Cloud Gaming Services
We tested Onlive and Gaikai, open cloud gaming services that enable on-demand gaming of demanding video games on weak machines.
Imagine being able to play highly demanding games with all the details, such as The Witcher 2, on the desktop computer with an outdated graphics and slower processor, on the netbook and tablet PC or even on a mobile version, the Android or iOS, in the cloud without an installation, without worrying about the driver version or game updates. Cloud gaiming is not science fiction, but the future that you can now try if you visit Onlive or Gaikai, a startup that is currently owned by Sony.
Cloud gaming is a concept that implies that the remote server runs your version of the game, and that all the processing and rendering is done in the cloud "out there". As a result, hardware specifications of your machine seem to be irrelevant. Customer's key pressures are sent to the server and recorded and then a response from the game client is sent back. It's a bit like streaming games and resembles the other cloud and on demand services that allow a product to be used in the cloud, and that you can also continue to use on other supported platforms.
Interestingly, the Crytek pioneered the development of cloud gaming. This company tried to develop cloud gaming technology for its too-demanding Crysis, but in 2007 it stopped the development with the conclusion that technical capabilities were not enough to keep everything working properly and that it was necessary to wait for the right time.
In the meantime, more people have faster internet speed, server, and all the other technology has progressed and now cloud gaming is a reality.
OnLive service is available for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. Formal specification implies that the players need a machine powerful enough to launch a streaming video on the Internet and connection of five megabits. OnLive streams games in 720p resolution, but image quality decreases depending on your connection speed. In theory, it is possible to play on the Internet from 2 Mbit / s, but OnLive had the minimum recommended speed raised to 3 Mbits / s.
This means that all you need is a machine where YouTube runs smoothly, with as fast and stable internet connection, so you can freely play games with maximum detail in 720p resolution. In addition to being available on the aforementioned platforms, OnLive seeks to integrate the service in smart TV, but it has its own micro-console with one controller (onlive.com/game-system) at a cost of $ 99. The controller is universal, so it works on all supported platforms. The console supports up to four controllers, and USB ports support other products and manufacturers, including mice and keyboards. There are also HDMI with surround sound and Bluetooth voice chat.
To play games on OnLive you need to download applications for your platform and register. App looks very advanced and attractive, with an interface composed of tiles that stream other users’ playing.
There are currently more than 250 games with the possibility of playing a free trial. Besides the titles you can buy, you can opt for three or five day passes, which includes unlimited access to the game in the selected period, and this is particularly useful for games that offer a short single payer experience.
As far as the options are concerned there is Arena, which allows you to watch how other people play, and to comment on their gameplay; Market-place, with a total range of titles; Showcase, offering special deals; Brag Clips, where you have the ability to store and share your gameplay clips. OnLive has a strong social component, with the possibility of linking and co-op and multiplayer gaming.
Onlive works very fast and it can be said that the experience of the first run and play on your desktop is almost surreal. The games are loaded with almost no waiting, as if you are watching YouTube, and the response is very good. Image can become blurred, depending on the connection. We tested OnLive at a speed of 16 Mbit / s and most games worked perfectly, with a small lag in some cases and some short-term loss of image quality. The impression is that a solid gaming is now more than possible through this platform, but that the service will be even better, because at the moment it is still developing. How games work depends on the characteristics of your Internet connection, including not only speed but also the stability and other parameters.
Gaikai, unlike OnLive, operates in the browser. This startap was bought by Sony, and many analysts have rated this action as a visionary and as a preparation for the future.
Gaikai currently only offers demo versions of games, which is a great way to try new titles. We noticed more lag and a lower resolution than in the case of OnLive, a game is much slower to load. It seems that Gaikai child suffers from a serious illness, but do not doubt that Sony will trim it.
Interestingly, Gaikai offers to selected partners integration of their technology (Eurogamer, gog.com), with a plan to make embedding possible at all sites in the future, which is a great feature for any website destination associated with gaming. The company has also entered into an agreement with Samsung and LG Electronics to integrate its service (currently available as a closed beta in the U.S.) in their smart TVs, but it remains to be seen if after the acquisition Sony would leave Gaikai as an open platform.