OnLive Review

Discussion in 'GBAtemp Reviews & Guides' started by Guild McCommunist, Sep 11, 2011.

Sep 11, 2011

OnLive Review by Guild McCommunist at 4:28 PM (3,423 Views / 0 Likes) 32 replies

  1. Guild McCommunist
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    Member Guild McCommunist (not on boat)

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    After having some <a href="http://gbatemp.net/index.php?showtopic=306481" target="_blank">positive impressions</a> for OnLive, I decided to review the concept and service as a whole.

    <div align='center'><img src="http://cdn.thenextweb.com/asia/files/2011/02/Onlive-Logo.png" border="0" class="linked-image" /></div>

    OnLive is an interesting concept to a problem that no one really noticed, but regardless could use solving. Everyone likes games on the computer but not everyone could play them. Or people can play them but want to play them on their piddly weak laptop or netbook. Low and behold, OnLive came up with a rather ingenious solution to the issue: let their computers handle the hard work and then just stream the video of the game to you. You then send inputs to their computers which control the game. It seems like something full of issues, but the most surprising thing with the service is that the concept actually holds up and works great for what it is, but most of the issues stem from other things.

    <!--h--><div style="background: #DDE6F2;border: 1px solid white;border-bottom: 1px solid #5176B5;border-top: 1px solid #5176B5;color: #5176B5;font-size: 12px;font-weight: bold;margin: 0;padding: 5px;">The Bad</div><!--h-->

    Let's just get the downsides over with first, shall we?

    The most obvious downside to OnLive is obviously that the game doesn't play like if it's installed. There's a minor input delay, the graphics are often compressed (imagine the quality to be that of a 720p Youtube video), and you have to be constantly connected to the internet (a good connection, mind you) ala DRM style. These issues seem far from killer though, as input lag seems unnoticeable after a few minutes of playing. The compressed graphics seem like a necessary sacrifice and in some games (such as Arkham Asylum) I found them to be practically nonexistent, while in other games (such as Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood) they seemed to be slapping me upside the head at times. In fairness though, if your PC is rather crappy, the game wouldn't be able to run at all, or run as good as it looks on OnLive, so I consider this to be only a fair deal. The always-on internet thing can be a rather annoying deal generally, and the quality of the game depends on your internet connection. For the record, here's my connection speed info:

    <img src="http://www.speedtest.net/result/1452866934.png" border="0" class="linked-image" />

    I also have unlimited internet access (no bandwidth or download caps) which gives me a rather smooth gameplay experience. The OnLive site says you need 2Mb/s minimum, 5Mb/s recommended, so I'm in the clear. The bigger issue is if the internet cuts out or you simply don't have it or it gets worse as you play (such as if you're using a wireless connection and something starts bogging it down). You'll be left with the game attempting to reconnect or for it to start basically lagging and the video quality going down the tube. This rarely happened to me with a wireless connection however (exception being when the microwave goes on) and OnLive will attempt to reconnect for 5 minutes. If you're connection isn't restored by then (which it should be unless it flat out dies) then you'll exit OnLive. For reference, here's how some games look for me, although some of the so-called "artefacts" aren't nearly as noticeable as they are in motion. WARNING, large images:

    Warning: Spoilers inside!

    The green bar across the top for the Borderlands screencap is there for some reason but it's never in the game, probably just some glitch from screencapping.

    The other big issue is that a lack of game installation means you can't mod your games at all, something PC gamers pride themselves on. For example, a new mod for the original Deus Ex came out, upgrading the textures so they don't look like garbage. While the library doesn't have a huge selection of those token mod games (such as Oblivion, Fallout 3/New Vegas, etc, and I'll get on that in a second), it's still a bit of a bummer. Also, games all have preset settings for graphics, so you can't change any of that. They're also ALWAYS in widescreen (as seen above) and I can't find any way to change that.

    The final huge problem with OnLive is the library. Steam, the big boy when it comes to PC game sales nowadays, enjoys an expansive 1000+ games library, while OnLive has maybe 10% of that. While it gets access to some newer games (recently it got Deus Ex: Human Revolution, as anyone who bought a retail PC version of it that's NOT from Gamestop knows, Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, and it has pre-orders for Arkham City, Saint's Row The Third, etc). Still, it'll of course miss Steam's big selling point, which is Valve games like TF2, Counterstrike, L4D, etc, and it also seems to be missing popular PC games like CoD (haters gonna hate but it still brings in hellish amounts of sales and hits online), Starcraft, whatever. That's not to say the library is complete garbage, I still found enough that's enjoyable in it, but lacking definitely fits it.

    OnLive also sorta acts more as a separate type of console and not like another digital distribution platform in its online aspects. Basically OnLive players can only play with other OnLive players, despite some games using services like GameSpy. There's also no way to do LAN (I guess it seems rather obvious why) so if you're a big LAN gamer, you're outta luck.

    <!--h--><div style="background: #DDE6F2;border: 1px solid white;border-bottom: 1px solid #5176B5;border-top: 1px solid #5176B5;color: #5176B5;font-size: 12px;font-weight: bold;margin: 0;padding: 5px;">The Good</div><!--h-->

    With all the bad out of the way, let's tackle the positive stuff, shall we?

    First off, the entire service is basically cloud based, which makes it rather easily accessible. Games don't need to install so you can purchase a game and start playing it within seconds, plus it takes up no room on your computer. This also means you can hop onto another computer, install OnLive, and start playing games instantly. All your saves are kept on OnLive so they load with the game, and it's just as simple as logging into your account and pressing play, which may even be a big enough incentive for dedicated PC gamers who want to have an easily transferable gaming experience.

    There's also the big, obvious draw which is being able to play games with higher requirements on systems with poor specs. OnLive boasts that "most laptops and netbooks" will be able to handle it, and my computer (which was kinda meh specs even when I got 7 years ago) is able to run it fine. It's basically what drew me to the service in the first place.

    I also found the pricing and game deals to be rather good too. Most games, when there are no sales, are priced pretty much the same as on Steam, so it's not going to put as much as a dent in your wallet. They also have this "PlayPack Bundle", which is a subscription based offering. For $10 a month, you get access to over 90 games that range from older (the original Deus Ex) to rather newish (BioShock, Just Cause 2, Saint's Row 2 which just got added, The Witcher, Borderlands (non GotY), Prince of Persia (cell shaded one), etc etc). The Bundle is constantly updated so, in the future, that number will probably grow. The bundle also offers 30% off any purchase, which leads to some rather interesting things you can do. For example, most new games and pre-orders cost $50, as usual. What's to stop me from, instead of buying the game for $50, subscribe to the PlayPack for $10, buy the game for $35 (which already gives me a $5 discount), and then play around with the 90-so games for a month? Well, nothing. You can keep subscribing every month or simply cancel whenever. Plus the discount also applies after sales so you get some games rather cheap.

    They also have this weekly deal called "$5 Friday" (insert Rebecca Black joke here, yes this meme is now old) where, every Friday, they put a game on sale for $5. The games are actually rather sweet too. The first game I bought for OnLive was Borderlands: GotY Edition for $5 from this deal, while it normally costs $30. Last Friday I got Metro 2033 for $3.50 (with a subscriber discount, the sale was still $5 obviously) while it's normally $20. It's deals like this that make the service worth using.

    OnLive also takes a pretty interesting approach with game demos. Instead of offering a restricted demo of a level or two, they give you the full game, just a 30 minute timer on it. Once 30 minutes is up, the game stops and you can buy the game or just exit the trial. You can replay the demo as much as you want and if you decide to purchase the game, load your saves from the demo. For example, I demoed Arkham Asylum a while ago to test the service, and when I bought it (there was a huge deal going on where, if OnLive got over 45k fans on Facebook they'd sell Arkham Asylum for $1, which they did), I was able to load my save from the demo. OnLive also allows game rental services where you can buy a game for a 3-day or 5-day pass for a couple of bucks, which seems like a pretty solid solution for a short single player game or if you want to get a more thorough demo of the game.

    If you're interested, they also offer a console you can hook up to your TV. You basically get the same OnLive service, just a dedicated console for it which you can hook up a gamepad to and stuff. The console with a controller is around $100, which isn't too shabby, but they do have quite a few promotions where if you pre-order a game, you can choose another game or a console for free.

    <!--h--><div style="background: #DDE6F2;border: 1px solid white;border-bottom: 1px solid #5176B5;border-top: 1px solid #5176B5;color: #5176B5;font-size: 12px;font-weight: bold;margin: 0;padding: 5px;">OnLive Itself</div><!--h-->

    Now that we've got all the pros and cons out of the way, we can finally go over to how OnLive, as a game service, actually is.

    OnLive's GUI (as seen below) is kinda streamlined to incorporate their actual console.

    [tn=300]http://pix.gbatemp.net/177066/onlive%20gui.PNG[/tn]

    <ul><li>Arena is a neat little feature that basically allows you to view other people's games. Whether it's single player or multiplayer, you can watch them play from their point of view and chat with them, cheer or jeer them with other spectators, etc. You can also set your games to be unviewable by others or only by your friends, disable voice chat, etc etc.</li><li>Profile is your basic user profile. Your username, personal statement, personal video (you only have a handful of videos to choose from as an "avatar" of sorts), playtime, games you play, so on and so forth.</li><li>Marketplace is where you buy games. Duh.</li><li>My Games just brings you to all the games you own.</li><li>Friends is your friends list. You can add friends by entering their username the old fashioned way or by just sending them friend requests if you viewed their game in Arena or played with them online.</li><li>Brag Clips is a rather interesting feature as well that lets you record a portion of a game. You can record you drawing the Mona Lisa in Duke Nukem forever (a lot of people decided to do that) or just record scenes with hot chicks in them (even more people decide to do that).</li><li>Last Played just loads the last game you played. Derp.</li><li>Showcase is just what deals its currently offering and other promotions.</li></ul>

    The OnLive overlay (as seen below) is also streamlined for consoles. I don't have any game playing so the background is just blank but when a game is playing, it'll be shown in a background.

    [tn=300]http://pix.gbatemp.net/177066/onlive%20overlay.PNG[/tn]

    From left to right...

    <ul><li>About is your standard boring legal crap. EULA, Terms of Services, blah blah blah. You'll probably never need to use this tab.</li><li>Settings is all your bells and whistles. There's Audio/Video options, but they really do nothing outside of enable surround sound and actual sound or adjust brightness, respectively. You can also adjust privacy settings, e-mail options (such as letting friend requests and stuff be sent to your e-mail), tie a Facebook account to it, and adjust parental restrictions.</li><li>Quick Launch just let's you swap to another recent game you've played. Pretty useful if you want to change over to another game without having to exit it and go find the game you want.</li><li>Service just let's you adjust some OnLive specific controls (how to pop up the overlay, how to start recording Brag Clips, toggle between full screen and windowed mode) as well as exit the current game (not seen in the image as I'm not in a game) or exit OnLive itself.</li><li>Messages is just all the messages and friend requests that get sent to you. I have no friends because I'm an antisocial bastard. If you want to add me though, I'll put my name in bold at the bottom.</li><li>Voice Chat is the final tab, that lets start Group chats, Game Chats, stuff like that. I never really played with the feature myself (again, antisocial bastard) so sorry for being a bit vague about this part.</li></ul>

    The GUI in total (for both of them) is definitely tailored for gamepads and their console, which can be a bit annoying for PC users that can deal with a large amount of clutter on screen and easily access it all via the mouse. One thing I kinda found annoying was, when selecting a game, a trailer for it always autoplays, and I have not found a way to stop it from doing that or even how to pause it. But usually if I view a game page I do so to either watch the trailers anyway or just buy the game and navigate away from the page so it's not a huge issue. Still, to have a GUI that works well with a gamepad is something you rarely see, and I'll commend them for making one.

    EDIT: A side note, OnLive does have achievements, but only for a few games. It also has an achievement score, but it only seems to apply to each game, not to an overall score like Xbox Live. For example, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has achievements (5,000 points worth) but Arkham Asylum doesn't. How odd.

    <!--h--><div style="background: #DDE6F2;border: 1px solid white;border-bottom: 1px solid #5176B5;border-top: 1px solid #5176B5;color: #5176B5;font-size: 12px;font-weight: bold;margin: 0;padding: 5px;">In Conclusion...</div><!--h-->

    Is OnLive a great solution for people who want a taste of the PC gamer pie but don't have the specs to handle it? Yes. Does it work for everyone? No. Is there enough here to entice people who have gaming PCs anyway to try it? Sorta.

    For people with inadequate PCs, it's definitely the best option short of buying a new computer. Mind you the service is still something that'll differ from user to user. If you've got a great internet connection then you'll think it's fine. If you don't, you'll think it's crap. Still, your PC can't play these games anyway, so beggars can't be choosers.

    For the core PC gamer currently though, OnLive may seem like an interesting proposition. The deals are rather solid, even at times rivaling Steam, the games play well, and you can even get some of your friends with weakling kiddy PCs to play some good PC games with you, or visa versa. The half hour demos are usually a bit better than a few select levels as well. The cloud services and savings on PC space also are pretty nice, and if you wanted to use your laptop to play the same games your big bad computer plays, it works well for that too.

    It's far from a perfect service but for what seemed to start as a proof-of-concept and transformed into a viable option, it's an impressive trick that I've found to fit me quite well.

    <div align='center'><!--sizeo:5--><span style="font-size:18pt;line-height:100%"><!--/sizeo--><b>GUILD RECOMMENDS!</b><!--sizec--></span><!--/sizec--></div>

    If you're a current OnLive user or want to use the service, just add me. Username is <b>GuildMcCommunist</b>. Not sure if I'll actually game with you (I'm not big on multiplayer gaming outside of my real life friends), but you can always <strike>send me that spare key for Deus Ex: HR you got in your PC version</strike> just have me on your friends list and chat (probably not voice chat, also something I only do with real life friends) with me.
     


  2. Vanth88

    Member Vanth88 Private

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    A really great review and you pointed out the few flaws with the service. I would like to add a few things though:

    - Virtually every game supports controllers and rumble if the games use it. OnLive natively supports the Xbox 360 controller and any controller compatible with Xbox 360 controller emulator(MotionJoy+PS3 for ex)

    - Input lag is hit or miss for people. Personally I don't have any input lag and I have 2.5mb down and 250kb up, however some people obviously do.

    - They have a great technical support so if any game has any problems simply report it and they'll fix it in no time and even email you when they do.

    - Every game has a pre-set video config and changing the video options in the games that even allow you to change your video will not affect your game.

    - 2 player is supported for the games that allow it like Lego Batman. So you and a friend can play.

    - OnLive is supported on Windows as well as Mac and a Linux version is on the way though there is a unofficial Linux version.

    - There's a unofficial portable version of OnLive that lets you put OnLive on a flash drive or pretty much anything you want and play it anywhere including work, school, etc. Link Here

    - Achievements are supported for the games that allow it. Not all games that have achievements on other consoles have them on OnLive however.

    - Some games have DLC and even limited edition content available for purchase while some even include the DLC and limited edition content when you buy the game or pre-purchase it. Splinter Cell Conviction for example includes the content released through EA's UPlay and all limited edition pre-purchase items released for the game.
     
  3. kevan

    Member kevan Imagination rules the world

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    I wish Aus had this [​IMG]
     
  4. BryceOne

    BryceOne Newbie

    Can you just buy a game or 2 and play them or does it also have a service fee?

    EDIT: As far as I can tell, membership is free (for now). Doesn't say how much the service will cost in the future, plus any games you purchase may not be there forever. At least they tell the minimum length of time the game will be available.

    I love the ARENA. Let's say you're stuck in a game. You can watch someone else play the game and see what they do in the area you're stuck in. Very cool.
     
  5. LightyKD

    Member LightyKD Future CEO of OUYA Inc.

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    Membership is free forever. A while back OnLive had membership fee but they figured out it wasn't productive to their bottom line so they nixed them completely. Aside from that I guess they figure that having the "PlayPack" side by side with individual game passes will cover both sides o the fence. The PlayPack is 70+ games for $9.99 monthly which is like a subscription but you also get 30% of all purchases and like always you can just buy or rent a game with a play pass.
     
  6. Rydian

    Member Rydian Resident Furvertâ„¢

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    Good coverage of your experiences as usual, Guild. I might actually consider using this if I get a netbook now...

    Input lag is a factor of latency, not bandwidth, and the two are possibly disjointed in places... you could have 5MB down with 500ms ping, and 10MB down with 50ms ping.
     
  7. mr deez

    Member mr deez GBAtemp Fan

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    Yes you do, you just may not be able to notice it.
     
  8. kevan

    Member kevan Imagination rules the world

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    I don't get it [​IMG]
    Your calling bullshit on his claim?
    If so why since it was him who experienced no input lag.
    Not you for him.
     
  9. Ergo

    Member Ergo GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    Because it's there, period. It's physically (as in physics) impossible for it not to be. That said, it might be at a level below what an individual might notice, just like some people can't tell the difference between 30 and 60 fps, there are some people for whom larger amounts of input lag isn't noticeable. But my guess is that if they were sitting there and switching between local and remote (just as if our 60fps-blind friend was shown the same game running at 30 and 60, side-by-side), they'd notice it very quickly--especially in games that demand fast reaction times like 3D fighters.

    (The same goes, incidentally, w/ LCDs w/ lots of video post-processing that don't possess a 'game' mode; there's also input lag on wireless controllers and that's something you *can* notice if you switch from wireless to wired on, say, a shooter (old school, CAVE style), you'll probably notice that your scores, err, shoot up substantially w/ the wired option. The issue, of course, is that the lag introduced from video processing and wireless controllers is, combined, less than that what you'd see under OnLive under optimal conditions, so you generally won't notice it.)
     
  10. Rydian

    Member Rydian Resident Furvertâ„¢

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    Not all games need fast reaction times though, and it's all relative.

    If an action would be executed in 1/3rd of a second and there's 100ms latency added that may be noticeable... but if you're playing some RTS game and the command to build a structure that takes 45 seconds to build has an extra 100ms, you're much less likely to notice.

    Same sort of thing with FPS. Some types of games can stand lower FPS than other types.
     
  11. Scott-105

    Member Scott-105 Bow to me. Please?

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    Wow, that's freaking detailed man. I read it all, it's really great. As you know, I can't use it because of crappy internet. I may get some games on OnLive in the future, when I move out of my parent's house, where I'll hopefully have better internet [​IMG]
     
  12. Guild McCommunist
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    Member Guild McCommunist (not on boat)

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    Pretty much every OnLive game I've played has been fine. There is a delay in commands but you seem to get used to it within seconds and it's only noticeable in some spots, but even then you've still learned to compensate for the lag. I use a wired mouse and keyboard too and it's probably easier to do a wired controller than wireless anyway.

    And you won't be playing any Cave shooters on it.
     
  13. GameWinner

    Member GameWinner Take your heart

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    Nice review, I wanted to try OnLive ever since it was first announced (not sure, but 2008ish?). Probably won't try it though due to the crappyness that is my PC.
     
  14. Vanth88

    Member Vanth88 Private

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    That's the brilliant thing about OnLive, you don't need no stinkin super powered PC! or even a decent PC! heck you don't even need a PC! well... at the moment you do but it was tested with Crysis on an iPhone. The only thing you need is a mouse/keyboard/gamepad and a decent internet speed. It won't hurt to try either way as the program is less than 8mb.

    As for the input lag thing well its obviously there but for me it's only when there's server connection issues so the game hiccups and it lags. Not that it matters because as someone pointed out you get used to any lag you might have so its probably impossible for me to tell. It really just comes down to latency between you and the server. I'm not sure what ping I get but I'm guessing its between 20-40ms maybe at its highest 70 which is bollocks because as everyone knows you won't notice much lag in that range no matter what you're playing.
     
  15. Guild McCommunist
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    Member Guild McCommunist (not on boat)

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    Side note to everyone, until midnight today, any game (minus preorders) is 50% off if you enter the name of the game with the highest Metascore on OnLive as a promo code.

    Oddly enough I knew this off the top of my head and the code is "Bioshock" (with a 96%). I could literally buy any $50 game for $17.50 now with a subscriber bonus.

    Also, Arkham Asylum was added to the PlayPack bundle. I should harumph for having purchased it before it was added but I paid a whole $.69 for it so I can't even complain.
     
  16. LightyKD

    Member LightyKD Future CEO of OUYA Inc.

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    Checked the Marketplace yesterday. Arkham Asylum is also available in "full playpass" form for 29.99 for those of you who don't want to buy a playpack to play his game.
     
  17. blahkamehameha

    Member blahkamehameha GBAtemp Regular

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    i have the console, and am pretty impressed with Onlive so far.

    My only complaints are the "in the future onlive may not be free" thing. Having to buy the games then pay to play them, and not actually owning physical copies would just be foolish in my opinion.

    Also, the controller with the console isn't that great in my opinion.
     
  18. Amphy2310

    Newcomer Amphy2310 Advanced Member

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    I really enjoy using onlive, I haven't bought any games yet myself (ony tried trials so far) and it works great for me, my only concern is that it tends to go blurry a lot but it's not too bad [​IMG]
     
  19. theloon

    Newcomer theloon Member

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    I didn't notice any blurry spurts with Onlive for the short time I toyed with it. You can see some video compression artifacts if you know what to look for.

    Gaming on demand has always been a hard sell. I didn't even know about the Sega Channel until last year [​IMG]
     
  20. Guild McCommunist
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    Member Guild McCommunist (not on boat)

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    Yeah, same here, only thing I notice is artifacts. Sometimes the artifacts can make some things a little blurry, depending on the game (I've noticed it with AC: Brotherhood).

    Although some things look terrible when your connection speed tanks. It happens to me when the microwave finishes (since it's reestablishing connection and it's getting up to optimal speed or whatever).

    Also, it apparently had its UK launch. Not sure how it is across the pond but if you're UK based, feel free to tell me how it works for you.
     

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