So I guess I can say what I thought about the beta!
Long story short, it sucked.
I got invited to the beta once a server farm near me was spun up, and I immediately gave it a try. Unfortunately my concerns with the service, which I outlined over a year ago, turned out to be pretty dead on.
My two main concerns were 1) input lag and 2) picture quality. And neither fared particularly well during my time playing. I tried both Prince of Persia as well as Unreal Tournament III, and even in a single-player game like PoP the input lag was noticeable. However it couldnâ€™t hold a candle to the mess that was UT3, which had something like half a second of input lag, completely messing up my aim and movement. On top of that it was prone to lag spikes, during which my screen would freeze and Iâ€™d be teleported a vast distance forward five seconds later. Last year, OnLiveâ€™s CEO claimed to have some sort of magical technology that would minimize the impact of round trip times on input responsiveness â€“ I really want some of what he was smoking.
As for picture quality, I stated in my earlier entry that they had to be using some sort of compression to get the data size down to manageable levels. And lo and behold, thatâ€™s exactly what theyâ€™re doing. The feed you get is 720p in name, in that it consists of 720 horizontal rows of pixels, but it lacks the characteristic sharpness that you would get from running a game at 1280×720 on your own machine. And of course the compression artifacts get worse as your connection experiences hitches.
A new and exciting complaint many people have about the service has to do with its pricing model. You need to pay a subscription â€“ but you also need to pay full retail price for any game you want to play, which seems completely boneheaded to me. I know there are the variable costs of servers to deal with, but surely if youâ€™re going to buy large numbers of copies of a game to run on a server farm, that entitles you to some sort of bulk licensing deal?
In the end Iâ€™m sort of left wondering who this product is meant to serve. PC enthusiasts are just going to laugh at it and leave it alone, while people who might want to try some PC games are going to end up with a substandard experience, shorn of all the things that make PC gaming awesome â€“ better graphics, more control options and customization. They might as well just stick to their consoles instead.