnLive will do great. Would this be a good thing? They want to replace both hard media (ie, disks) and digital downloads. In short, they want to have a monopoly on how we play games. They’ll know what we play, and how long we play for, and who we play with. If they decide your favorite game isn’t right for their service, bam, it goes away. There’s nothing you can do to keep a copy for yourself. It’s just gone. Poof.

Granted, the chance of them taking over like that is slim.

But people, remember the Phantom! Be skeptical! I signed up for beta; you should too. Let’s see how this service really works before we start chittering away like happy mice over it (I don’t know where that came from, sorry).

At *best* I think it’ll be a system you’ll use to supplement your consoles and gaming PCs, not replace them. You don’t want to be without any games every time the net goes a little wonky, do you?

[UPDATE: Lloyd Case has a nice article on the service (more balanced than my rant) over at Extreme Tech]

4 thoughts on “The Emperor Has No Clothes! (OnLive)

  1. I don’t see 1ms latency being possible. There are just too many variable which they cannot control.

    Also, will they upgrade their servers every few months to keep pace with the latest games? I doubt it… so we would be at the mercy of when they can support a game.

  2. OnLive (as it’s been described at least) is less about the future and more about some Sci Fi / Fantasy feature. Oh it’s not that the technology isn’t possible, it’s just that it’s not so feasible with current Internet infrastructure. They no doubt can demo some games, but the overall experience cannot possibly be flexible and robust enough for every gameplay available.

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