OnLive first look

I’ve had nothing but snarky comments for OnLive since it was first announced. See The Emperor Has No Clothes! (OnLive), OnLive, a new game-changing technology or OnLive’s streaming game service to launch June 17th. I don’t expect you to go read all those, but if you did, you’d find that I slipped in a virtual sneer at every chance I got.

I was absolutely positive this service was snake oil.

Tonight I got in and… dammit, it works pretty well. I’m gonna have to eat my words.

Tonight I’m just going to convey my experience with a game; there’s a lot to talk about re: social aspects of the service but I’ll leave that for another day.

I selected Borderlands as the first game to try, partially because Scopique chose it (and I wanted to compare notes) and partially because I just wanted to play it. I haven’t played Borderlands on PC before and only a bit on the 360.

I fired it up and more or less instantly was seeing the intro stuff. You get 30 minutes of demo time per game, but otherwise a demo is the full game, and that includes intro movies, tutorials and stuff. That’s a slight flaw and in a perfect world they’d start your timer when you got control of your character, but I realize that’s asking a lot.

The game ran pretty nicely. One weird thing was when I aimed my gun, distant terrain and enemies would be blurry and then come into focus. I don’t know if this is an OnLive artifact or a style choice. It didn’t feel wrong…in fact it felt pretty neat. Like I’m raising my gun and squinting down the sights to focus on a target.

A very few times things went slightly wonky and I’d suddenly turn 180 degrees or something. This didn’t happen enough that it hurt the experience, but it’s worth mentioning. Presumably the OnLive servers aren’t packed yet.

So I ran around killing stuff, finished a few quests, made a level, then my demo ran out. So now I had a choice to make. In the case of Borderlands, I could buy a “Full Pass” for $29.99 and have full access to the game for as long as I was subscribed to OnLive (that’s the same price I’d pay to just buy the game from Steam) or I could buy a 5 day pass ($8.99) or a 3 day pass ($5.99). So there are options, at least for Borderlands.

On the other hand, Assassin’s Creed II was $39.99 for a Full Pass (again, same as Steam) and had no short term rentals, but Batman Arkham Asylum only had 3 & 5 day passes ($4.99 & $6.99 respectively) with no Full Pass option. Splinter Cell Conviction was $59.99 for a Full Pass, no other options.

Point being every game is different. Scopique played some demos where you could save your progress and pick right up from where you left off if you bought the game, but Borderlands, when the demo ran out, let me know that my progress wasn’t saved. It’d be nice to know this ahead of time.

There’s no way I’d pay $60 for Splinter Cell Conviction on this service, but I could see myself buying a 3-day pass to Batman some weekend, if I didn’t already own the game on the PS3. Or even a 3-day pass to Borderlands if some friends were playing some weekend.

I feel like I’m focusing too much on the negatives here. The fact is, I was *stunned* that the service works. It was really nice jumping into a game without have to download or install anything (once the OnLive client was installed, that is). While I was playing, Angela was in EQ2 and she didn’t notice any lag caused by my OnLive-ing, which was something I was concerned about.

And my PC is decent for gaming, but pretty much every game kicks the video card’s fan into high gear, making the PC suddenly start sounding like a vacuum cleaner. That didn’t happen playing OnLive, since my PC wasn’t doing the heavy lifting. And if you have a snappy internet connection but not such a great PC, OnLive should in theory be right up your alley.

With their special offer, the first year of OnLive is free, and I’ll definitely be using it at least now and then. Year 2 it’ll cost $4.95/month; we’ll see if I’m up for that. After that the intent is for it to go to $14.95/month and I’m pretty sure I would not do that, unless it came with some kind of perks (certain games free each month or something along those lines).

There’s a bunch of social stuff that I’ll go into more in another post if people are interested, but suffice to say it’s kind of fun watching other people play games now and then.

If you try out OnLive, add me as a friend: my gamertag there is Jaded (same as it is on Xbox Live).

9 thoughts on “OnLive first look

  1. Great review but I was wondering, where can I go and play games using OnLive? I see no hint of that on their website.

  2. Great Review, I’m starting to lose faith though considering my account was created 8 minutes after the preregistration emails went out and I’m still not activated.

  3. @Kamil Sign up here: and then you just have to wait to get approved, unfortunately.

    @Andrew You aren’t alone. I have some friends who’re still waiting, too. Not sure when they signed up though. I signed up as soon as the offer was put online and go in Friday night, when the launch was Thursday noon. It’s unfortunate there’s not a was to get some idea of where you are in the approval queue.

  4. Most agree with what you’ve stated…I’ve been playing Red Faction and World of Goo, and overall I like the interface, I like the overall “experience” of the OnLive portal, and the gaming performance has mostly been very good so far.

    My main complaints though, which would probably keep me from paying for it regularly:

    1. The graphics in Red Faction at least are “muddy” and the aliasing is horrible. It’s made me interested in Red Faction, but I can’t stop thinking about how much better it would look if I was rendering it locally.

    2. I was under the impression for some reason that the pricing was going to be Netflix style. I pay ~$20 a month right now for GameFly, and if I could pay $20 a month for OnLive and play anything in the library on-demand they’d get my business.

    It’s SO close to being awesome, and I love the potential of a subscription service for gaming, but it’s just not QUITE there. Maybe enough for more casual gamers, but not for the more hardcore gamers…who ironically would be the ones most technically adept enough to understand OnLive. I still see it as a great add tech for the existing consoles too.

  5. @Jeff – I think you’ve hit on the real challenge for the OnLive marketing team. It’s a great service for casual gamers (who probably have average computers) but how do they get the word out to casual gamers? For hardcore gamers, our computers are going to do a better job rendering and running the games than OnLive can do.

    I think the Mac market would be a good fit too.

    For me, I’ll keep using OnLive to demo and rent games that I’m not interested enough in to pay full price for. I like the idea of paying $5 or $6 just to check out some game over a weekend, without having to worry about installing and patching it and all that jazz.

    I’d also *love* the kind of subscription service you mention.

  6. here’s a question, can you play multiplayer with people who have the non onlive version of the game. Also if you rent a game and save will your save file stick around after the rental lapses?

  7. i played most games with my samsung n150 netbook , let’s just say WOW i bet ANY computer can be used to play these games this is awesome!

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