Wednesday, 25 March 2009

OnLive: the future of gaming?

Just announced at GDC '09 is OnLive, a brand new technology used for gaming which basically allows you to play high-quality games through any PC or even a TV. As far as the user is concerned, it works in a similar way to television streaming systems like 4OD and BBC iPlayer. What actually goes on behind the scenes is that your input is sent to a central bank of high-spec PCs which will essentially process and run the game for you, then stream back to you a video output of your game session. The quality and resolution of the visuals is directly proportionate to the speed of your internet connection.

Of course this technology is very new and I'm sure it will be riddled with bugs and latency issues to begin with, but after a little while I can see this seriously catching on and becoming the 'next big thing' as far as gaming platforms are concerned. The next Steam? It could be! They've already got 9 major companies signed up and it looks like games such as Crysis and Mirror's Edge could be part of the initial library available.

But what does this mean for indie game developers and modders? Obviously existing methods of gaming will still remain and OnLive Inc have fully acknowledged this, but will mods be available on this system? If so, can we play any old mod or only the ones they give the green light to? Also, with this technology there may be a significant drop in sales of high end PCs as people will no longer need them to play their games on top settings. That means that hardware prices are likely to go up and this will have a knock-on effect for people like me who need those powerful systems to make maps and 3D models. But then what if OnLive is extended to incorporate game development as well? What if we eventually just have the most basic systems in our homes and everything is handled in vast processor farms in some big factory?

This could be big news, so I'll be keeping an eye on it. Meanwhile you can watch GameTrailers' interview with Steve Perlman (head of OnLive Inc) right here.

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