OnLive has been around for a little while now, but it's no less improbable than it was when it was announced (at which time some gaming blogs called it a technically impossible scam): a service that streams full games, from major publishers, right to your TV or computer, no console necessary. This week, the company will release mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. Let me say that again, in case you don't realize how bonkers this is: You can now play Batman: Arkham Asylum, a demanding and graphically intense game, on your iPad. And it works.
OnLive's new mobile app is available for iPad, Honeycomb tablets (like the Motorola Xoom), the Kindle Fire, and Android smartphones. You get access to the full OnLive catalogue (more on what that means below), and some games are specially redesigned to take advantage of the new capabilities afforded by tablets and smartphones, namely touch. It'll all be released sometime on December 8th.
This is insane, you guys. When it works, it works just the way it's supposed to. You really can play full console and PC games on an iPad (my test device). When you have a fast enough internet connection, video quality ranges from adequate to excellent. The fact that you're streaming means there's never any downloading at all--you press "play," and boom, you're playing the game. Games also start up super quickly, with hardly any loading or waiting times at all. Saving works nicely--games are saved properly, without you having to really worry about whether it'll be saved. And you can pick up and continue your game from whatever device you want.
The controller is also great--nicely weighted, not slippery or cheap-feeling at all, and it automatically connects to whatever gadget you're using, usually by Bluetooth. It costs $50, which is pretty reasonable and, I would say, an essential purchase if you plan on using mobile OnLive.
The "What's Bad" section is going to be longer than this section, because it does have problems, but also because what's good about it is so simple that there's not really a ton to say about it. You can play PS3 games on your iPad. It's crazy.
There are times when it doesn't work. My home internet connection, which ranges from around 10 to 12 Mbps, was mostly up to the task, but if your connection dips below 5 Mbps, games almost become unplayable. There's some kind of dynamic resolution shift, like Netflix uses, to lower the quality of the video as your bandwidth drops to maintain smoothness. But the thing is, it doesn't selectively change the resolution, so stuff like text and menus, even OnLive's own menus, can quickly become unreadable. I also noticed a lag when I was using a slower connection, which is basically unacceptable for gamers. And even on my decent-to-pretty-good home connection, sometimes OnLive would have trouble maintaining a high resolution, for no reason I could tell.
Video quality relies on both your internet speed and your latency, or the distance you are from one of OnLive's three major server centers. From my apartment in Brooklyn, the closest server is in the D.C. area--not too far away. There's also one in Dallas and one in the Bay Area, so folks in not-so-weird places like South Florida, Wisconsin, and Minnesota may have a much harder time than I did.
This is a basically inscrutable and ludicrously complex thing OnLive has done, so every once in awhile, something weird will happen, like when my screen in L.A. Noire suddenly went black and forced me to restart the app. Or when Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 developed an unusable lag (also fixed with a restart). Or when Batman: Arkham City tried to explain how to get Bruce Wayne to fight, but gave me the keyboard controls rather than the controller's, leaving me to stare at the controller trying to figure out where the "D" button was (it doesn't exist). The controller problem popped up in L.A. Noire, too, where I had to experimentally push every button to figure out how to do something because the on-screen instructions were not tailored to the way I was playing. I'm using the app in prerelease, so I won't make any judgment about how it'll function in the long run, but I do hope it'll be more reliable.
Oh, and there's no vibrate function on the controller when used with the iPad. That's troublesome for certain games, like L.A. Noire, which doesn't exactly require vibration but which makes a lot more sense with it. And you can't buy games from within the iPad version, due to Apple's weird rules about in-app purchasing. (This does not hold true for Android devices like smartphones, Honeycomb tablets, or the Kindle Fire.)
I didn't get a chance to try OnLive on a mobile (3G or 4G) connection. OnLive says that a smartphone connection can get by with a slower connection, around 2 Mbps, which is about average, or a little higher than average, for 3G in well-serviced areas. I am dubious about this. But 4G--4G LTE, not that HSPA+ nonsense AT&T is pushing--should be perfect, and actually a pretty great showcase for what LTE can do.
The Catalogue: The list of available games is limited. This isn't like Netflix, where the idea is to provide you with access to everything, from every channel; OnLive said more than once that they think of their system as a platform just like the PS3 or Xbox 360. So they won't have every game, and they certainly won't get any first-party games from, say, Nintendo. That's a nice explanation, though it also means they may never get any blockbuster first-party games--who's going to make exclusives for them?
And the catalogue is weak for now. There are some top-tier games, for sure, and OnLive is fully aware that this is their main weakness, but in a given week, OnLive will have maybe half of the top ten third-party games. At the moment the catalogue has less than 200 games, and only a handful of those are big name games. OnLive has been pushing in the past few months to get more and bigger games, so I think/hope we'll see the catalogue growing fairly quickly from here on out.
The app is free. Games cost the same no matter what platform you play them on, be it Xbox 360 or OnLive, which means new games cost around $50. You can also rent games for a three- or five-day period for much cheaper--the former costs $6, and the latter $9. Or you can spring for a subscription, which costs $10 per month, gives you access to lots of older games for free, and cuts the price of new games (basically, the games you want) by 30%.
I should also say that I consider the controller to be a must-purchase, at $50, and some sort of stand is definitely necessary for the iPad (that magnetic cover thing for the iPad 2 works just fine in its "upright" mode).
OnLive isn't perfect, and if it was a less ambitious service, I wouldn't be so inclined to forgive it. But the thing is, it's just about the most ambitious idea in gaming I've ever heard, and the fact that most of the time it delivers on the promise of hardware-agnostic high-end gaming is enough that I'm really excited about it. It's hard to explain how amazing it is to start up a game like L.A. Noire on an iPad: you get one of those cognitive dissonances, like "this is a thing which should not exist." And yet it does!
Yeah, you need a reliable, fast internet connection. But if you, say, travel a lot, and stay in hotels with decent internet? Congratulations, you and your iPad can now play some great games all by yourselves. Awesome.
Woah... Console games on tablet? Even though I am always thinking about this kind of stuff, but I was not expecting this!
This is SO cool
the future is happening so fast that it is now.
same with me. i kind of had a feeling that this would be big one day. but not with smartphones. i guess technology really is moving fast nowadays lol
The people of the world only divide into two kinds, One sort with brains who hold no religion, The other with religion and no brain.
- Abu-al-Ala al-Marri
Here in Holland KPN is now implementing our first glass fiber home connections of 500 Mbps. I bet you could play some insane games if a supercomputer at the other end was streaming it.
I like it!
I love it!
I want some more of it!
I don't care what anyone says On Live is a game change plain and simple....the people working on this project are beyong genius its crazy....what they have done BLOWS MY MIND....the tech they put into doings is things that I sit back and think....why CAN'T we do this I mean it make no sense why we should be able to do it in this day and age it makes me feel like a lot of smart people are jus to lazy to put the effort into making something as amazing as something like this and then BAM On Live emerges. I know its just a "gameing" software. The thing I think a lot of people failto realize is that this software is STREAMING hard core intense games that require state of the art what used to be 500 dollar equipment to your living room and now TABLETS like its NOTHING over a standard home internet connection STREAMING people STREAMING like you were on YOUTUBE and heck YOUTUBE have trouble getting you high quality videos half the time....its freaking insane.....blows my mind I feel like I should be on drugs just thinking about it...I wish they had more funding and money to further the company and create other techs....PEOPLE please invest in this company if you want amazing tech to start emerging can't wait!!
I've always loved the idea behind onlive, but its 2011 and there isn't even a service that lets you watch movies(ALL OF THEM) online yet. It may take years for this to pan out. Its further complicated when people don't understand the concept behind it.
I TRIED IT AND ^^ I LOVED IT !!! i have 1mbps connection but it was playable !! (had some latency with aiming but everything in 30fps min for sure ^^)
worth checking it out !!!
PS: yeah thats some great technological emplimentation here ^^
bored? lets go mine the stars... ^^
So can I hook it up to my flat screen AND play? And can I use a bluetooth keyboard somehow for the pc type games?
It is nice to see things like this working so well, but what people should realize is this is not a new idea. We've been streaming desktops to zombie boxes for at least a decade, if not more. It was a brilliant idea to start using it for games, but it would have happened sooner or later, so don't start thinking they're the new Nicolas Tesla.
On another note, I am partially scared of this concept being a computer tech student. Moving everything to the cloud has a ton of advantages, but as with all new technology, you see the advantages before you see the problems.
There is a controller like in the picture you can use or you can actually use xbox controllers not sure about pc devices
yep... technologie have sometimes some major disadvantagies(car kills/fastfood kills/electricity kills/fire kill etc) but it never stoped us using it ^^
"We Make Shitty tech... With Bugs!"
bored? lets go mine the stars... ^^
I love it. Now Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo need to do this as well. They don't make money on their consoles anyway.
I had never really considered tablets or other devices as good alternatives to my consoles. Games on my Androids are usually little time killers and nothing else. If I wanted real portable gaming I had a DS or PSP. I am looking forward to the Vita. Faster speeds in my city along with OnLive ironing out their kinks could really make this a viable alternative. I would love to have the ability to play the same game on multiple devices depending on where I go.
Ya know, TB did an interview with one of the devs of this a while ago...
-Spouting a fountain of nonsense since 1995-
There's one thing that bothers me about this article and it's something I've seen in many articles about OnLive: OnLive DOES NOT play console games (currently). Every single game on OnLive is a PC game or the PC version of a multi-platform game. OnLive does NOT get a game until the PC version comes out (see Arkham City and LA Noire). Hopefully, someday OnLive can have custom hardware that will allow it to run console games or emulate them (I certainly wouldn't mind seeing them stream PS1 and Genesis and SNES emulation, just as a testbed).
That said, OnLive is great. I've been signed up with them since they first opened to the public and pushing everyone I know to join.
how can i do this controller ? can support all of the iphone and ipad game ? where i can buy it ?