It was only because of OnLive’s recent sale on Amnesia: The Dark Descent I became a customer of the new cloud-computing, on-demand gaming service. The idea that a game not actually running on your computer, but rather on the input and output transmitted to you over the net, intrigued me. If it works the way it boasts, it could mean that games with high benchmarks could be run on virtually any machine—if you have a connection, that is. Using The Dark Descent as an example, I tested out OnLive over the course of 2 or 3 weeks. I didn’t have the iron will to finish the game, but I got a good sense of how it performs, and I can only hope that OnLive can deliver that same pants-ruining experience with Steam.
Installation and First Impressions
Installation of the client is smooth: download the app from the website, and you’re done.
After a flashy intro which depicts a planet made of different monitors displaying games currently being played, you’re greeted with the menu. This is also the first time you get to check out the “Spectator” mode that OnLive also likes to boast about. Those clips on the outer rim there? Those are actual games being played at that very moment. If you want, you can even click on one and drop in on their session.
Well, I’m not here to watch people play, so I started up Amnesia with the “PlayPass” I had redeemed.
The startup process takes less than 10 seconds. Afterwards, you’re taken to the same title screen as any other copy of Amnesia. Despite the absence of some settings, there is no real difference or change made for OnLive. I didn’t see the DLC that is usually loadable via the game launcher on Steam, though; hopefully, that will be coming along later.
OnLive’s balance between making sure you can move smoothly and the fact that everyone looks all dandy is pretty great. Graphically, it wasn’t too bad. I’m not sure if Amnesia was the greatest example for showing graphic limits of the system, but it’s what I have at the moment.
Shadows look all right, and the eerie feeling that the game is famous for is almost exactly like Steam.
OnLive’s lighting looked a bit funky, but that was only after I had got a chair stuck in the window. You could tell that the settings are permanently tied to your bandwidth.
The lighting on the Steam side looked better to me, but then again, I could be going blind. This is where you see the disadvantages of streaming-based gaming—that is how your game is going to look.
The differences are there, but it’s bearable. Nothing was drastically different in terms of game experience, but I was constantly reminded by little drawbacks here and there that I am not running the game natively.
So There You Have It . . .
A quick review of the OnLive gaming service. I can see the service being more popular with those whose computers don’t exactly have the requirements for most games, but arbitrary for those with a decent video card. The idea that you are purchasing a “PlayPass” also unsettled me: what if something happens to your game? or OnLive? If you want to be able to play your game regardless of your current system, then maybe this is the thing you’ve been waiting for.
I applaud what OnLive has done, which may strike a chord with some gamers. However, stream-based gaming doesn’t seem like something that is going to be replacing your Entertainment Room gaming console or your $2000 high-end PC. If you’re willing to look past the slight graphical drawbacks and lag, then you’ll be fine. If you travel a lot, or don’t possess the dough needed to play Crysis on high settings, then OnLive is for you.
That having been said, I want to hear more opinions than my own—leave me a comment! Is OnLive worth it? Did I deliver justice? How was your experience with the service?
In the meantime, I’m going to keep scaring myself silly on Steam.