Jumping into Cloud Gaming with OnLive
I recently signed up to OnLive, the first commercial ‘cloud-gaming’ service. OnLive allows users to play a range of PC and Xbox360 titles via a streaming service. As with other cloud-based and streaming services, there are several appealing factors: no installation or hard disk space required, there is immediate access to a wide variety of titles, and your settings and profile are stored online meaning you can connect on any computer and continue your experience.
With cloud gaming, however, there is another significant advantage: since the graphics are rendered on the server and streamed to your PC, you don’t need powerful processor, graphics card or games console. The only requirement is a consistent Internet connection with decent bandwidth. Of course, this part is key. When OnLive was announced, I was skeptical, as were many critics. The main reason for skepticism is based on the fact that games must respond instantly to user input: can an internet connection really respond and get the rendered image back to your screen quickly enough?
OnLive recommends using a wired connection to connect to the internet, and tests your connection before letting you connect. To my surprise, I found my modest ADSL connection yielded an enjoyable experience, even over WIFI. Keeping an eye on the data transfer rate, around 700kbps gave a good picture quality, and even 300kbps was pretty good. The main surprise was the responsiveness – I didn’t detect any noticeable delay except for when playing on WIFI when there would be occasional delays and drops in responsiveness.
All the games have their graphics settings cranked up to the max: at it’s best the games look stunning; when the streaming performance drops, the picture degrades in the same way that streaming video does on YouTube or iPlayer, but the frame-rate does not drop. The visual performance may not be up to the standards of seasoned gamers, but I gave up trying to stay up to date with expensive graphics cards and games consoles long ago. Even when I was a frequent PC games player, my computer was rarely powerful enough to play the latest games with the best graphics. So in that respect, OnLive gives me better performance than I ever had. What’s more, now having just one laptop that I use for work, I don’t feel like dedicating half of my hard disk space to the hefty 10GB+ installations that many games now require.Continued on the next page