back to article Games console 'killer' powers Avatar 3D power package

A fledgling gaming service claimed to be a "console killer" is being used to test delivery of high-end 3D modeling and design software from the cloud. Autodesk has been testing the delivery of its signature AutoCAD, Maya - the visual effects software used by director James Cameron in Avatar - plus its Inventor and Revit …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. GrumpyJoe


    Watching the history of computing you can see the oscillations between mainframe 'central' computing - to thin 'client' computing - back and forth - hopefully we'll reach an equilibrium at some point (may be in the middle, high power computing supplied remotely, with local performance for smaller tasks).

    I quite like being in control of my computers at home, but I could not shoulder the cost of a render farm - so this seems to cover that niche.

  2. Filippo Silver badge

    thin client?

    I'm not sure I get this - is this basically a videogame thin client? So the game gets rendered on a render farm somewhere, and the frame gets sent to the user? I get that this allows the user to save money on graphic cards, but who's gonna pay for the uber-massive render farms required to manage millions of clients, or for the insane amounts of bandwidth?

    Also, not everyone has a stable 30msec ping. The best I ever get is 54.

    I can see how it would be a wet dream for the DRM folks, though...

  3. Stone Fox

    I bet it'll struggle

    With Crysis.

    On a more serious note I can see that this would be an excellent answer to software piracy but I hope for the consumers sake that they are going to build this with much better redundancy and uptime then EA's Battlefield Bad Company 2 servers are displaying at the moment!

  4. Viv

    Killer app?

    So is Autodesk going to be the killer app for my Ipad ?

  5. Hombre sin nombre

    "Standard Definition"

    Standard circa 1995 perhaps.

    Even with integrated graphics just about any PC can do 1024*768 on low settings with new games. Where is the benefit of OnLive?

  6. Dazed and Confused


    Latency is going to be the real killer for this. A thirtyith of second? so about 30ms. Pinging the data centre down the road shows a latency time of 22.5ms on a clear line. It's 18ms to the ISPs kit.

    But ADSL is a contended service. Get others online and those figures will grow. Any other traffic on the ADSL line and those figures can grow significantly. I doubt that the UKs current infrastructure can deliver a consistent 30ms latency time. Many areas of the US will be worse.

    From home, in the UK, the Eastern seaboard is 90ms, the West coast is 180ms. So you are going to need a lot of data centres to cover that land area with a sub 30ms delay.

    Perhaps South Korea has low enough latencies to deliver this.

  7. Xander Dent

    Console killer, not quite.

    Ermmm, yeah, Console Killer eh?

    Maybe, if we all get a 100mb fibre line, otherwise, not a hope.

  8. Citizen Kaned

    not in the UK....

    come on. lag is bad enough these days with high contention ratios. the last thing UK BB needs is everyone streaming video game content.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      ISPs looking to make a killing!

      Not even on Virgin's 50MB service? Looks like ISPs with the upper range consumer lines could be rubbing their hands over this one. Lots of people suddenly needing ultra-fast, low-latency lines? ADSL, which I am stuck with, BT et al. haven't a sodding chance of keeping up that kind of service.

      Get the ad's out lads, there's going to be an upsurge in fibre take-up!

  9. Thomas 18
    Thumb Up

    must be tempting

    No piracy

    No hardware compatibility problems

    No versioning problems

    Cross platform support, play WoW on Linux without spending 6 months tinkering with emulators.

    Network ISPs are going to hate you though and you're going to hate them when they throttle your connection or start charging by the KB.

    1. Quxy

      Don't hold your breath...

      Given the folks involved with OnLive, they're likely to bite off their nose to spite Linux users. There have been plenty of requests for a Linux plugin, but the most that anyone has got from OnLive seems to have been a single "not discussing it" response and the silent treatment.

    2. dogbert0360

      "Currently Not supporting Linux..."

      If you haven't noticed on OnLive's website, they are only supporting Windows and Mac platform. Why they are not supporting the Linux platform is any body's guess. Whatever the reason is, this is not fair since Linux has about the same amount of users as Mac does. And I would be willing to bet they are using some form of Unix OS to run their gaming servers too.

      I wish to encourage all Linux and Unix users to send an e-mail to them. Fill there e-mail box till it crashes if you can. They must know that we do not like to be left out and would like to be included too.

      "Support The Penguin!"

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Maya already runs on Mac.

    As for running it on netbooks, a 1.6GHz Atom with a a gig of ram would have been a monster machine five years ago. Maya's been around for over 10 (and it's precursor Power Animator for 10 before that), so runs OK on a netbook - its just that having spent $5000 on a piece of software, you want to run it on the fastest thing available, so you can do bigger shots.

    Why would onLine care about the UPLOAD speed of your ISP, unless they're planning on putting their data centre at the end of a Virgin home broadband package?

    1. FoolD


      I would image they care about the upload because, in the case of Mayer/Autodesk use, if they are going to render a scene for you then you must first upload all of the geometry and textures so they can render it. Granted, this would not have to be done every frame, but could still be a large amount of data, especially if you are making lots of changes to the scene.

      Have Autodesk thought how this would affect 3rd party plugin developers for their platforms - how would the licensing for those work when the application (and so the plugin) have to be installed 'in the cloud' ?

      Sounds good from a developer DRM / proprietary-lockin perspective, but in the real world there are a few other factors than latency to be worked out.

  11. SuperTim


    They just play games do they?

    Maybe in the nineties. I think they have missed the boat. Their service wont replace my console (which isnt really used for games that often).

  12. Adam T


    Why the heavy Avatar emphasis? You must know that Maya is used all over the place, and Avatar wasn't made with "just" Maya, but millions of dollars worth of proprietary software and hardware too?

    Anyway.... I wouldn't like to work on a time critical job under the mercy of my internet connection. It's bad enough when sending emails and using ftp to send files periodically.

    1. Citizen Kaned


      Avatar, whether you like the film or not, is by far the most advanced gci film ever made (by quite a long way too)

      they arent gonna say toy story are they?

  13. morsey

    games on pc's? naah

    I stopped playing games on pc's years ago, I prefer consoles because the game was written precisely for this hardware profile, no messing around with fast hard disks, specced ram or wickedy wick graphics cards, if its for this console, its optimised for this console.

    if this moves over to online consoles however... THAT would be interesting..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      quite true

      It happens that my kid (6 year old) also played on my PC but prefers his own console... because my games require a bit of use of brain cells while his games just need to press one or two buttons. That is the real difference and if he could write here I suppose he would be fully support that consoles are better for his 6 year old shot-them-up games.

  14. Andy 70

    480p? 720p? riiiiight....

    while it maybe fine for video delivery to the mass public that is used to the "just about good enough" bunch of products:-

    MP3's compressed to within an inch of becoming a pile of squeltchy noise

    streaming audio that's worse than AM radio.

    iPod DAC's and headphones being, for want of a better word, "shyte"

    HD TV that you can pick more blocks out of than a good sized lego set

    Flat panel TV's with a pixel response rate so slow that any on screen movement becomes a blurr of confused pixels.

    i have not actually seen any increase in progress with regards to quailty since CD/DVD. just what content there is, packaged more conviniently.

    anyway, i digress.

    trying to push this on to CAD designers and 3D modelers? yeah. i'll just go tell them to ditch their multiple 2560x1600 30" screens for a single 480p feed, and still pay autodesk licensing fees... that'll go down well.

    oh, and your machine will need a 5Mb/s permanent hookup to autodesk home base, not to mention all the security worries that entails. plus the magical "if the internet becomes unavailable, your apps stop working". great.

    i dunno about you, but i'm sold on the idea.

    1. Citizen Kaned

      this old chestun again?

      if you cant hear the difference in dolby dtuehd or master dts and cant see the difference in 1080p BR content then you need new eyes or new ears or to watch it on some decent equipment

      no offence but MANY of us can CLEARLY see the difference. and yes, i have a very good upscaling BR player but its not a patch on a real Blu-ray disk.

      i agree with the other bits you say, though. not a chance any architect would want to do all his 3d modelling via a cloud or whatever, especially at a lowly 720p.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        I agree

        I hate the mp3 compression I have heard with Heavy Rock it sounds very strange.

        Upscaling of DVD, I did quite a few tests with an upscaling BR player (PS3) on a DVD vs a Pioneer DVD player on RGB Scart and Component.

        Bluray is definately best.

        DVD via BR player, no noticable differences between DVD RGB interlaced and DVD Component progressive which were not attributable to the picture setting on the TV for different inputs.

        DVD player has resume and doesn't have the film removed to stick a game in.

        RGB auto wide switches component doesn't.

        Yes we still watch our DVDs via RGB Scart.

        W series Sony TV, so not a cheap TV nor one with poor processing.

        Standard Definition still looks good but HDTV blows it away

  15. Eddie Edwards


    I'm not going to say this won't work.

    But if it does work, I'll eat my hat.

    I was just admiring the graphics in CoD:MW2. The only place on Earth you can currently get 720p video content in an uncompressed form is when it's rendered locally by the GPU.

    Then I was watching The Specialist in SD at something above 8Mbps (DVB). The motion artifacts were appalling, at a higher bit-rate than this service, and at a lower resolution.

    Now I can see that it would be possible, given the 3D database, to do better motion compensation - you have all the information you could possibly want. Still, there is a gulf to cross in terms of quality at that kind of bitrate.

    Also, as others have said, the games industry relies on people forking out £200-£300 for a console, not publishers. What's the model here? They have to guarantee each user pays at least as much as it costs to set that user up. So it must be a contract for a year, where the yearly costs is at least as much as a console costs. In return, you get massively reduced graphics quality and 1-player games that glitch as badly as network games, but without the game having code built in to disguise that.

  16. MJI Silver badge

    Lag lag lag

    I see enough of this when online multiplayering.

    Do I want it when playing single player?

    No thanks

    1. 1of10

      Lag only... Lag is a peanuts by comparison

      Buy a single-player game with DRM and it will be worst than just lag...

  17. MJI Silver badge

    What about the other console uses?

    I prefer to game with a 46" TV rather than a 17" monitor. But then what about the other things you use consoles for?

    Watching films, streaming video, streaming music, photo albums ect, yes get lots of appliances which total more than a console and do less.

    Further more to the lag, with a console, you have possibly a 1 or 2 field buffer in the TV, the controller is near the console and using Bluetooth. When using this online the control instructions have to be sent to the server farm, the instructions then processed, but then how long does it take for the frame to be encoded, sent to the PC and displayed?

    I notice that Ubisoft are involved.The Assassins Creed games would be impossible to play if the lag was too long, you would not be able to counter kill or catch yourself.

    Finally I prefer a 6 axis or dual shock to keyboard & mouse, flopped out on the settee much easier than using the PC.

  18. The Mighty Biff

    Pew pew pew !


    I think I'll stick with Quake Live for now. With the graphics turned up, it's a thing of beauty, at 125 frames per second no less.

    Playing at 480 would be like going back to the 90s. I could see this working for online Civ. But a fast FPS ?? In the evening ?? At weekends ?? Only for ignert teenagers. Oh wait, that is the console market. Hmmm. Profit ?

  19. Johan Bastiaansen
    Thumb Down


    "designing parts for a jet engine using AutoCAD"...

    Is this a fancy way of saying AutoCADs database is bloated and brings even a modest project to a stuttering halt? Why not clean up the database then?

    AutoDesk has been buying companies left right and centre and hasn’t bothered much to integrate the software. Just strapping “suite 2010” to the name didn’t do the trick either.

    I guess they’re in over their head and are now looking for a deus ex machina hardware solution to their software problem elsewhere.

    Autodesk has been every bit as harmful to the CAD-industry as Microsoft has been to IT in general.

  20. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Stirring up free publicity

    I think the whole point of this Autodesk thingy is to stir up some interest, they know it hasn't a hope in hell of working yet, but jumping on the hottest Hollywood ticket is going to secure a bit more interest in the trade papers.

    As for OnLive, best of luck, great idea but somehow when I see my ADSL line dropping to 150kb/s even in quiet times, I find it hard to imagine this service will be any good to anyone more than 1000 yards from the nearest fibre junction!

  21. Metal Marv
    Thumb Down

    Fair usage?

    Its the limit ISPs put on how much you can download each month that spells doom for this puppy methinks. For my Gaming I have my ISPs "Gamer" package, which is supposed to give me low pings, but I only get 20Gb(I think) a month download allowance. since the advent of things like You tube and Iplayer, I usually come close to the limit and sometimes over it every month.

    Surely this kind of Gaming is only going to exacerbate this issue?

    1. David Evans
      Thumb Up

      Re: fair usage?

      Your logic applies only if the ISPs don't have a piece of the action, but if OnLive cuts deals with them to put the kit inside their networks (which would also have benefits from a latency perspective) then the ISPs will be more inclined to discount OnLive from their data allowances. Would you pay more money to your ISP for an uncontended service that delivers gaming (and VOD etc.) in an environment where you wouldn't have to worry about all your bandwidth being gobbled up? I have to admit I'd be tempted.

      I don't think OnLive will work as advertised right now, because too much of the network is too flaky, but I certainly can see how certain threatened companies (ISPs and media owners) would be really incentivised to make this work. And there's no reason why consoles couldn't be part of this ecosystem; just because they generally do more than gaming these days doesn't mean the current consoles can't be replaced by 'thinner' versions in the next generation; (indeed "PlayStation" could just as easily be a service embedded in a Bravia TV with an ethernet port and wireless for controllers as a device in its own right).

      I don't know if OnLive is the service of the future, but if its not, something not unlike it will be.

  22. tebiru

    Not 'replacing' consoles...

    Yes, consoles have other uses, and I don't think services like this would necessarily replace the machines themselves - at least in the short term. Rather, they would provide an alternative to forking out another £3-400 on having the latest tech client-side when the PS4 comes out. Don't forget, console makers often make a loss on the machines - especially the first few years. There is a strong incentive to shift to this model.

    To elaborate, Sony could develop an OnLive-style service playable via a simple firmware update on the PS3. Kutaragi spoke of the potential for streaming games many years ago (long before OnLive came about) using Sony's LocationFree TV streaming as an example - it's just he was so cryptic about it that no one really got the implications of what he was saying. This is something that, once fast and truly reliable broadband networks are finally in place, is coming to ALL consoles.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: an alternative

      "an alternative to forking out another £3-400 on having the latest tech client-side when the PS4 comes out"

      That would be spending £3-400 over the console's useful lifetime in extra ISP charges. That kind of makes sense, since you could use that connection for other things (a bit like some people use the console for other things, too), but this *isn't* going to be a money saver and it is (inevitably) going to be less reliable than having the grunt in your own box.

  23. Daniel 1

    All the above is true

    But when you witness the likes of Blizzard completely hosing millions of fat-client installations, around the planet, each time they issue a patch, you do have to think that an alternative to platform-specific fat clients would be a Good Thing, since the alternative (actually bothering to test patches properly, before releasing them) doesn't appear to be under consideration.

    From what my mates are telling me, there appears to be a considerable amount of Internet latency being caused, right now, by World of Warcraft players, surfing Web forums, trying to work out how to get back on-line. Even if we could eliminate this extra traffic, every month, or so, that would surely be a Good Thing for the rest of us?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pings / latency

    The real problem with this is latency, even if the bandwidth is there. And a 60ms ping in Quake Live or whatever other online game doesn't *feel* like 30ms because of client-side prediction. Your *controls* aren't lagged by 60ms; your *visuals* and *sound* aren't lagged by 60ms.

    When this is done with straight video, the latency will be far, far, FAR more obnoxious. Any kind of twitch game will be essentially impossible to play, even with excellent bandwidth and pings; imagine trying to play a first person shooter over VNC, even on a LAN.

    Not gonna happen.

    This could be really cool for certain kinds of games - say, an uber-gorgeous golf game: Rendering quality is important but latency isn't. For purpose-built games it could be quite nice, but to try to use it for normal video games, which are mostly made to specifically exploit the technical qualities this is worst at... Not so much.

  25. Levente Szileszky

    RE "...for the serious gamers" and "games on pc's? naah" and other utter idiocies...

    After reading this part:

    "...OnLive will start streaming games to PCs and Macs this June using algorithms and patented video compression technology it's promised will overcome network latency to deliver rich graphics and powerful performance for the serious gamer."

    I laughed.

    Then I read this one:

    "I stopped playing games on pc's years ago, I prefer consoles because the game was written precisely for this hardware profile, no messing around with fast hard disks, specced ram or wickedy wick graphics cards, if its for this console, its optimised for this console."

    and I just felt sorry for the ignorant-as-hell but confident-as-always poster.

    I'm a Dad, have a family, a full-time job etc yet I will never-ever consider giving up occasional gaming on my PC - anyone 'serious enough' will tell you the same thing: PC gaming is unparalleled, unmatched and always LEADS gaming, unlike consoles which are inherently compromised (some mi8ght say broken) platforms, not to mention their controls, completely useless for several of my favourite genres (FPS, Hybrid FPS-RPG, RTS).

    What these ignoramuses think, where computer graphics advances, on consoles? Aside of few moments due to internal development politics (R600 aka Xenon) consoles are always riding on the tail of PC graphics.

    Any console, due to its sole advantage (fixed hardware, that is), is inherently INFERIOR to any high-end PC graphics at any given date and I don't even want to get into the nasty details of lackluster console hardware, the craptastic texture quality, the color space differences (RGB vs Video) etc etc.

    Whoever thinks "serious gamers" would ever consider some online streaming service that's worse than a console is clearly clueless - unless, of course, "serious" means some half-retarded console button-smashing teen in their basement...

    1. Citizen Kaned

      you also forgot....

      the massive amount of cheating on PCs (sorry but this is miniscule on consoles due to no access to filesystem to change ini files etc)

      the massive difference in costs for a console compared to a pc (for example i spent 400 on a graphics card for my pc. thats £150 more than a ps3 alone!) and the massive amounts of problems that are inherant in a heavily customisable PC rig (for example SERIOUS gamers always ran in low res, min details and no shadows - why? massive fps increase (and i mean massive), lower res = more accurate in FPS (try your fave fps in 640x480 and your accuracy will double etc), zero shadows for enemies to hide in.... yadda yadda

      personally i prefer to know that everyone is seeing the same as me, has no ability to install aimbots and wall hacks etc.

      i personally moved to ps3 gaming a while ago as i have a massive comfy couch, 42" 120hz HD TV, B&W 684 theatre surround and i dont really play FPS any more. for things like football, sports and racing games consoles blow PCs out the water. plus as someone pointed out ive never had any incompatability issues on ps3 games, unlike PC games (specific drivers causing crashes etc)

  26. Ross 7

    Ummm, DirectX 10.1 anyone?

    Streaming pre-rendered frames is impractical in most markets - certainly here in Blighty. South Korea could prolly manage, but without FTTH it ain't gonna happen. I play my older Win games via remote desktop and even on a LAN it ain't perfect. Streaming CoD etc would be unplayable.

    DX10.1 however allows the primitives data etc to be streamed and rendered on the client - I imagine this is where we'll be moving to in a couple of years. The subscription model of WoW etc has proven very successful at generating revenue, so locking the software into the server, providing a "player" for the client and letting them do the grunt work of rendering frames seems an attractive model.

    You minimise patch data bandwidth, patching issues, hardware support issues (you only need write for one very specific platform) and if people want to play they have to pay. Whether BT can be coerced into providing halfway affordable FTTH is another matter tho' - I'm sufficiently urban to get a decent copper conn (14Mb/s) but they won't install fibre. In fact I've checked all my mates and family locations and none of them can get BT Infinity. Maybe "a couple of years" was a tad optimistic...

  27. Andrew Culpeck

    Mac or is that a peguine I see in the distance

    I think Autodesk shoot them selfs in the foot when they removed support for Solaris and then Mac. Now they trying to find a way to provide Autodesk products to all platforms the cheapest way possiple. This no dowpt includes Lynux.

  28. Idiots _Quotient

    Every1 Is Invited

    M keepin an Eye on This whole Cloud Thingy ...& when its finished .. I will ( Render my Castle Schematics On it .......and ) Make a Castle on top Of it ...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    corporate wet dream

    Software as a service over the web. Great for the service company and NO ONE else. It is a spin on the same old corporate money wet dream.

    As for 3d software like Maya, Max... no serious company in the right mind will want to run this shit remotely. I can see the animators freaking out on network hiccups. Lossy compression is terrible for color fidelity, highly compressed files will not be helped by any compression tech..the list goes on and on.

  30. dogbert0360

    OnLive Not Supporting Linux

    If anyone has noticed, "OnLive" is only supporting Windows and Mac's. What their reasons are I don't know. Linux has about as many users as Mac Users (maybe more depending on which figures you believe). This is unfair and if they are truly a "Gaming Cloud" service then they should include Linux users. I bet their gaming servers are running some form of Unix OS.

    I wish to encourage all Linux and Unix users to send as many e-mails to "OnLive" and let them know that this is an unfair decision. There are some Linux users who enjoy gaming too!

    "Support The Penguin!"

  31. Metal Marv

    Maybe I'm old fashioned....

    But I also like having my games available to play off line as well as on line. There's nothing more irritating than not being able to play games you have legitimately purchased, because your PC/Console/ whatever can't connect to the network.

    A case in point, the recent Playstation Leap year fiasco. I couldn't play Darksiders, even tho this was a game I had bought from the shops, not downloaded, so I had the physical media for the console, but because of the trophy system, the game got halfway through loading and then dumped me back out because it couldn't sync it over the network.

    It all boils down to control at the end of the day, and I think when Gaming finally does move away from home PCs and consoles, then I shall find something else to do with my time. Hell I'll be an old fart by then anyway so I can sit at home in a rocking chair moaning about the good old days, and all the cash I save from not buying games any more I can keep under my mattress.

  32. Anonymous Coward


    Even if it did work and you do have a fast enough connection pretty sure the oh so wonderful con artists at the ISPs would quickly move to deem this as yet another thing that doesn't qualify as "fair usage" and throttle it.

    All good in concept but until the day comes when the ISPs have to actually deliver the service they advertise in terms of both speed and download limits things like this, web tv etc etc will remaining stuttering failures to joe public.

  33. Rick Brasche

    the return of the Phantom

    oh look, it's the return of the Phantom console.

    except with more 'give control of your info to complete strangers' cloudness.

  34. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    compression and usefulness

    "Then I was watching The Specialist in SD at something above 8Mbps (DVB). The motion artifacts were appalling, at a higher bit-rate than this service, and at a lower resolution."

    DVB (and unfortunately ATSC as well) are MPEG2, which is pretty awful at compression compared to more modern codecs.

    Anyway, will OnLive be useful? I don't know. I saw *one* review, where they had some artifacts compared to a local card, which they found not distracting (only really noticeable when they took screenshots). They had latency problems but were outside the test area (the software warned the pings were too high). For the several posts asking "what's the point?" The point is this: A lot of people have some awful onboard Intel graphics, which although awful at 3D have plenty of raw fill rate for full-motion video at any resolution. So you could play games that "need" a higher end video card without having one.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    OnLive really needs 6.5Mbps and the graphics are pretty good. As the bandwidth goes down, it will automatically scale the graphics back to allow the gaming to continue. When it scales back, the image quality is reduced. The service doesn't need anymore then 6.5Mbps at the peak.

  36. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    Cloudy forcast for the cloud....

    I want to run my games disconnected from the web. Sorry. NO SALE.

  37. gratou


    I realise metric isn't your mother tongue, so here is a reminder:

    mb/s would mean millibits/s

    Mega is abbreviated uppercase M, as in Mb/s.

    Yes, I know, I too miss adding up sixty-fourths to measure things, it is so convenient!

    But I might get used to tenths and hundreds eventually...


  38. David 141

    It's a console, stupid

    So to use this service you'd need a cheap machine that can output at 720p and has a network connection.

    What's the cheapest hardware that can do this? I know, a game console.


  39. The elephant in the room


    "applications like AutoCAD that consume billions of gigabytes of data to build files and render extremely rich graphics"

    AutoCAD does not consume *billions* of gigabytes of data. Nothing does. Even the datastream from the Large Hadron Collider is a mere 300 gigabytes per second.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like