Wednesday, March 25

Remote Desktop Gaming: Onlive

Keen and Graev have a much better post on the subject of what OnLive is than I could ever write and I think you should read it.
If you don't have the time just now, in a nutshell cloud computing has made the ten year old water-cooler concept of streaming game data in a RDP (Remote Desktop) like fashion a possible reality now. It's interesting as it potentially has a lot of ramifications, for hardware vendors, console makers and game producers & publishers. E.t.c.

As I'm currently putting together a new rig, I'm acutely aware of energy needs of todays/tomorrows Gaming PC's and the current generation consoles, or at least two of them aren't kind on the electricity bill either. Centralizing all of the heavy computing required for gaming should be a powersaver right?
Also, putting every game on a subscription or Pay-as-you-Play model becomes feasible now.
Then again, some parties, mostly Activision/Blizzard might not like this idea at all. Not to mention the nVidia's and AMD's of the world, or that entire industry bringing boxed games to store shelves.
To be honest, gut feeling says: Next gen consoles will be using this. PC gaming will not follow, or not immediately anyway. But the trend that gaming moves away from the PC platform to easier to develop for homogenous platforms will continue.


  1. You need some serious broadband for this. 1920x1200x32bitsx16frames/second = 1200 Mbps for just the video. Playing for an hour means you downloaded 1200x3600 = 4GB. Most ISPs will shut you down after a day. The idea is all great, but it will take a few years before it is somewhat possible. We are probably going there, but I don't think Onlive is it. I think it will come from a smaller setup and grow into something mainstream. A bit like steam sneaked up on us. Big dreams like this usually don't work so well.

  2. Ok, you're thinking a bit too old skool RDP I think. Not even Citrix today actually does it that way anymore. They don't send you 16 screen-updates per second. But just the bits that have changed.

    Add to that data compression and streaming technology and you're looking at something that looks remarkably similar to something which is been broadcast to thousands of homes for a couple of years now. I'm talking about digital HDTV 60-100fps at 1920×1080 (1080P) resolution as provided by my TV cable company. I have the 1280×720 version meself on account of getting digital TV prior to getting a HD capable TV.
    This same corporation provides me with a 10Mbit Internet connection which it'd be happy to do on top of said HDTV broadcast and will also happily increase my bandwidth. All for a fee of course.

    So think Digital TV broadcasting with a datastream on top of that for your controller output and feedback. All of a sudden it's not that far fetched anymore is it? If they're smart and don't broadcast more than 36 FPS (which is what you can normally see without an FPS counter) then it's 'just' a matter of generating enough data to stream.

    I am curious about how they're going to guarantee 'no latency' on the controller data stream. If they can, they'll have an instant leg-up from Apple users who've been mostly bereft of gaming options on their chosen platform for ages now.

  3. Ah! The 1ms latency means the decoding of the encoded datastream will result in no more than 1ms latency. Glad to hear they have gone to the lengths of reducing this latency to one tenth of what the human mind can register...

  4. Yeah, my calculations were a bit simplistic. It would be that way if the video feed would go straight to your TV. But it goes to your PC that just need enough video power to decompress and build up the next picture.

    Still I think it is too ambitious. Trying to set up a standard in advance nearly never works. But time will tell.

  5. They do introduce this patented (I presume) little "MicroConsole" to replace what you call the PC.

    It is ambitious. Network latency is one big hurdle, but I do believe it's in the realm of the currently possible. But as they say, time will tell :-)

  6. That is a good read. I have to agree. While an SD version at 30 FPS seems almost feasible, besides being "good enough" for a lot of stuff, HD and no latency just boggles your mind. I really wonder what trick they might be pulling.

    They wouldn't be the first outfit to make a big discovery claim in hopes of getting the funds from investors to actually make the discovery after. Or they've come up with a smart scheme of the optical illusion kind that actually works.

    They're no-doubt playing with figures, like the 1ms claim.