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OnLive Begins Beta Testing 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the fact-or-fiction dept.
Steve Perlman, CEO of OnLive, has announced that beta testing is now underway for the cloud gaming service that aims to take the processing burden for cutting-edge games off a player's computer and use remote servers instead. Reaction to this service and competitor GaiKai has been interest tempered with skepticism, but users can now sign up to test it themselves and see if the reality matches the hype. There will be hardware and connectivity restrictions to start: "When you sign up for OnLive Beta, you tell us some general information about your ISP, your computer configuration and your location. We use this information to organize Beta testers into test groups so that our engineering team can focus at different times on testing different situations. If you are a potential fit for a particular test group, we'll send you an invitation email, asking you to run a detailed Performance Test on your network connection and your computer configuration."
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OnLive Begins Beta Testing

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  • world ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Spaham (634471) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:03AM (#29309301)

    somehow they assume that the whole world lives in the United States...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Their servers are only in the US. They just handpick ideal candidates, so that no sub-optimal beta tester has anything negative to report about the service.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slim (1652)

        Their servers are only in the US. They just handpick ideal candidates, so that no sub-optimal beta tester has anything negative to report about the service.

        To do that would be stupid. I have to assume they're not stupid.

        Even when OnLive goes gold, customers will be expected to be within a certain distance of a server farm. So beta testers should be selected within the same constraints.

        They should, however, be picking beta testers at the edge of that distance, on streets with lots of contention, with crappy PCs, with ropey old DSL modems, etc., so that they can iron out problems.

        The purpose of the beta test is not to demonstrate that everything works perfectly

        • Re:world ? (Score:4, Informative)

          by RemoWilliams84 (1348761) on Friday September 04, 2009 @09:32AM (#29310241)

          They should, however, be picking beta testers at the edge of that distance, on streets with lots of contention, with crappy PCs, with ropey old DSL modems, etc., so that they can iron out problems.

          You also don't start your beta test with those crappy situations, especially when it is a completely new service. That's why you often start with an alpha or a small closed beta.

          It's much easier to find the problems when you start with a small set of potential problems and work your way down to those users running a 28k modem on windows 95.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        What really raises a red flag for me is that they want to test your computer for hardware compatibility. Wasn't the whole point of Onlive that any system could connect to their network regardless of hardware because all the actual processing is done server side? By their own words you'd think that a 300$ netbook should be able to play Crysis as long as it's connected to a solid, low-ping cable modem.
        • Re:world ? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by slim (1652) <`ten.puntrah' `ta' `nhoj'> on Friday September 04, 2009 @09:47AM (#29310401) Homepage

          What really raises a red flag for me is that they want to test your computer for hardware compatibility. Wasn't the whole point of Onlive that any system could connect to their network regardless of hardware because all the actual processing is done server side? By their own words you'd think that a 300$ netbook should be able to play Crysis as long as it's connected to a solid, low-ping cable modem.

          This simply means they want data on what kind of hardware their testers are using. I'd guess that at some point in the beta program (probably not the early stages), you'll be *more* likely to get picked if you're on a $300 netbook.

          • by nschubach (922175)

            I picked "Other" because Linux wasn't listed as an OS. They had several versions of OSX and Windows though.

    • Re:world ? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Tom (822) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:06AM (#29309569) Homepage Journal

      It's a minor error. The average american knows very well that there's "stuff" outside the USA. It's just that the stuff doesn't matter, so it occasionally gets forgotten.

    • Re:world ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Desler (1608317) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:58AM (#29309957)
      Because there are no services outside the US that ever only restrict their services to their own country. No, never it's only Americans that do that.
      • by paziek (1329929)

        I'm not sure if this is sarcasm or you think this is true, but here:
        OVH, an European hosting company limits its offer to only a few European countries. And they have different price for each country, and sometimes different services. Of course, they say you can't choose product advertised for different country.
        Cant say if this is legal on not in EU... but so far they do this.

        • by sopssa (1498795) *

          However, they do have many resellers who are allowed to sell services to other countries too. I do not know OVH's reasoning for this, but maybe they want to limit their own business and customer service to those countries only.

          And there's nothing illegal limiting your business to selected countries if you want to do so. It's only illegal if you limit it based on race, skin color and in most countries based on gender.

          • by sopssa (1498795) *

            Let me add to this that in EU its also illegal if countries prevent other companies to work with certain country or inside them, ie. limit free trade. But companies can choose itself obviously.

          • by KDR_11k (778916)

            In the EU it's also illegal to establish artificial barriers to trade, i.e. prevent trade within EU countries. You can't sell something in the UK and prevent people from exporting it from there to other EU countries or you get slapped with massive fines.

  • Stupid idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In the midst of crazy bandwidth and hardware improvements over the year, one absolute truth remains:

    Latency is here to screw you over.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GospelHead821 (466923)

      This post makes me sad. I was always disappointed when somebody with a slightly higher latency would join a Counterstrike game I was in and the other players would vote him out so that they could all retain their better latency. People out in the boonies are no less deserving of games than anybody else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nursie (632944)

        That's not really the latency that's the problem here, though it would affect the folks "in the boonies" more, most likely.

        No, the problem here is that the absolute minimum time between you hitting a button and the corresponding action occurring on screen is the time it would take if the game was running locally PLUS the network round-trip time. That extra, in most cases, would dwarf the local latency (unless I'm very wrong).

        I've got some sort of natural scepticism of all this cloud stuff as it is, but this

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wizardforce (1005805)

          correct me if I'm wrong but the latency problem you speak of should also manifest to some extent in all multiplayer games [which it does] owing to the fact that when two or more players interact, their actions are limited by the latency of the network.

          • by alexhard (778254)

            There are ways around that, though. You can still show a reaction to input locally, even if the other players have not received that input yet. With OnLive-like services, everything is on another machine so you can't do any tricks to "hide" the latency.

            • by The Moof (859402)
              Not to mention the latency could be affected by the amount of data being pushed through. Multiplayer just sends the relevant information back to the server. With OnLive, all information has to be sent/received over the line (video, input, forced feedback, whatever). I see connections getting saturated pretty quick.
          • Re:Stupid idea (Score:5, Informative)

            by RalphSleigh (899929) on Friday September 04, 2009 @09:12AM (#29310065) Homepage
            There is much that can be done with a clever client to hide and compensate for latency, see:

            http://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Latency_Compensating_Methods_in_Client/Server_In-game_Protocol_Design_and_Optimization [valvesoftware.com]
            • Except that the latency is between the user and the client, not the client and the server.

              Completely different.

            • oh yeah, forget latency or any time delays. I'll give you that one. But maybe you'd like to explain to me how they can send 60 frames per second of 1280x1024 video over my internet connection? Cuz if I'm not getting that, I'll stick with my 8800GTS thanks.
            • by msimm (580077)
              Sure, and with Valve the trade-off is accuracy. Anyone who plays frequently knows when a player is lagging and those that don't simply assume the player is cheating with the behind-the-wall shots and what not.

              The results provide smoother but less accurate gameplay and pushes a portion of the penalty of low ping players onto the higher ping player.
            • I just love getting shot in the head around corners.

              Yes, it helps the laggers - but specially crafted programs can also abuse Valve's model to have ludicrous accuracy. (you fire at whatever time is required to hit, rather than when you actually fire)

              Mind you, VAC usually bans players that do that... a month or so later.

          • by Mr_eX9 (800448)

            That's correct, but realtime multiplayer games these days are programmed with heuristics to resolve what "probably" happened. Halo 3 notably got this wrong when it was exposed that when two online players with low health both successfully melee attack each other, the player who meleed second (i.e. later) got the kill and survived.

            These kinds of heuristics logically extend to games running over cloud services like OnLive. But frankly, the US internet infrastructure is not up to this task. At least, it's not

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          Latency will affect people everywhere. 70 milliseconds is a *LONG TIME* for a remote activity, and is a reasonable number to try to achieve. Realistically people want 20 milliseconds and below for something like this, and that number will honestly not be achieved anywhere even in the US if you are not next door to your provider. 10 milliseconds per hop might not be unusual, but when you get 15 or 20 hops and some are longer and shorter, well, imagine where that goes. Not quite the 20MS latency people will n

      • by Krneki (1192201)
        There is also the local LAG. The average male reaction time is 220ms, the PC input lag can go from 32ms to 100ms and on top of that you have network and server lag.

        So yes, you can expect between 300ms and 600ms lag when you play online games.

        There is a nice article on Anand on local LAG.
        http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3601&p=1
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumbel (592662)

      Which is why they plan to have their servers spread all over the globe, instead having them all in a single central location.

  • Camoflage drm ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pinkishpunk (1461107) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:18AM (#29309355)
    is it just me or does this might alot more advantages to the right holds of the game than it do to the user ? the whole second hand market, copying, lending would be "fixed" with this.
    • is it just me or does this add alot more advantages to the right holds of the game than it do to the user ? the whole second hand market, copying, lending would be "fixed" with this. sorry, didnt cache the wordning error there, durring the preview
    • by IBBoard (1128019)
      <corporate-rep>
      No, that's not it at all. This will provide untold benefits to people. They need never again worry about going to the shops, whether it is in stock, whether they've lost the disk, whether they've got a powerful enough machine, or whether we're slowly depriving them of all rights, benefits...erm *cough* sorry, where was I?
      </corporate-rep>

      As I've said in many of the "Downloads are the future" or "Perfect DRM system found" discussions before, give me the real thing and let me own it.
      • Yes - I feel the same way about ebook readers. Until I can buy a used book for a reader, I don't want one. Which means probably I will never get one.

        You'll never buy a used game in this online play model, but the part I like more about this approach than ebooks is that I'm paying to rent time on a game server and I can play whatever games I want. So while I don't own the games, my operating costs are lower (e.g. let's say I only like to play a bit of a bunch of games: the current used/new game model makes t

    • by KDR_11k (778916)

      Not just you. The benefits for the user are practically nil (yes you can play games on any crappy PC but you still need to have it on a non-crappy net connection so no portable gaming anyway). You apparently pay a subscription fee to use the service AND pay to purchase the games on there. They advertise that it doesn't need discs but inserted discs are just an artificial limitation created by the publishers anyway. They advertise that you'll never have to upgrade but the system requirement growth on the PC

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:18AM (#29309357) Homepage

    I get 25ms latency in an ideal online gaming situation (i.e. it takes 25ms for my input to reach the server and the server information to reach me) with a good, nearby server (same country). That's at rates like 4-5 kbps using retranmission, UDP, etc. to keep losses to a minimum. I'm not affected by peak periods because I have a very good ISP.

    How is anything which requires significantly more data going to work anywhere near those latencies? First, my router can kill a gaming session if someone opens a couple of webpages - people's connections will have to be *dead* to allow multi-Mbps connections anywhere near reliably. Then you have that data having to be received and processed at both ends - not a big task for the consumer but acting on Mbps takes much longer than acting on Kbps no matter what you do. Then you have the lack of ANY sort of "predictive" technology - even Doom, Quake etc. knew to do input smoothing and not send every input event and have the client/server compensate by basically guessing if the connection lagged for a few ms - that's not possible here.

    Then you have that the BBC iPlayer streams can effectively kill a business-broadband connection on their own without proper QoS and they are talking significantly more bandwidth, and some of it in the other direction too. So even in the *ideal* situation, with an *ideal* ISP it'll be *worse* than an average game of Counterstrike to play. Translate that to what most people who would be interested in this service have (noisy wireless, crappy broadband, slow ISP connection, etc.) and it just makes for a disaster.

    I'd love it to succeed. I'd also love it to have beta testing somewhere other than the US - but I have to admit my main factor in taking up the beta program would only be to see just how bad it is.

    • I get 25ms latency in an ideal online gaming situation

      And stop there. No remember how great gaming was on a TFT with a latency of 25ms. So before you are even have to worry about bandwidth. Just add the latency of everything from your fingers to your monitor (input latency + network latency + processing latency + display latency) and see how well that is going to work.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slim (1652)

        And stop there. No remember how great gaming was on a TFT with a latency of 25ms.

        Some hardcore gamers playing twitchy hardcore games were bothered by TFT latency. We're talking about the type of people who think it's worth investing in hardware so they can play Quake at 120FPS.

        Most people can't tell the difference between 30FPS and 60FPS. Most modern games aren't reflex-oriented enough for it to matter. (At 30FPS, you're talking an average of 17ms lag, even if every input is guaranteed to be reflected in the next frame).

        Yes, this is a concern for some racing games, the more hardcore fig

        • by blincoln (592401)

          Yes, this is a concern for some racing games, the more hardcore fighting games, and the most intense FPSs. But for the vast majority of consumers, for the style of games popular today, it's not relevant.

          In other words, for most of the games that require a lot of processing power (IE the games that this service is supposed to make playable on low-end machines) latency is a concern, but for casual games (which are playable on basically any PC), it's not?

          • by slim (1652)

            In other words, for most of the games that require a lot of processing power (IE the games that this service is supposed to make playable on low-end machines) latency is a concern, but for casual games (which are playable on basically any PC), it's not?

            I don't think there's a correlation.

            Two expert Street Fighter II players competing would demand single frame input latency - but they could get that performance from an 8 bit Neo Geo with a tiny fraction of the power that's now in an iPhone.

            Something like Bioshock requires a high end GPU, lots of memory and CPU, but its combat does not depend on twitch reactions in the same way. (Whereas Quake III, for example, did). I haven't played Crysis -- one of OnLive's big titles -- but I know it's renowned for havin

        • by Mprx (82435)
          It's trivially easy to tell the difference between 30fps and 60fps in a side by side comparison even for untrained people. The difference between 60fps and 120fps is more subtle, but well worth getting hardware capable of displaying it without problems (which means either a high end CRT or a ViewSonic VX2268wm).
          • by Gwala (309968)

            No, it's pretty much impossible to tell the difference between 30fps and 60fps.

            The reason why games want 120fps, is because you aren't getting a sustained 30fps. You are getting some frames that take longer than 0.03Â Hz to render, and others that take no time at all. Running at 120fps means that if there is a temporary dip in the framerate, the rig is at least fast enough that that dip is unlikely to drop you below that critical 30fps sustained.

            • by Mprx (82435)

              I'm talking about sustained FPS, and you obviously have either never done the comparison or have severe vision problems.

              http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/archive/TempRate.mspx [microsoft.com]

              "Whatever temporal sampling rate you choose, it's unlikely to be fast enough
              There is no practical frame rate high enough to properly portray all the motion typically encountered."

              In practice you get diminishing returns as you increase the frame rate, but there'd have to be something very wrong with you to not see the difference between 30f

    • by slim (1652)

      I get 25ms latency in an ideal online gaming situation

      This article [gamasutra.com] measures GTA IV on the PS3 as having 166ms latency -- from button press to weapon firing.

      This shows that for certain types of game, latency of the kind you'd expect sending video over DSL would be acceptable.

      Then you have the lack of ANY sort of "predictive" technology

      I think they're doing some smart stuff in that area. Remember, this isn't just a matter of running Crysis on a VNC-like server. The game is ported to OnLive's API, which has some tricks to help out in that area.

      I do think that the ideal game for this service doesn't yet exist. I think the

      • by ledow (319597)

        I'm not talking overall latency - controller latency, video latency etc. is inherent in any system and I've assumed it equal in both cases because, well, they both have equal video latencies and controller latencies to deal with - this system doesn't say it runs on a "special low-latency monitor" or anything, so it's generic hardware that's cancelled out with either method. I'm talking about extra latency likely to be introduced OVER AND ABOVE the background latency of an existing system (which is 25ms for

        • by slim (1652)

          The point is that gamers are known to tolerate 160ms latency on certain games.

          They're on record as saying their video codec adds 1ms. We could speculate that they're lying or exaggerating, of course...

          You're pretty much guaranteed a good server over a good network link with this system - the whole idea is that their server farms are 'near' you.

  • actual games are SO FAST NOW on so cheap hardware, we need to cloud it, yea right. what is next? Hey i need to cloud photoshop. That 500MB files butchers my poor quadcore.
    • Re:Because.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:34AM (#29309431) Journal

      actual games are SO FAST NOW on so cheap hardware,

      on newer hardware running windows that may be true... for hardware more than a few years old or on alternative OSes or for games like Chrysis this isn't true.

      That 500MB files butchers my poor quadcore.

      again, that's only true for newer hardware. Photoshop can use over two gigs of RAM to handle larger files in a timely manner. Don't have the RAM? You may just be screwed.

      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        Newer meaning from the last 5 years here, chances are if your computer is that old you could replace it for cheaper than a few years of OnLive subscription (maybe even less if you consider that retail games drop into the bargain bin extremely fast and you can get your games for significantly cheaper than on a service that won't let you shop around).

  • Does this mean there is a possibility that I'll be able to play "A list" games under Linux now? Finally?
    • Re:Linux (Score:4, Informative)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:45AM (#29309491) Journal

      quoting Onlive's beta sign-up page:

      and have a broadband-connected PC running Windows Vista/XP, or an Intel-based Mac.

      so not right now.

    • by ledow (319597)

      And this isn't really "running" anything... it's like watching an interactive Youtube video. Linux can run anything that publishers want to make for it, anyway. If they don't make games for it, that's the publishers problem and yours for not expressing your wishes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nerdfest (867930)
        The work actually required to create a Linux (or OSX) client is much less than it is to create a complete game, and theoretically they only need to do it once for all games. I hope they take the opportunity.
    • by datajack (17285)
      You can already play a large number of A list games 'on Linux' right now!

      Go and buy yourself a PS3 and some games.
      Buy a TV card for your computer and plug it in and configure it under Linux.
      Connect the PS3's video output to the TV card.
      Insert a game into the PS3 and turn it on.
      Fire up a TV viewer software on your Linux box.

      Congratulations! You are now just as much playing a game in Linux as you would be if OnLive had a Linux client an d you used that.
  • by h00manist (800926) on Friday September 04, 2009 @07:49AM (#29309505) Journal
    I wonder if we install this on all the computers here, will it play well on any pc, or just the newer ones..? and as for latency? "Cheap hardware" isn't exactly cheap for the whole world. I'm in South America, so 50ms is just not happening.
  • Where can I buy some of their stocks?
  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday September 04, 2009 @08:05AM (#29309567)
    Just in time for the american ISPs clamoring to lower the DSL speed requirements, potentially giving this new technology its death sentence before it even starts.
    • by elitenls (922611)

      Jesus Christ, at least know what you're talking about. They're not trying to lower DSL speeds, they're trying to lower the definition of broadband so that they can market shitty DSL to compete with cable without breaking the laws surrounding advertising.

      • p

        Jesus Christ, at least know what you're talking about. They're not trying to lower DSL speeds, they're trying to lower the definition of broadband so that they can market shitty DSL to compete with cable without breaking the laws surrounding advertising.

        If an industry starts to massively lobby for their regulatory laws to allow them to offer inferior quality products, you can bet your ass they have no intention of maintaining their currently offered level of service, especially if it's already scraping the legal bottom limit. Lobbying is an investment whose returns are seen in that lobby's success in passing to law.

  • This /. someone should have signed up by now. How well does it run?

  • by Scott Kevill (1080991) on Friday September 04, 2009 @09:58AM (#29310507) Homepage

    If you are a potential fit for a particular test group, we'll send you an invitation email, asking you to run a detailed Performance Test on your network connection and your computer configuration.

    So they can counter their critics by saying they had a positive public beta, yet with a carefully controlled group, to ensure pesky real-world situations don't damage their hype for gaining investors.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Or, you know, so that they don't get five thousand uber-gamers all testing with the same general hardware range and then end up discovering at release day that anyone not running an i7 over FIOS is unable to play. You know, the other 90% of their target audience. Please tell me that you're not in any way related to QA in anything that you've ever done in your life.
  • Is this the same outfit that had that Second Life-ish avatar world that allowed you to speak into your mic and would move your av's lips? Onlive Traveler, I believe? Circa 1996?

  • I just don't see a way for OnLive to guarantee any sort of decent QoS over the Internet, but I think it's doable if their business model is instead to license their tech to ISPs who then in turn solicit customers. How many of us have > 20ms pings to our ISP? I'd wager not many. Combine that with the size of a typical pipe between an ISP and a consumer, and it's probably entirely doable. Either that, or they hope to score a buyout from one of the big guys before their VCs realize they've bought into vapo
  • When I first heard of this many months ago, I thought, dumbest idea ever!

    Now, especially after seeing their site and watching the intro vid, it dawned on me how amazing this could be.

    IF, and big IF, they can get a great handle on latency issues both visually and control latency, this could be bigger than xbox360 or ps3 or PC games.

    This is what the cloud is for. Since all games are run in a data center, multiplayer lag is non-existant. It's like all players are local.

    I am really hoping I get to try out the

    • by KDR_11k (778916)

      Since all games are run in a data center, multiplayer lag is non-existant. It's like all players are local.

      Yeah, if you only measure the situation on the server. The client is still on the other end of the network connection, just instead of receiving control data and calculating the scene itself it receives a prerendered frame and only sends back inputs.

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