By Jared Newman | Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm
Almost a year after OnLive promised to uproot everything we know about game consoles and PC rigs, a journalist broke into a closed private beta and reported his findings. The results leave something to be desired, but they also don’t give OnLive a fair shake.
OnLive shocked the games industry last March by announcing a cloud gaming service that could run even the most demanding PC games. The idea was to process games on remote servers, equipped with the latest technology, then send compressed data to the player, who would need only a low-end PC. Since then, no one in the press has been allowed to try the service, but PC Perspective’s Ryan Shrout gained unauthorized access through “a friend of a friend of a friend.”
The bad news? Games don’t look as good as they would on a high-end PC. Resolution topped out at 1280-by-720, and games looked sharper and cleaner on the local system than they did over OnLive, even when reduced to that resolution.
The really bad news is latency, which Shrout said was noticeable at best and terrible at worst. While the racing game Burnout: Paradise felt okay, the first-person shooter Unreal Tournament 3 was unplayable due to its reliance on lightning-quick reflexes.
There is, however, a big caveat to this experiment: Shrout was playing from outside the southern California area, where beta testing is happening, and OnLive showed a warning message saying he was experiencing high latency. He claims that lag measured 85 ms. OnLive once said that 35 ms to 40 ms is typical, and 80 ms is on the high-end.
Shrout also acknowledges that lag becomes less noticeable when using a game pad instead of the mouse and keyboard. Combine that with lower latency, and you might have a service that passes muster.
Though I’m somewhat skeptical about lag, OnLive’s business model has always worried me most. Word is that the service will combine a base subscription with individual game purchases, but we’ve yet to see actual numbers. Until we can measure how OnLive’s price measures up to the status quo, I’m not convinced it’ll revolutionize anything.