Thoughts about OnLive from a former ISP tech.

Hello again Giant Bomb community,

I thought the first day back on the site after my hiatus should be my thoughts about GDC and the biggest thing to happen at GDC: OnLive.

OnLive Controller
OnLive to me is going to be a godsend for playing PC games on my Macintosh that I normally would have to play on the console (Unreal Tournament is a great example) that don't necessarily play well at all on the consoles if it works. However, this is a pretty big "IF" since all the reports I've read indicate that it doesn't work nearly as well as you would hope it does. For instance during the Giant Bomb video over at OnLive, you can clearly see Jeff attempting to play Burnout and the framerate is ATROCIOUS. Not to say that this is indicative of the end product. Everyone should remember this is a WORK IN PROGRESS and the final product will speak for itself. When I was doing focus group testing at Retro Studios for Metroid Prime 3, there were some pretty big bugs even weeks before ship-date that the coders hadn't coded into the latest build yet. These things will improve, so all the haters out there need to keep that in mind.

Can you imagine how amazing this service will be if it works as advertised? Now, please don't mistake my extreme optimism for ignorance or naivety but the repercussions for the game industry, as a whole would be astounding if this service works even 50% as well as they advertise. Can you imagine not having to download demos or videos on Xbox Live? Imagine having massive server farms render videos for you! This technology could change a lot of other technologies and industries in a massive way...IF it works. My prediction is that a big entity such as Microsoft will purchase this company. Actually, I'm more convinced that Amazon.com will be the people to purchase OnLive if it works like they say it will. It makes sense in Amazon's new direction with subscription services and would expand their digital services beyond things like MP3 and Kindle Books.


Service Diagram

There are a few very basic reasons why I think OnLive will work. The number 1 reason why I think this company will succeed or at least have some very good traction right away is that MAJOR publishers are supporting OnLive right this moment (at time of article). EA and Ubisoft are just two names on a very impressive list of publishers and developers that support the service. Reasons why systems like Phantom and GameTap failed miserably was due to lack of support from game publishers to get titles on their platforms that people ACTUALLY CARED ABOUT (sad face). The next reason is that the man behind OnLive, Steve Perlman was responsible for pioneering two very important internet video/rendering services; one of which the world still uses a lot of: QuickTime. If you look on Wikipedia he is not only a successful man in the industry of online video but has spent 7 years developing new technologies just for this service. That type of commitment shows that his executive team is very serious about this service and it is not merely a rich man's experiment.

List of Support
The last leg of my argument for OnLive is also one of the only things that will ultimately break it: Internet Service Providers. I think this is the first time I've been able to talk about this due to contractual obligations, but I used to work at a service-firm (who shall remain nameless) for 6 MAJOR internet service providers including Frontier, Charter, Time Warner, Consolidated, CenturyTel and a host of smaller ISPs. They absolutely have the throughput and technology to ensure that we can get connections from these OnLive server-farms to your house in very low-latency ways. I've been to the data-centers and I've seen the fiber being laid to more and more places personally, so I know for a fact the service is there to make this possible. DISCLAIMER: Time Warner still provides my internet access. I think the most major issue with OnLive is that the internet service providers are reluctant to allow users to tap more of their network and pull even more data in order to keep their profit margins incredibly high. In fact, the amount of pure greed I saw at the ISP level is second probably only to cellular providers in terms of doing anything to maintain that 500% profit margin. That's why we see things like usage caps and throttling on networks. ISPs certainly have the resources to permit things like file sharing and it's an absolute crock to think that they do not. I live in a town with less than 5,000 people at last census (2004) and we're capped just the same as the people who live in Austin, Texas - for no reason at all besides keeping profits high.

I hope this column has added something thought-provoking to discussions of OnLive that I'm sure are occurring now; this service has a very real potential to permanently change the way we play and rent video games - and I for one, hope it actually works as advertised.

by Jacob Casper
UnlivedPhalanx on the internet

Jacob Casper has written for a slew of technology-based websites and newspapers in San Marcos and Wimberley, Texas and is currently studying for a degree in journalism for these markets. Contact Jacob online at: JacobCasper@gmail.com
18 Comments
19 Comments
Posted by UnlivedPhalanx

Hello again Giant Bomb community,

I thought the first day back on the site after my hiatus should be my thoughts about GDC and the biggest thing to happen at GDC: OnLive.

OnLive Controller
OnLive to me is going to be a godsend for playing PC games on my Macintosh that I normally would have to play on the console (Unreal Tournament is a great example) that don't necessarily play well at all on the consoles if it works. However, this is a pretty big "IF" since all the reports I've read indicate that it doesn't work nearly as well as you would hope it does. For instance during the Giant Bomb video over at OnLive, you can clearly see Jeff attempting to play Burnout and the framerate is ATROCIOUS. Not to say that this is indicative of the end product. Everyone should remember this is a WORK IN PROGRESS and the final product will speak for itself. When I was doing focus group testing at Retro Studios for Metroid Prime 3, there were some pretty big bugs even weeks before ship-date that the coders hadn't coded into the latest build yet. These things will improve, so all the haters out there need to keep that in mind.

Can you imagine how amazing this service will be if it works as advertised? Now, please don't mistake my extreme optimism for ignorance or naivety but the repercussions for the game industry, as a whole would be astounding if this service works even 50% as well as they advertise. Can you imagine not having to download demos or videos on Xbox Live? Imagine having massive server farms render videos for you! This technology could change a lot of other technologies and industries in a massive way...IF it works. My prediction is that a big entity such as Microsoft will purchase this company. Actually, I'm more convinced that Amazon.com will be the people to purchase OnLive if it works like they say it will. It makes sense in Amazon's new direction with subscription services and would expand their digital services beyond things like MP3 and Kindle Books.


Service Diagram

There are a few very basic reasons why I think OnLive will work. The number 1 reason why I think this company will succeed or at least have some very good traction right away is that MAJOR publishers are supporting OnLive right this moment (at time of article). EA and Ubisoft are just two names on a very impressive list of publishers and developers that support the service. Reasons why systems like Phantom and GameTap failed miserably was due to lack of support from game publishers to get titles on their platforms that people ACTUALLY CARED ABOUT (sad face). The next reason is that the man behind OnLive, Steve Perlman was responsible for pioneering two very important internet video/rendering services; one of which the world still uses a lot of: QuickTime. If you look on Wikipedia he is not only a successful man in the industry of online video but has spent 7 years developing new technologies just for this service. That type of commitment shows that his executive team is very serious about this service and it is not merely a rich man's experiment.

List of Support
The last leg of my argument for OnLive is also one of the only things that will ultimately break it: Internet Service Providers. I think this is the first time I've been able to talk about this due to contractual obligations, but I used to work at a service-firm (who shall remain nameless) for 6 MAJOR internet service providers including Frontier, Charter, Time Warner, Consolidated, CenturyTel and a host of smaller ISPs. They absolutely have the throughput and technology to ensure that we can get connections from these OnLive server-farms to your house in very low-latency ways. I've been to the data-centers and I've seen the fiber being laid to more and more places personally, so I know for a fact the service is there to make this possible. DISCLAIMER: Time Warner still provides my internet access. I think the most major issue with OnLive is that the internet service providers are reluctant to allow users to tap more of their network and pull even more data in order to keep their profit margins incredibly high. In fact, the amount of pure greed I saw at the ISP level is second probably only to cellular providers in terms of doing anything to maintain that 500% profit margin. That's why we see things like usage caps and throttling on networks. ISPs certainly have the resources to permit things like file sharing and it's an absolute crock to think that they do not. I live in a town with less than 5,000 people at last census (2004) and we're capped just the same as the people who live in Austin, Texas - for no reason at all besides keeping profits high.

I hope this column has added something thought-provoking to discussions of OnLive that I'm sure are occurring now; this service has a very real potential to permanently change the way we play and rent video games - and I for one, hope it actually works as advertised.

by Jacob Casper
UnlivedPhalanx on the internet

Jacob Casper has written for a slew of technology-based websites and newspapers in San Marcos and Wimberley, Texas and is currently studying for a degree in journalism for these markets. Contact Jacob online at: JacobCasper@gmail.com
Posted by pause422

If everything works as they say it will, it will be a pretty impressive option and I'm sure plenty of people will enjoy it..though its not going to revolutionize anything. I think its the first step towards a one console to do everything future, but OnLive won't be that future, just a first stepping stone maybe. If it actually works as stated.

Posted by AgentJ

Awesome avatar Phalanx

Posted by Absurd

It better not work well, I just got a new PC.

Posted by jakob187

Here's what I think of OnLive:


Phantom.

That is all.
Posted by SmugDarkLoser

I dunno, just doesn't seem like it'd work well and I just can't see it happening.

It could possibly becomes the cheap way of doing things if you really have to, like a mac user with no consoles

Posted by pirate_republic

I personally think it will succeed (if it works), but it hold only a small portion of the audience: I don't see something like this taking over for at least five years.

Posted by TheJollyRajah

Even if OnLive doesn't work, this IS the future of gaming. 


And you've have to remember, big time publishers are supporting this 110%. A lot of money and dedication has been spent on OnLive, and you've gotta be foolsih to think this will fail.
Posted by PureRok
TheJollyRajah said:
"Even if OnLive doesn't work, this IS the future of gaming. 

And you've have to remember, big time publishers are supporting this 110%. A lot of money and dedication has been spent on OnLive, and you've gotta be foolsih to think this will fail.
"
Lots of money being spent on something has very little bearing on if something fails or not. It's ultimately up to the consumer to decide.
Posted by TheJollyRajah
PureRok said:
"TheJollyRajah said:
"Even if OnLive doesn't work, this IS the future of gaming. 

And you've have to remember, big time publishers are supporting this 110%. A lot of money and dedication has been spent on OnLive, and you've gotta be foolsih to think this will fail.
"
Lots of money being spent on something has very little bearing on if something fails or not. It's ultimately up to the consumer to decide."
Very true. I mean, the PS3 ain't doing too hot.

From a sales point of view, anything can happen. But what I meant was performance. Maybe I should have been a bit clearer in my post.
Posted by UnlivedPhalanx

I agree with the two of you Jolly and Pure,

It could very easily fail just due to people not understanding the idea OR poor publicity. I think actually availability of service may kill it since you have to be within 1,000 miles of one of their centers.

Posted by PenguinDust

After watching BGs interview with the OnLive rep, if they've "solved" all the packet delivery and latency problems inherent to the internet then I wish they'd sell it to Netflix so that the movies I watch via streaming would look and sound better.  I have a less than average connection, so this OnLive thing is practically useless to me until my service either improves or more options become available.  I still believe that the infrastructure of the nation is not prepared to handle the OnLive service except maybe in a few cities.  That hardly seems like a viable business model. 

Edited by UnlivedPhalanx

You know I've been thinking less about the United States and more about Europe recently. 1 data-center could easily reach out to several nations in the UK if placed correctly - I think OnLive might be the future of Japan / Europe's games until the US gets its act together.

Posted by BawlZINmotion

Nice piece. I have high hopes for OnLive, but I cannot help feel pessimistic that its full potential won't be realized because of greed. More specifically, because of money and control. I don't think many people are willing to pay (and this is only a proposed model) a monthly fee ontop of of individual purchases. OnLive will work best if users are given access based on subscription alone. In addition to an attractive pricing model, bandwidth between A and B is the largest hurdle. The technology itself and the ideas behind it are awesome, I really hope it works out.

Posted by addictedtopinescent

With that lis of companies supporting it, I'm sure it works at least 50% of what hey are saying.

Posted by TwoOneFive

OnLive will takeover slowly but surely. can you imagine how amazing any exclusives they made for it would look?

Posted by dprabon
Nice breakdown Casper.
ISPs, are going to cause some trouble; however I doubt it will do enough damage to significantly hinder OnLive's revenue
Posted by Serker

I had an argument with my buddy over Live about what the consequences for OnLive would be.
He thinks, like you, that Microsoft or Sony will scoop it up because the amount of money they would be paid out would overcompensate the amount of effort it would take to continually improve the product and try and compete for spotlight with the established fanbases of the three big hardware developers.

What I think is that OnLive could potentially be the one-console future of gaming that was predicted. Maybe not right away, but if it catches on in the mainstream I don't see why not. The cost of the hardware would be cheaper, and prices of games would drop dramatically since your not paying for the physical copies anymore. With enough support from developers the OnLive service could offer a more robust catalog of games from previous generations and current making it easier to play what you want to play when you want. And in this post-apocalypse, Microsoft and Sony would be reduced to nothing more than their respective game development companys, and their hardware would become obsolete because whose going to want to spend more money everytime a new generation of gaming roles around? It should be getting cheaper not more expensive! I think Nintendo would still stay around though because idk if OnLive can do motion control, or the gimmicky things Nintendo has been attempting.

Of course that hypothetical to the umpteenth degree but thats a future I would want to live in.

Posted by SteveBaseball

OnLive will be a breakthrough for sure.  But anybody who thinks there will be a massive, seismic in gaming is wrong.  And the ISPs are the main reason.


The shift will come in the future, but it will be "evolutionary", not "revolutionary."