back to article Mr. WebTV gives games thin-client treatment

An intriguing new game service called OnLive may bring obsolescence to the gaming console question: "But will it run Crysis?" OnLive, which is expected to launch later this year, was unveiled yesterday at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The technology is basically thin-client computing for video games, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    not a new idea

    Stream My Game did that years ago, didn't it? same bandwidth issues- but Crysis looks awesome on an eeepc!

  2. Ru

    I bet ISPs will love this

    High bandwidth streaming is pretty much what makes their usual business model fall over and die.

    Would make a good market (and actually appropriate) for some kind of high priority traffic service, if it weren't for the enthusiams of net neutrality people to prevent any QoS.

  3. Rog69
    Thumb Down

    It will never work.

    Hey ISP's, you think BBC Iplayer is a problem, wait until you get a load of this! To play a game at 720 lines resolution (which is painfully low compared to most modern PC games) I will need a 5mb connection which I'm assuming it will use all of, and will equate to using up around 1.8GB of download allowance for every hour that I'm playing.

    Then there are problems with contention, how many people are going to be able to log in and play brand new AAA titles without a wait?

    There will be lag, unless the little box they supply can actually break the laws of physics. multiplayer games will be unplayable and single player games will be a bit stodgy to play at best.

    This sounds like a pile of crap invented by marketoids to attract investors into jumping on the latest wankword bandwagon "cloud computing" and to drag gaming into it as well..

  4. Sonny

    yep, Its been done

    Yep, your right. I've been using StreamMygame to play games on netbook since last summer and my cousin in Oslo streamed over broadband no problem.....

  5. Anonymous Coward

    cost comparison

    so you get whizzy games on a cheapo client .. but you have to pay a subscription for the games and need a good (low latency, decent bandwidth) pipe.

    is that cheaper (or more feasible) than a PS3/Xbox360/GamerPC and a bog standard ADSL line?

    nah, can't see it meself

    makes more sense to subsidise the cost of decent client hardware and recoup the subsidy through a subscription for bandwidth and titles (see mobile phones). and you only need to do that if people won't front up the cost of the console just for the hell of it ... (how are consoles selling these days?).

    forget "emerging markets", numerous telecoms equipment suppliers got burned trying to stimulate those markets with low cost infrastructure products - wireless local loop springs to mind.

  6. Marvin the Martian


    Because we obviously want the immersive experience of seeing very compressed versions of textures neatly displayed on a minuscule screen. You'd almost swear it's real if you see it.

    Now let's see if the service can extend to a compressed simulation of 5.1 surround sound on tinny inbuilt speakers.

  7. Peter
    Paris Hilton

    Isn't it a little early for something like this?

    About a week early with this announcement, I'd say.

    "The catch is it requires considerable bandwidth to do so."

    No, the catch is that it is fundamentally a ludicrously bad idea on many levels. You have a load of clients that each individiually need to do a lot of heavy computation as well as transferring a hefty bit of bandwidth on a pretty much constant basis with great sensitivity to latency and any potential signal loss. How does it ever make sense to have a thin client for that?

    Paris: I'm sure she could serve a good portion of the cloud.

  8. Dick Wad

    How are they going to make money?

    Doesn't the system require a back-end to render this all? Regardless of things like latency and bandwisth usage, in order to play, they have to have another computer on the backend to render the game. How does that get paid for? Obviously not off the margins of the console. So how much is the subscription? Can they really make money over and above the bandwidth charges to drive the things? Doesn't really seem like a very sound business plan to me.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Re: It will never wordk

    "There will be lag, unless the little box they supply can actually break the laws of physics. multiplayer games will be unplayable and single player games will be a bit stodgy to play at best."

    How? The only "laws of physics" that are relevant is the speed of light. The same that apply now, same distances, just more data.

    Actually, as the "server" will be "centralised", averaging out pings from individual players (due to its location), the lag would be less if anything.

  10. Marc Kent
    Thumb Down

    Erm.. nah

    We all know this Just_Won't_Work. Except *maybe* for turn based games.. ok make that OLD turn based games.. .in 2d!

    Civ4 would play like arse if there was latency every time you scrolled or zoomed in/out.... but playing an FPS, or even Diablo 2 streamed = nothankyou.jpg

  11. Goat Jam

    Ummm, fergeddaboutit

    You know, when I started reading the article I though it might be cool to stream a game across my LAN from a dedicated games beast to say, my laptop, or maybe a media PC attached to the TV.

    Of course further reading reveals that this is not the intended use of this brilliant as it is just yet another bandwidth hogging attempt to centralise software and change PC gaming to a service model. In other words, DRM in sheeps clothing.

    Of course the likes of EA and Blizzard will just love getting *their* software off *our* computers and move us to a pay to play model for EVERYTHING. I cant see gamers thinking it is such a great idea though. It'll be really great at LAN parties, too I expect, with dozens of gamers all trying to suck 5Mb/sec down the same pipe.

    Which brings us to the bandwidth issues. Presently, ISPs around the world are imposing ever restrictive usage caps on their poor suffering users. I have a relatively BIG cap of 25Gb per month, my GF has a whopping 1Gb to play with. I can't even setup a simple SSH-PPP vpn between our places so I can stream mp3s from my server at home so I'm reduced to using fucking *sneakernet* and a USB stick just to do stuff between or places. And this is in the Year of Our Lord 2009 for christsake, not nineteen fucking eighty five.

    What all these idiot marketing droids and venture capitalist cretins fail to understand when they come up with "fantastic" ideas such as streaming TV and games over the net is that the users they intend to target won't actually have the ability to use their products, even if they actually wanted to, due to the asshat behaviour of their scumbag service providers.

    Welcome to the 21st century boys, we've got the all the tech you can imagine without the permission to use it.

    OK, now that I've got that out of my system I feel a bit better now. Honest

  12. Death_Ninja
    Thumb Down

    Lag Schmag

    I'll bet the "test" was done over 100mb ethernet, or maybe even faster.

    This is insane, assuming that the internet will be able to deliver the bandwidth? Good business model there then... "yeah our bit works but the vast chunk of it we don't control lets us down"

    This is no different to streaming video and we all know how poor that is day to day, but at least we aren't trying to control the action in streamed video. This will make traditional gaming lag seem like something we're perfectly happy with!

  13. Carl
    Thumb Down

    No, no, no...

    I'm absolutely certain that everyone was really impressed at playing a game that was streaming from a server over the other side of the conference hall. I have a similar set-up at home, it's called an XBOX 360.

    I probably have a bit of an edge though, because I can still play it when some Network Rail fucktard slices through a fiber cable and leaves me without a connection for the weekend.

    Neither your article or the BBCs seem to mention whether the demo was running over the LAN or t'Interweb, so I think that we're save to assume that they didn't have the balls to give a proper demo.

    Let's face it, lag can be bad enough when I have a top knacker PC running a game and all I'm sending over the wire is info about how shitly I'm using my controller, if I had to also be receiving highly compressed 'screenshots' at the same time then I think that would be a resounding fail.

    Obviously, the main question is 'Will it scale?', I'm pretty sure that the only sensible answer to a question like that must be 'Will it fuck.'

  14. Stuart Halliday

    Changed days

    Hehe, I remember when I helped develop a method back in the 1990s to get DOOM II to run via a 33Kbit modem on a NC device (Remember them?). We broke up the maps into very small segments and every minute the player could play a bit of the game, wait another minute whilst it downloaded the next part and play for another minute...

    Yeah, not practical. But it was fun being about to do what we did.

    Changed days....

  15. B3vil
    Thumb Down

    No thanks

    just another way to try and force a rental model down our throats.

    I like to own things, I like to be able to collect things, I like a physical product that just works, and if it fails, I can buy another one preowned.

    I like to have a choice over which version of a game I run, if they fixed some bugs in a patch, but also introduced new ones, I like the choice of being able to run the old version.

    I want my games to react the frame after I press a button.

    I want my games to have high quality visuals and sounds, not cable-tv quality garbage.

    I want all the things that this fails to offer, and don't want any of the things it does.

    It's just another anti-consumer product designed to squeeze money out of people with minimum investment, passing the cost onto everybody else and giving no long term value for money at all.

    I can't think of a single reason I'd want to buy garbage like this, and if it becomes the only choice I guess I'll just find another hobby.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 19:30

    Thanks to the first commenter - I tried that for the first time last night and I'm rather impressed!

  17. Toastan Buttar

    Heads in the clouds

    Even a back-of-the-fag-packet calculation shows that this can never work over t'interwebz. Consider:

    1. You need a kick-ass machine PER USER at the server end to actually run the game. If it's Crysis, you need a Crysis-capable piece of hardware PER USER.

    2. You need a kick-ass download stream to get any decent video quality, regardless of compression technology. Remember that you can't optimise the video stream using look-ahead techniques as the 'next frame' doesn't exist yet.

    3. You cannot provide local event animations on the client machine unless it's running a version of the game engine itself. As a result, you would have to wait until an event was communicated to the server, processed and finally the results displayed after being video-streamed to the client. This is going to lead to horrific latency.

    In summary, yes a demo of this system could be rigged up on a LAN under heavily controlled conditions. Until they run a demo with several players on a standard domestic broadband package connected to a remote server, I will remain unconvinced.

  18. Ian O'Friel
    Dead Vulture

    How about....

    does anyone remember 'The Sega channel' - not quite the same thing at all, but probably about the same life expectancy !!

  19. J Thompson
    Thumb Down


    Might be neat for consoley type games or for free, but anyone who is actually any good at games will find it hateful to pay the same money for a compromised alternative to doing things properly.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Good lord there are some stupid people here

    [sarcasm]Yes this is the future of gaming, in 3 years time in order to play any new release you will need to buy one of these boxes and be forced to subscripe.[/sarcasm]

    Obviously that isnt going to happen, this is another platform to release pc games on, proper gamers are still going to to have top of the range pc's this isnt designed for them its for average joe who has no intetest in spending best part of £600 on a decent pc.

    Actualy sod it this is perfect for gamers as well, they could stop spending hundreds of pounds a year upgrading their pc and instead make do with a cheap netbook, after all high end graphics card and fast cpu are pointless for bitching and moaning about stuff on the internet.

    Paris, because even she has more sense than some of the idiot "sky is falling" morons that felt the need to vent about something that will have no effect on how they play games

  21. Stu

    Interesting idea...

    ...but I have to agree with the other commenters here. My ADSL line simply wont hold up in terms of transfer rate and lag. Furthermore it'll cost me more in a higher tariff with my ISP for all that video data.

    Fair enough, it might work pretty well in a future world where everybody has 100mbps home internet connection, no bandwidth limitations, and virtually lag free, over fibre. But not now.

    Its quite simple - Gaming REQUIRES little to no lag - and the internet by nature and design is laggy.

    Online gaming as it stands now employs lots of algorithmic tricks to try to obfuscate lag, including such things as 'dead reckoning' for instance. But it can always grind to a painful halt once in a while.

  22. psychochief

    @Carl etc :O)

    saw this earlier today, the server was 50 miles away and supposedly good to up to 1,000 miles, Sarju Shah of GameSpot was well impressed when she played crysis on a cheapo lappy !!!!!!!!! but as has allready been pointed out, its dead in the water unless ALL of the broadband issues are sorted out.

    quote :-

    "Analysts believe the success of OnLive could go one of two ways depending on pricing models.

    "Depending on what business model these guys adopt, they could be wildly successful or a footnote in history," said Michael Pachter an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities."

  23. Daniel Voyce
    Thumb Up

    Lovely Idea - I hope it works!

    But how long till ISP's start bitching and moaning about bandwidth use on this? They already shit themselves when the iPlayer started to become popular spouting stuff about providers paying more etc - this is bound to get them irritated.

    Then with Virgin's Contention Rate, DPI/shaping and throttling I can see the problem being more about the ISP than the service long run.

    It does sound like a great idea tho - id certainly sign up if the price was right!

  24. Joe K
    Thumb Down

    PS3 remote play proves this impossible

    Using the PSP to connect directly to the PS3, at 11mbps (more than twice as fast as this thing at best) to remote play some games shows that lag is unacceptable even if its only a few millseconds.

    Even the Pixeljunk games, which are hardly action packed, are frustrating and cludgy with the lag that comes from having your console a metre away, never mind miles.

    This is never gonna work for anything other than simple games, in which case just use a browser and flash!

    Oh wait, Quake Live does already, and does it perfectly and for free.

  25. Ben

    This is way its going....

    Yeah, admittedly, the technology / bandwidth isnt there at the moment. but there's no point resisting it - at some point all computing, nae, all data transfer activites will be sent to a thin client at the consumers end from a "wholesale" service provider. It just makes sense. Less power consumption, more control over licences, easier distribution, easier upgrades, no compatability issues, the list goes on and on.

    Eventually, I see a standardised thin client that can access ANY service (for a price). Meaning any consumer can use any software, as opposed to it being console vs pc vs mac vs any other hardware format you care to mention.

    So go a bit further with your imagination, and see the home that has nothing but screens and speakers. EVERYTHING else comes down the futuristic version of a phone line.

    it will happen, you mark my words!

  26. David Hicks
    Thumb Down

    @Anonymous Coward

    "How? The only "laws of physics" that are relevant is the speed of light. The same that apply now, same distances, just more data."

    Well, Laws of physics could be a bit strong, but the internet being what it is I find it hard to believe that they could do anything useful without installing rendering farms in every ISP's network. Big, expensive, supercomputing rendering farms.

    "Actually, as the "server" will be "centralised", averaging out pings from individual players (due to its location), the lag would be less if anything."

    Dear god no!

    All that is communicated to the server usually is your position, velocity etc. Your local machine has control over what is displayed to you, so when you move it does not wait for the server to tell it "go ahead, you can turn now", it just draws the scene. If the server disagree with what it sees (you can't run that fast!) it'll reset your position to stop cheating.

    This way the game continues to be responsive whilst also working over less than brilliant connections.

    If you had to wait until a message had gone to the server and come back again before the screen started moving, you'd feel like you were trying to play in a world filled with treacle.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget bandwidth...

    ...even if you always got a 50ms ping to their server, the lag would render any multiplayer completely unusable. 50ms delay in video, minimum? And good video requires multiple frames to be delivered before the current one can be rendered, increasing the lag even more. Imagine typing but having the characters appear an entire word behind where you're typing - that's the kind of lag we're talking about (unless you type horribly slowly). Ain't gonna fly.

  28. Neoc


    So, basically useless in Australia where the average 'net speed (thanks to Telstra's "we won't upgrade the network unless the government lets us charge other companies what we feel like for it) is between 56K and 512K.

    Yes, yes, I know there are people out there with ADSL2/2+, but as a percentage of the population, they're still a minority.

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