Sunday, 29 March 2009

Inactivity apology and streaming games

If I were to compare my life to a computer game character at this moment in time, it would probably be Sonic. Not that I am fast, agile or a hedgehog, but I seem to be going after a lot of gold rings in a metaphorical sense at present. I could also perhaps compare myself to Max Payne, not that I have a depressing life or kill people, but there is currently a lot on my mind, as I imagine there probably is on his. University work is always fun, but it does seem to eat up blogging time, so I am sorry for my slight inactivity.

Anyway, back on to the meat portion of this entire blog, gaming.

Recently a brand new digital game service has been showcased at the Game Developers Conference which promised to stream games directly to your computer, requiring no download or install.

Streaming video games in theory could revolutionise the games industry in the way that YouTube revolutionised copyright infringing film footage and unfunny home videos that nobody cares about. Of course it could just as easily go the other way and be as useful as a chocolate teapot in a radiator factory situated on the sun.

The first thing that struck me when I browsed to the OnLive website was that my relatively decent computer and broadband had a bit of difficulty streaming the introductory video on the homepage. If it struggled sending this information to the user, how will it cope with sending thousands of games to thousands of people all at once?

The tech demos that have been given so far have all looked quite impressive, but they are not being influenced by the potential other hundreds of thousands of people that might want to stream games when the service goes live this winter.

The games themselves are hosted on the OnLive servers which means that you are sending each game command and click through the vastness of the internet in the hope that it will get to your game at the critical moment you need it to. This seems a little bit far fetched at present, seeing as how a lot of people get lag when playing online, even when the content is all hosted locally.

An advantage to the games being hosted elsewhere does put less demand on the users PCs which should hopefully broaden the audience of many games that would usually require a very high spec machine to play. This could of course, again, go the other way and affect the quality of some games graphically.

I personally remain to be convinced to see if this will work, as it will really need to be something truly special to de-rail the victory train made of gold and unicorns that Valve’s Steam is currently riding.

Replacing locally installed games and forcing everyone online will be a very difficult thing to do, as even now, a lot of people put up a fuss with having to play games like Dawn of War 2 through Steam.

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