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Thread: Hands-on with OnLive's New Tablet App

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    The Legendary Troll Hunter OmegaFenix's Avatar
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    Default Hands-on with OnLive's New Tablet App

    The promise of OnLive has always been to bring graphically rich, high-definition gaming experiences to devices that would otherwise be incapable of running them through the power of cloud streaming technology.

    Initially, the service was limited to a lightweight desktop client for PC and Mac, and later, as affordable standalone hardware for your HDTV. But when pitted against the ongoing success of traditional console and PC gaming, OnLive has struggled to establish itself as a suitable alternative.

    But now, the company is focusing on an area where it simply can’t be matched: mobile.With the release of its new Android and iOS app, OnLive is bringing PC-quality games to devices best known for casual titles like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope.While still rough around the edges in many regards, the idea of playing Batman Arkham City on an iPad or a Kindle Fire is so alluring that even OnLive’s harshest critics will find renewed interest in the platform.When it releases on December 8, the new OnLive app will be available for just about every iOS and Android device currently available, but for our testing we were given a pre-release version of the software running on an iPad 2.

    If you’ve used the old OnLive app, you’ve used the new one, except now, when you load you view your games library, you can tap Play Now and load the software.In order to run, any device using the app must be connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G LTE. At a minimum, users will need a connection of 1Mbps, but HD visuals require a connection of 3Mbps to 5Mbps.I tested the app with a variety of connections, including 4G LTE and Wi-Fi, and the app maintained fairly crisp and clear image quality throughout. While at times the service would become compressed when speeds dropped or a network was being overloaded, I never experienced a complete connection drop.As noted in today’s release, games for OnLive’s tablet client can be played in a variety of ways – via a custom touch interface overlay, native touch controls added by developers or with the company’s new Universal Controller.The overlay, which OnLive has dubbed the VPad, is available for over 25 titles on the service, including DiRT 3 and others, whereas only three titles have been retooled to have native support for touch control styles, most notably L.A. Noire.Unfortunately, L.A. Noire was not available for hands-on testing on our pre-release unit, but we did see an example of the new control scheme during a demo. Rockstar has implemented new on-screen buttons and gesture control cues to replace traditional mouse and keyboard and d-pad controls. The on-screen buttons resemble typewriter keys and change to match each unique gameplay mode – driving, walking around, interrogating witnesses and investigating crime scenes.We were assured that the new version of the game would be available at, or shortly after, the launch of the app, but no specific time was given.Another title retooled for OnLive’s mobile app, Defense Grid Gold, an indie tower defense-style game, was available, however.Normally, the game calls upon a keyboard and mouse to navigate the map, place defense mechanisms and access menus. Now, gestures like screen swipes, pinch-to-zoom and taps are used to replicate the experience. While OnLive has done a great job of limiting latency issues, there are moments when the lag between touch commands is apparent. It never reached a point where the experience was detrimentally impacted, but it did make me stop and take note.The VPad overlays, on the other hand, aren’t quite as refined.Testing pre-release versions of DiRT 3 and other VPad-adapted games yielded mixed results. While OnLive has done a great job of recreating a controller interface, responsiveness in analog controls and other commands ranged from slow to nearly non-existent.Of all the touch control methods I tried, none seemed to be a satisfying alternative to a mouse and keyboard or a controller. I’m curious to see how game developers experiment with touch controls with OnLive, but the real potential of the platform is when tablets and smartphones are paired with the new Universal Controller.OnLive has cleverly redesigned their controller to incorporate support for a variety of wireless protocols to make it compatible with just about any device, and to find the lowest latency method possible therein. For the iPad, the controller uses Bluetooth, whereas other devices may call upon Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies.With the controller paired via Bluetooth, gameplay on the iPad 2 is great. Analog movement is responsive and relatively precise -- though I did experience times when small adjustments weren’t detected – and action buttons resulted in nearly 1:1 reflection on-screen.While I would never want to use OnLive on a mobile device for competitive multiplayer shooters, it’s more than sufficient for most other types of gameplay.What interests me most are the scenarios wherein accessing PC- or console-quality games would otherwise be impossible.For example, during my testing, I took the test unit home and as my girlfriend and I watched a movie on the couch, I was able to prop the iPad 2 up and play an online match of Saints Row: The Third with another PC or Microconsole-based OnLive user. To do so otherwise, I would have had to go into another room and play, but with OnLive for iOS, all I had to do was power on my tablet, open the app and I was up and running.With 4G LTE and mobile hotspots, the range of scenarios grows even further: playing on the bus to school or work, while visiting family back home or serving jury duty. What’s more, by having the entire game based in the cloud, you never have to worry about fragmenting your saves from one device to another.It truly is the first real implementation of a unified gaming experience anywhere, anytime.The introduction of the Universal Controller is exciting in and of itself. While it has been designed to work with OnLive’s mobile app, it can theoretically be used with any app or game that calls for d-pad controls. Before, mobile game developers could add d-pad support, but a product hasn’t existed to use it. Now there is.Imagine what ChAIR – makers of Infinity Blade – can do for iOS games now that a product exists that eliminates the limitations of touch controls on Apple products.Of course, these are all just excitement-inducing hypothetical scenarios, but that’s what’s intriguing about OnLive; it’s far from perfect, yet it’s forging the foundations necessary to do unprecedented things.The updated versions of OnLive’s iOS and Android app will be available for download tomorrow. For more coverage, stay tuned to
    As someone who actually owns an Onlive MicroConsole & Played around with it on my 4 year old Laptop I honestly believe this is the future of gaming and would be very surprised if the next gen-consoles dont incorporate at least part of this functionality. I only wish more publishers and devs would jump aboard. The release of the App for mobile devices is really exciting and I hope they manage to fix the issues with the VPad as carrying a wife-controller with you is going to be less than ideal but considering that you could be playing games like Fallout 1 & 2, Batman AA & AC, etc all on the go its amazing. Now mobile data tariffs and speeds you have to catch up with the tech.Exciting times. * Yes I know this isn't really applicable to you guyz in SA but still the tech has to eventually reach you.
    Last edited by OmegaFenix; 08-12-2011 at 03:57 PM.
    "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

  2. #2


    I am amazed at how poorly this tech has been received by developers and gamers alike, surely as you say omega, this is the future of gaming! Ok they missed the mark in the early stages of deployment, lets face it this will never replace high performance pc's at home, physically owning your hardware and being able to upgrade/tweak/tinker etc is something that few hardcore pc gamers will ever give up, no matter how convenient it may be. Now enter the mobile market and you have a completely different ballgame altogether, barring slow connections, limited 3G covergae and low mobile data usage in SA this could really work locally.

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