First Look: OnLive

The Idea
If you’re interested in a gaming experience that is very unique and almost surreal, you might want to give OnLive a shot.
The idea behind OnLive, if you’re not already familiar, is that the company brings games to platforms for which they weren’t originally intended, as well as those they were, but in an on-line streaming capacity. For instance, Trine, a game originally released on several platforms, is available on the gaming service to those with PC or Mac computers and that includes saving progress, resuming saved games on the different computers that OnLive supports, etc. (Rumored also to be coming to things like the iPhone, Android, iPad, and possibly others) So playing your favorite games will be fast, simple, and as easy as just logging on to the service.

Performance
At first glance you might have read my description about how OnLive works, and thought to yourself, “Streaming?”, and all I can say to that is: “Yeah. Streaming.”
I got my invite sometime this week, and just signed up tonight, and started testing out the service. There is a client install that needs to be done, but the configuration is accomplished on the first run. It also requires you get signed up with the service prior to running the OnLive client because it requires a login. Once the client started, it was in a window and ran fine, but the fullscreen experience is where the money is. I was very concerned that my connection might not be good enough, as I have a double NAT environment and I wasn’t sure if the client would run properly. On the performance configuration the client automatically performs on first login, my connection configuration was pointed out as something to be concerned about. Well, it was wrong. At least from my perspective, the performance was truly breathtaking because the demo of Border Lands was not only flawless, but started in seconds. Almost as if I had installed the game locally, but in some way, better.

Details
First the performance was great, but then there are the details. What was missing from my experience were extra details that I might ordinarily have to configure. I didn’t do anything, and the sound, video, mouse, etc, were all “default” but tuned well and I think that also led to great performance. I didn’t need to change any bit-rates, color depth, or any other mundane component to just jump in and play. This turned the average PC/Mac computer gaming experience into more of a console-like experience where everything’s already tuned for the best performance. At least in my experience. The only thing which could make it any better, is the hardware on which OnLive is running on, or if it ran very well on low bandwidth connections (A’La iPad and 3G).

Conclusion
I didn’t want to go too deep into the OnLive experience today, but I did want to deliver a first look review to let you all know what I think there is in this Much Hyped on-line gaming service. Well, in my opinion, regardless of the current articles, nay sayers, etc, having played video games for *most* of my life, this is one of the coolest services you could have especially if you don’t like the idea of having to “own” several different consoles to get to play lots of games. Most of us will have one or two platforms at home besides the PC/Mac hardware, so having something like OnLive truly augments your current setup and lets you experience games in an entirely new way. The performance was great, the ease of use was immaculate, and the overall adaptation of games from wherever they first were released to the PC/Mac seemed to work really well overall. My verdict, at least for now, is that OnLive could make a huge and sustainable splash for a long time to come. One thing though, there are *no* free games at this time. You can play demos, and not all the games can be rented, (purchase only), so while the service is currently dirt cheap (4.95/month after the first free year), I think they need to increase the cost to 6.95/month and give you at least one free rental per month. Such a direction would certainly give something like GameFly a run for their money. Here’s to hoping I can get OnLive on my PS3, Wii, PSP, iPad, iPhone, Android Phone, or any other portable device you can think of. Very well done. Bravo.

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