The idea behind OnLive is to stream videogames from a remote server to your computer, and then play the game in a light client application. Instead of the game being installed on your local machine, it is crunched remotely on a server, and streamed in to your Mac or PC. Your input is sent to the server, it plays the game, and you play it on your local machine.
This opens up a whole new world of gaming possibilities: suddenly you don’t need to own a computer with the latest high-end graphic card, CPU, or packed with memory to run even the most high-end games.
In fact, the system specs for OnLive are simply a 2Mbps connection (although 5Mbps is recommended), Mac OS X 10.5.8, Windows 7 or Vista, and a screen resolution of 1024x768. It can run on just about any machine, even a MacBook Air.
Keen gamers will understandably have some questions: how good the experience will be? How fast will the response time be, and will there be any lag between the input of the controls and the response of the video?
These are all valid points but one thing we’re happy to report is that the service (for the most part) is responsive and the games are perfectly playable. Although there are instances when the display starts break up; sometimes the quality of the video decreases (and it’s fairly low resolution to begin with); by and large we found it perfectly possible to play the latest games on everything from a MacBook Air to a two-year old PC.
Much of that depends on your connection though. We tested out OnLive in the office, in a hotel room, at home, and in various other locations and the results were somewhat mixed.
We were surprised to find that in the Macworld office and hotel (both sporting fairly standard connections) that performance was top-notch. Reaction times to the games was exemplary at most times (if anything it was the display that became sporadic, not the controls). More importantly it’ll sometimes display a “Network quality too low” error on the screen and you’re left twiddling your thumbs.