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OnLive: Streaming Games Service Becomes A Reality
September 20, 2010 | Jon Carr

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A Fight In Mafia 2
by Jon Carr

After nearly 8 years of development OnLive is now literally streaming their ambitious project directly to your screen. The first ever cloud based on-demand gaming service, OnLive allows you to simply "just play." No downloads, patches, updates, high-end hardware, or physical media is needed to play the games. Everything is stored on OnLive's high end servers and systems. You just need an intel Mac, a broadband connection of 3-5 mbps or more, and as of the time of this writing, OSX 10.5.8 or later.

OnLive still isn't completely open to anyone and everyone, but they are steadily accepting a larger pool of accounts over time. The controlled pace of new user integration is intended to prevent an overload of the servers. Still, some people may be annoyed that they can't just hop in and try it, but if you sign up you'll get in soon enough.

Editor's Note 10/04/10: OnLive's Jane Anderson has informed us that as a result of a large deployment of GPU servers there is currently no wait to join the OnLive service.

My account was approved about 2 weeks after I made it, and I was also fortunate enough to get into the Founding Members program which nets you a free year of OnLive use (The service, not free games). The program had a narrow signup window, but has since reopened so it's worth trying to get into.

How It Works

Not only is OnLive platform agnostic, it's an entirely new approach to gaming. It's no longer about PC or Mac, how much RAM you have, or how fat your video card is. There's no performance gains or losses based on your computer specifications. All games have preset video settings for ideal performance within the OnLive Game Service. As Steve Perlman, OnLive's Founder and CEO stated: "You just play."

As long as you are within 1,000 miles of an OnLive data center you'll be fine. A map showing their coverage is pretty widespread, and unless you're in northern Montana or the tip of Florida you'll have no issue. Personally, I'm within 200 or so miles of an OnLive server so I had no issues maintaining my connection or any particular issues with lag. It's as simple as creating an account, downloading the small OnLive application, and logging in. That's all you need to have a wealth of gaming at your fingertips. Initially it required an ethernet only connection to make it work, but now a Wi-Fi beta is open to use.

OnLive isn't just about streaming games, they aim to break the traditional mold of packaging and distribution, of physical media and retail buying. They also hope to make a dent against used games and piracy as there is nothing to sell or resell, it's all streaming. For developers and publishers this is definitely an attractive package as is evidenced by the impressive list of developers OnLive has garnered including Epic Games, Ubisoft, EA, and many others. A number of Indie developers also have their games on OnLive. It's good to see something like World of Goo next to Splinter Cell Conviction.

I spoke to Joe Bentley, Director of Games & Media Development, and asked him about the complexity involved in bringing a game to OnLive. He said they offer a very unique and streamlined process to bring in new titles. As for how long a game takes to port?
"Typically 2 weeks for singleplayer, 6 weeks for multiplayer" he said. "If coming from a PC SKU it's much faster. I had one of our guys go to 2K in Prague and he had Mafia 2 done in a week and a half. Console ports take longer, about 6-8 weeks." OnLive also has their own crews to port and take care of things. "We have the fastest certification in the industry," Bentley said. That speed is reflected in the number of top tier titles added to OnLive or in the pipeline for future release.


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