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E3 2012: OnLive hands-on

E3 2012

My PC is not the most robust machine. It was not top-of-the-line when I bought it, and every few months pass with more degradation of performance in comparison to newer and bigger games. Not being able to play the latest and greatest with all of the features turned on to the maximum levels is disheartening, and the resulting loss in quality can be staggering. As someone who played Doom 3 on its lowest settings and still experienced slow-down, the concept of OnLive should have been something I appreciated when it was released. Instead, I looked at it as an experiment, questioned whether it could succeed, and then forgot about it.

The thing that worried me at the time was the lack of physical ownership of the games. After spending a lifetime, first with cartridge and then disc based media, I found the idea of my holdings existing without proper corporeal form disconcerting. Valve’s downloadable service Steam was the thing to convince me differently.

That said, it’s not like OnLive has run out of problems that prevent it from appearing ideal. To summarize their variation of digital service is that you play your games on their machines. What you view on your own screen is a thing that is not running on your computer. Rather, you are more or less watching a video of what you are doing, with your actions transmitted over the Internet to their machines. The idea is that you don’t need a robust machine to run the latest game. All you need is an internet connection.


And thusly that runs into the main problem. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Diablo 3, it’s that requiring an internet connection to run a game isn’t the best thing in the world. In my time with the game I dealt with lag that caused my character to spontaneously teleport, or to suddenly stop moving at all. I’ve dealt with disconnections both on my end and Blizzard’s. I spent most of the time wishing I was playing offline.

The second issue that OnLive is going to have to deal with is their electronic catalog. With only 300 or so games, that might mean that the game you want to play isn’t available. There is the promise that this library will only grow as time goes on, but for now it’s limited, especially against other services like Steam.

At E3 they’ve come with announcements of new updates on the horizon. Namely the ability to view friends’ games via a sidebar and their service coming preloaded on LG televisions. Both of these are nifty features; the former makes multiplayer communication simpler, the latter cuts out the peripheral required to play on any other tv. There is no clear answer as to how the internet connection issue would be solved, only that it won’t be solved on their end. Their library can only grow if they work at it. My suggestion: partnership with Valve.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2011.

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