OnLive gets demoed, lag is a problem

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Posts: 3,073   +97

OnLive's ambitious games-on-demand service clearly has a lot to live up to. The company has been keeping its cards close to the chest since announcing the technology last year, which promises to make high-end games playable on low-end computers via streaming, and has since moved into a "public" beta stage but is only giving out access to a handful of testers based on their geographic location and other variables.

Ryan Shrout of PC Perspective may have broken a few rules when he borrowed someone's beta account to access the service last week. Nevertheless, the site has a detailed write-up on the performance he experienced playing Burnout Paradise, Unreal Tournament 3 and Tom Clancy's HAWX over the web on a Core i7 860 system. The games were running at a fairly decent 1280 x 720 resolution and used around 1Mb/s of bandwidth.

As a whole the experience wasn't awful but definitely not up to par with playing the same games on a local, appropriately beefy home PC. OnLive's client was easy to start up and had a very small footprint as promised, using under 60MB of memory and anywhere from 4-7 percent of the CPU power. As you might suspect, however, lag was an issue, and so were the downgraded graphics.

OnLive responded to the criticism via its official blog claiming that PC Perspective's report is not representative of the actual product. The company has always boasted that they were going to try and match each user with a data center within 100 miles of the player to minimize lag, but it turns out that Shrout was about 2,100 miles away from the company's server in California. The final version of OnLive also promises to adapt to your Internet connection and location every time you connect in order to deliver the best possible experience.

Unfortunately for them, some other anonymous beta testers have come forward claiming that the experience isn't much better in the ideal scenario. There is still room for improvement as no official launch date for the service has been announced, but for now I remain a bit skeptical -- there are just too many limitations. One thing is for sure, you won't want to throw out your console or abandon your PC upgrade plans anytime soon.

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Posts: 3,329   +2,099
On the surface this seems great. But obviously there are some technology issues that need to be overcome. Try playing a UT3 capture-the-flag map with lag. Very fun if you enjoy dieing ever 5 seconds. Also that 1280 x 720 resolution may be fine for some people, but it ain't for me.

I think Steam, D2D and other download vendors are ultimately going to kill this. Why pay for a subscription service when you can get the game for use on any PC at any settings you want for a whopping 5 or 10 bucks during one of their sales?


I've been a beta tester for a while. I used to have a rig, but I couldn't keep up, so now I have a laptop. Before OnLive, I couldn't touch PC games.

First of all, OnLive really works for most of the games I've tried, and as they've steadily improved the service, more games also work great.

Second of all, you can't evaluate the service with a single test. You run into bugs, you send in bugs, and you get updates with fixes, and OnLive works fine again. I've run into the stuff similar to what they've reported that has been updated.

When I'm using it, I forget it's not local and I enjoy the games. That's good enough for me.


Posts: 1,018   +167
This is for specific cases such as the guest rather than for everyone. Until lag is completely irradicated (in other words everyone has connections to ridiculous bandwidth wherever they live) it will be for people close to the servers if at all and since lots of money is being spent on large panels by a lot of people, it won't replace standalone machines any time soon (at 1280*720).

Currently a fad. Maybe the future. Interesting but not serious for at least 5 more years.

Matthew DeCarlo

Posts: 5,271   +104
Any chance that you'd be willing to clue us in on the games you've tried, Guest? What titles don't work smoothly and which ones run flawlessly at this point?


Posts: 1,372   +17
I was reading/discussing this over at a gaming forum and OnLive kind of reminded me of this article I read last year.

The idea is solid and I have no doubt that certain individuals want this in the long run. More control over the content with eroding consumer rights. But it is simply to early for this. A lot needs to change before this can become the norm and accepted by the masses imo. For now its just a niche.


Posts: 75   +4
I'd like to disagree with some people here. It is clear that there are some problems. But this is only the beta stage. If there are problems, the company will fix them. If the product isn't worth using, it will vanish, for the moment at least. But what people say about it being a fad is ridiculous. Who wants to dish out $1500 for a computer? Most computers can do everything but gaming for $600 or less. Why pay the extra $900 for a PC that can play games when an Xbox 360 or PS3 is only $300? And you don't have to upgrade your console every few years. The luxury of playing games on a computer is extremely expensive. This can get rid of that entire problem, given some time. I think people need to be a little more optimistic.


Posts: 5,881   +4,891
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This might be something for people that has low end laptops (like me) or PC's with integrated graphics.
Anyway, anyone who has a discrete video card will most likely play the game locally.


Posts: 1,703   +172
That has to be the ugliest controller I have ever seen. It's copied the fat-*** Xbox controller and put the letters L,I,V,E on the buttons - during a game you would end up looking at the controller trying to figure out which button you're supposed to press.

Anyway I think is pretty promising, but with the obvious issue of internet speeds. If 720p needs 1Mb/s bandwith then 1080p would need twice as much.


OnLive is clearly "swinging for the fences" with the approach it has taken to cloud gaming. A company called Spawn Labs is taking a more evolutionary approach that lets you keep your native/local console and game library, and gives you your own personal cloud gaming server (an appliance called the "Spawn HD-720") that lets you then play around your house on your home LAN, or out across the Internet. You can play natively at home while a friend plays in co-op mode remotely from their PC across the Internet. You can record game sessions in HD. Etc. So you get your cake and eat it too. This kind of approach might make more sense, worth checking out.


All the titles run smoothly when everything is working. It's like any beta. I think I've tried most of them except a kids game they have. When they add new games sometimes there is some issue or other, but they so far have fixed everything.

I really don't know what all the fuss is about. It sounds like you've got guys with gamer rigs who are comparing OnLive to them. I don't know why they would need OnLive if they have a great rig and a big screen, or care about comparisons, since it's not for them anyway. OnLive looks sharp as a pin on my laptop's screen and games run great. I'm not a competition gamer, but I'm no slouch either. Maybe a competition gamer would notice something isn't perfect. it's fine for me.
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