Wednesday, 28 September 2011

OnLive CEO Steve Perlman’s Keynote Presentation at Eurogamer Expo 2011

Attendees at this year’s Eurogamer Expo were treated to a keynote speech by OnLive CEO, Steve Perlman. During the presentation, Perlman discussed a number of features introducing the Cloud gaming distribution service to the UK. Everyone in the room was also treated to a free MicroConsole!

Much of this presentation was an introduction to the OnLive service for new customers, and so many existing US customers may already know about some of the material presented. He did let out a couple new pieces of information throughout the keynote as well as in the Q&A portion, that section of the presentation is transcribed below.

Main Points:

Q: Are the games so far running on Xbox hardware or on PC hardware?

Perlman: They’re running on, actually, custom servers which are a kind of PC server, but they’re not exactly a PC version. There’s subtle changes we have to make which are more complex to explain but I’ll tell you some simple things. If you’re running on a system and you’re on a WiFi connection, and you walk out of range of the access point, we have to be able to pause the game, and we will pause it for up to five minutes until you get back in range, and then can resume right at the frame you left off of.

Well, you know, a conventional version of PC out-of-box game you can’t really, you can’t do that with certainty. You know, we don’t know how to pause it. But there’s other things, like for example having the Achievements hooked in to the OnLive system. So these are all slightly special versions of the game. The porting takes, I guess a record was 3 days it took for us to port a game and get it onto OnLive, to ones that take a longer time. For example, if we are going all the way from Xbox-only or PlayStation-only over to one of our servers it’s harder, it takes more time than if we’re doing a port direct from a PC version.

Q: With consoles you get special editions of games and extras. How does that work with OnLive?

Perlman: Oh yes, well okay so I showed you an example with Deus Ex, that you get some downloaded content. So, in that case, if you purchase Deus Ex, the Augmented Edition you get all these downloaded things that you can download and, just as you would on a PC, you’ll be able to download them. Now as far as physical things being sent to you as part of a promotion, it depends on the publisher. We’ve had several games that we’ve offered in the States where you get sent an OnLive Game System, you know, if you pre-order a particular game as a promotion. But it’d be easy enough for a publisher to do things like that.

Q: If you’ve got two consoles in one household, can you use the same account on multiple consoles?

Perlman: Well, you certainly can use it at different times of the day, alright. We have it right now that one account can be live, a given account can only have one user on any device live at a given time. Now, we have parental controls that we’ve had. That’s only been added really in about the last month. One of the things we recognize is that in a family situation you may want to have a couple people perhaps under the same billing umbrella. We just haven’t implemented that yet, but that concept is something we want to do.

Q: Will I be able to go to a friend’s house who has one of these [MicroConsoles] and sign in with my account, and play games on my account with his big screen TV?

Perlman: Yes, absolutely. That works with everything whether it’s a PC, Mac, or the OnLive Game System, iPad, or Android. Coming to TV’s and coming to Blu-ray players. There’s a thing that says, “Sign in as a different user,” — that’s it, all of your save stuff is there. So it’s even something cooler. Suppose you visit a friend in the States: Okay you’re in New York, you’ve got your laptop, you’ve got your tablet, whatever it is, and you go sign in there. It’s really cool. We’ll detect that you’re there and we’ll send under the Atlantic, over the private fiber that we have, all of your data. So your first login in a different region, there’s about a 30 second delay. All of your user-save data will come over: Boom — you can play the games locally.

The only restriction there is some countries we go into there’s license rules, or perhaps there’s content like certain violence rules or things like that. Then we’ll say that game’s not available where you are at that time. But other than that you’ll have worldwide usage of your game on any device. In fact if you’re visiting your friend and you’re on his PC, off you go — it works just fine.

But do not give your password and email to anybody else, because if you do they’re going to, you know, rack up all the charges and so on. I think that’s obvious. Believe it or not some people really do that.

Q: Are there UK based data centers or is it all US based?

Perlman: So we have 3 data centers in the US, and then right now have 3 data centers in Western Europe: In UK, Luxembourg, and Belgium are the ones that are operating right now. I believe these demos are all coming from Belgium because right now we’re watching very closely our UK and Lux data centers are getting overwhelmed. So far we’ve been able to handle the load, but it’s been a very sudden surge since we made the service go live last night.

The thing about OnLive is, it is designed to handle the load and deal with these kinds of things, and we’ve had other times that we’ve had surges like this for other reasons; like a new game was released or some other big marketing event came out. So far it’s been doing great. We’ve been running for 15 months and we’ve had 100% up-time, 24/7. That doesn’t mean something hasn’t failed. I mean sometimes we have servers go down. Particular segments or certain lines go down. We’ve had those under-sea cables sometimes get knocked out. But what we have is failed-overs for everything, which is really great. From the point of view of the user, they just log in. They don’t realize they’re on a different server or a different data center than they used to be, but, it just works.

Q: How quickly do you currently plan for full AAA titles to make their way into the monthly bundle pack? Are you forecasting that there will be a delay? Or will they be available at launch if you’re paying the £6.99 a month?

Perlman: So that is entirely in control of the publisher, whether they’re Indie or, you know, a large publisher. We’re a distributor at the end of the day, right, and we put up what they want. All that content is there their choice, and so on. So if they want to move it into PlayPack, as you can see with F.E.A.R. 3 and Homefront, they got moved in — I think Homefront was about 12 weeks? F.E.A.R. 3 was in PlayPack in, I think, was it 6 weeks? So it depends on when the publisher wants to move the content.

Then we have other ones that’ve taken a year. As far as Deus Ex 1, it took ten years. We have the 2000 edition of Deus Ex 1. But there’s actually one thing about it that’s really cool: Try to run Deus Ex 1 on a modern computer — it’d be very difficult because it was written for Windows 98, and it’s got some old drivers. We take care of that for you. So we can take legacy games, create a virtual machine around them, so you can go play these legacy games just like that.

Q: How important is it for you to have more service providers like BT on board?

Perlman: Well, we’re adding them worldwide. We are partnered with AT&T in the United States, Belgacom Belgium, and we’ll be announcing other partnerships in other countries as well. It’s very important for us to have a relationship with a service provider, first of all, that understands the Internet in that particular country. The Internet is not the same all around the world. The backbone of the UK is quite different than the backbone in the United States — there’s not one backbone, there’s several backbones in the United States, for example. Then as we move into different countries in Europe, they’ve got their own peculiarities and then what happened is the Internet kind of got hooked up later on.

So if you’re looking at the places where our data centers are, they’re actually quite strategically placed, and the inter-connects coming in across both the Atlantic and across the channel into the UK, and how we go tie-in has been something that BT helped us a lot on. We used their expertise and their know-how about the particular characteristics of the UK backbone.

What we’re doing here is not easy. This is a really hard problem: It took 10 years to develop this technology, and we spent years going and testing, testing, testing, and figuring out — how can we maintain this level of reliability? Having a route that goes, you know, kind of in a round about way to finally get to the destination, is not a way to have a fast-reaction game. You need to have a very good route, and so that’s part of the thing that we’re able to do.

I hope nobody’s watching this in the States, but you actually are probably going to have better OnLive performance in the UK than we do in the United States at the end of the day. But that’s just the way it goes.

SOURCE: OnLive Informer.

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