OnLive Review: You have to try it

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What is Onlive.com?

OnLive is a fairly new service that could be put in the same arena as Steam (http://www.steampowered.com/) or Direct2Drive (http://www.direct2drive.com/).   Its technology is most similar to Quake Live (http://www.quakelive.com/), which was released in open Beta in 2009 purely as a First Person Shooter (FPS) and seems to have the most similar resemblance.

Where Steam and Direct2Drive are different is that they offer games for download and their online presence serves as a way to update games and support the DRM (Digital Rights Management) or Copy Protection required by the game companies.  This is where many big stories come out of these companies - usually DRM servers getting flooded on release day for games and only people who purchased them online have to wait to play due to the service not being available.

OnLive is different as the gameplay is instant.  This is "cloud gaming" as their site mentions and the way it works is a little hard to believe.  It's easy to believe that this will eventually be the future of gaming and computers in general.  While its available right now, even after using the service, I am not completely sure I would want to sign up just yet.

OnLive is the first service we know of that offers such an immediate time for sign-in to game time. Similar to a Netflix Instant for PC Games(but not Gamefly...)

To begin, you create an account on the site and then download their software client. (Software client is about 5MB, installed).

Once you launch the client, you sign in with your username and password.  If you are using wi-fi as of this writing their is a Beta service to try(otherwise you may need to connect directly).

Below is the message we received on our first attempt at reviewing the service. (3Mbps DSL) and using a Wi-Fi card.

Then, if your internet connection is worthy(we upgraded internet access to 12Mbps and the Wi-Fi Beta option became available), you proceed to the main menu.  Note that all the whiz bang visuals of this animated sequence and menus are being streamed(hosted on 'the cloud').  This means that big servers are doing all the heavy lifting and your computer is just a simple input and visual output device.  Very interesting.

What was really surprising as how well it works and the variety of titles available.  However, in this case are interest was distracted by the curiosity of what this was doing to our PC.

First the bandwidth, receive utilization was at a consistent 5-6mbps transfer rate during menus and game-play.

Bandwidth During Menu Sequence

Regarding CPU and memory: The memory footprint of the client held at about 25MB in the processes tab.  The client appears to play well with multiple cores and adjusted its process to average out of them(about 25% over each core). We also switched the affinity of the client to a single core to view the results.  It appears that running only 1 processor may put your PC to work.

Quad-core utilized during Menu/Gameplay

Single core used for OnLive during Menu/Gameplay

The gameplay was fine.  Again, we were testing on the wi-fi beta (not that we actually consider this an excuse) and the gameplay was smooth for the most part.  The graphics were average, I wouldn't expect anything more at this point, because the service is so new.  It was definitely playable.  A few of the titles we sampled (free trials for 30 minutes!!!)  were Dirt 2, Red Faction: Guerrilla, and Just Cause 2.  All game were fun to play which meant that the service was not a show-stopper.  There were times when hick-ups were noticed or aiming with the mouse felt like it should've been more responsive or accurate - but it's hard to tell if its the service or the game itself.

We really recommend at least trying the service for yourself and we love this idea of bring PC and Mac gamers together on the same playing field.

Also, the company plans to release a console-like device that will include a gamepad.  We like where this is going, it's scary to think that when the internet is out - your games are gone with it :-(

http://www.onlive.com/service