The much-hyped OnLive PC gaming service has soft-launched to a limited preview audience, and we've spent the past several days putting the streaming service through its paces. OnLive allows nearly any laptop or desktop to play high-end PC games, by offloading the CPU and GPU-intensive tasks of actually running the game software to a remote render farm, then beaming the gameplay back to you as a streaming video.
As unlikely as that scenario sounds, in practice the system actually works quite well, at least at these initial stages. The game selection is decent, the hardware requirements are very flexible, and the overall image quality and gameplay experience runs from acceptable to very good. The big question mark in OnLive's future is how well the system will scale for a mass audience.
For high-end PC gamers, OnLive won't replace your turbocharged, water-cooled quad-GPU gaming rig, and the insane screen resolutions it can pump out (OnLive is currently limited to 1,280x720 pixels), but for casual gamers who are interested in sampling the latest PC games, there's a lot of promise here.
Dan: My first hands-on experience with OnLive at the 2009 Game Developers Conference was a mixed bag. The online gaming service felt like an overly ambitious idea that was sluggish in execution, with plenty of unanswered questions about its technology and business model.
The final version of OnLive is finally, well, live, and Rich Brown and I have spent the past several days testing it across a wide range of laptop and desktop computers, with overall very satisfying results.
The main interface is very widgetlike, almost easier to navigate with a game pad than a mouse. One of OnLive's only onerous requirements is a hard-wired Internet connection, and the software wouldn't even install on a Wi-Fi network (OnLive says good-quality Wi-Fi connections can theoretically work, and may be implemented in the future).
The built-in game store offers recent games such as Splinter Cell: Conviction and Borderlands, alongside a handful of casual games, including World of Goo. Demos give you time-limited access to the full games, and paid access options vary by game, but generally offer three-to-five-day access for a few dollars, or the full game at its current retail price (up to $59.99). … Read more