First Impressions: OnLive Gaming Service

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First Impressions: OnLive Gaming Service

I have written here and here and here about the OnLive gaming service, which was announced over a year ago as a way for gamers with relatively modest computer hardware to run the latest and greatest games in HD.

The service was supposed to release on June 17th, but folks sporadically started gaining access on the 18th – which is when I got access to the service. I’ve had the chance to get some play time with the service and wanted to give you some first impressions.

First Impressions: OnLive Gaming Service

The service runs on most reasonably powered Macs or PCs without any issue. The system is designed to handle all computing and graphics processing at the server, meaning that playing games no longer needs heavy computer power, just low-latency peripherals … and a high speed connection.

The installation was quick and easy – a small desktop app installs the web interface and provides direct access to the service. Once installed you simply launch the app and are connected directly to the service.

First Impressions: OnLive Gaming Service

The first thing to note – while OnLive doesn’t have heavy computer requirements it is VERY particular about the network hookup. Such as:
– No WiFi. Period.
– Even with a wired hookup, if there is something that slows down the connection you won’t even be able to log in, let alone play.
– It will boot you if it detects a period of sustained lag. For example, I was playing and my wife entered a Skype voice call with our nephew who is studying in China this summer, and pretty quickly I was back at my desktop.

First Impressions: OnLive Gaming Service

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Once you get into the service, there are a bunch of options. Your own profile contains loads of information about the overall settings for the service, but one thing that you WON’T find is a bunch of video display options. Again – you don’t have to tweak resolution and HDR and texture size and AA and so on, because all of that is done on the server side.

Choosing ‘My Games’ will bring up all of the games you’ve added to the service through the marketplace. The marketplace has a scrolling list of games that are available to play, and by choosing one you get more info including a running trailer to show off the features and some gameplay.

Once you decide to try out a game, you can either play 30 minutes of ‘demo time’, which is a total of 30 minutes of the actual game rather than spawning a different demo. Once that time has elapsed you need to buy the game to continue. My sign-up included a code for one free game, but I am still playing around with the demos and haven’t decided yet what to buy.

First Impressions: OnLive Gaming Service

I exhausted my demo time playing the upcoming LEGO Harry Potter Years 1 – 4. The game takes the classic gameplay of LEGO Star Wars and drops you into the Harry Potter world, starting off in the Leaky Cauldron and proceeding from there. Everything works as expected and the game looks to be a load of fun – much better than the average LEGO Indiana Jones and Batman games.

Overall I have enjoyed my initial time with OnLive, but it has also cemented all of my concerns – the network requirements are a major issue and will be a big problem for many. I have a solid 10+MBPS connection and still found occasional lag issues even when no one else was on the network. And of course there is the whole pricing and ownership thing … I can’t get the thought out of my head that the service is like GameTap except that you have to pay $60 for games you can’t keep if you leave the service.

Anyone else get their activation? What are your thoughts? I’ll be sure to check back with a full review after I have more time and use my free game code.

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!