Thursday, 29 September 2011

OnLive Informer Interview with OnLive CEO Steve Perlman at Eurogamer Expo 2011

OnLive Informer was on the ground at this year’s Eurogamer Expo and had a blast. One of the big highlights for them besides meeting all the great fans, and OnLive Staff, was the opportunity to meet and talk with OnLive CEO and Founder, Steve Perlman. As you’ll see, Steve was very candid with them about his impressions of the service going forward.

While one of their goals was to talk and learn more about upcoming OnLive features, like the browser and the fact that OnLive hopes to have over 1000 games by the end of 2012, they also learned a little more about Steve Perlman during the interview: What are his favorite games on the service? Why did he build OnLive? And why in the world is he so addicted to Madballs?!

Summary of Points:
  • Charts show direct trends between most played and most spectated games
  • Video chat built into OnLive already, just isn’t turned on
  • Steve tests different versions of games live, tunes the algorithm in real-time on test accounts
  • His favorite types of games are historical, like Assassin’s Creed series
  • Envisions video games merging with cinema as the popular art form of the 21st century
  • Browser is working fine and almost ready — biggest hurdle is implementing security features
  • 1 year for 100 games (E3 2010-E3 2011), next 50 games released in just 3 months
  • 1000 games by end of 2012 a reality: Release intervals are accelerating and continue to do so
  • OnLive supporting more and more Indie developers
  • More legacy games using virtual machine servers
Interview Transcript:

Steve: By the way, people are playing a lot of Deus Ex right now (laughs). We get this little graph that shows which games are being played, and you never know. The thing that’s funny about it — you’d think it’s about which is the newest game, but it isn’t. It follows, I don’t know, fashion trends of sorts because people see what’s happening in the Arena, and once you see, you know, kind of a lot of people playing a game, like there must be something cool about that game, and a lot of people go play the game.

So you end up having these waves and, you know, at first it was kind of inexplicable. Like, why was this game so popular this day and not another day? Sometimes we can track it to people who had their privacy settings set so that a lot of people could see them, and so you see a game being played and you say, “There must be something cool there.”

So anyways, today seems to be a Deus Ex day, for whatever reason.

Informer: Do you find different genres are popular on different days of the week?

Steve: We haven’t found any correlation to a day of the week. But we do find that there’s different genres that people play — I mean it’s not any different than console or PC gaming. You’re going to have, you know, some people that are just never going to play a first-person shooter, and some people who are never going to play a puzzle game. You know what I mean? That’s just their taste.

Then there’s other people that play a cross-section of games. So that’s one of the great things about, you know, having a system that can support a lot at once. Actually, you know, it helps us a lot with our load usage. That’s why a day like today is tricky — because everybody wants to get on in the UK, right? But, generally speaking, on most days even if we have a new game that’s released — say it’s a shooter — what happens is all the shooters, they do tend to gravitate toward that, all the people interested in that. But, you know, if someone starts playing World of Goo, they’re never going to play that [other] game.

So, you know, it doesn’t matter. So we don’t — we still tend to have more of a wide spread of usage. Whereas, for example, World of Warcraft everyone’s playing with that one game, or Starcraft, they have very, very steep peaks because of that. And that allows us to operate more efficiently.

Informer: On the social aspects on the service, we saw you demonstrate a video chat feature a short while ago. Could you give us an update: Is that coming to OnLive or is it in the works?

Steve: So I gave a demonstration at Columbia University that was really about invention, and I talked about OnLive and MOVA, and then I talked about this new thing called DIDO. Generally speaking these University presentations don’t get that much play. It was really for Alumni. It ended up sort of, getting a little bit viral and people started looking at it very closely. So I perhaps showed more than I should have (laughs). But so, yes we’ve always had video chat capability — it’s built into the system. I mean surprise, surprise we’ve developed very low latency compression technology. Guess what? We can of course compress video very efficiently with very low latency and integrate it into the system. So it’s all there. It’s just, you know, we’re trying to keep the company small because that allows us to move quickly. So the features that we put out there, they end up getting triaged.

Like, for example, we could’ve had video chat in the US but not have OnLive in the UK this fall (looks into camera). So is anyone in the UK audience: Would you prefer the Americans have video chat and you don’t get anything, or do you think that we made the right choice? (laughs)

Informer: Now Steve, on a more serious note, we heard you have a serious addiction to Madballs. Can you confirm this?

Steve: Oh no. Uhhhh okay. So, let’s see how am I going to best explain this? Well, so the thing is we have different games that test different things, and you’d be surprised which games test different things, and you’ll also see I probably have a serious addiction to Unreal Tournament. What you probably don’t know is that when I’m playing Unreal Tournament it’s usually a different version each time. We have a bunch of different games that we use that we revise, revise, revise, as we’re doing testing of different things.

So, I have a bunch of different accounts. Some people have figured out certain accounts I have. Oh well (laughs). It’s also not always me that’s playing. When I’m on, I wish it were the case that I was on really playing the games and having fun like everybody else. Usually what I’m doing is that I’m trying something. You may see me sitting in a space repeatedly going over and over and over again, and what you don’t know is that I’ve got a device there where I’m constantly changing parameters and tuning the algorithm or doing something else like that. So, you know, what people stumbled onto is one of my test accounts actually.

As far as the accounts where I actually get to play games, you know, oh I don’t really want to say anything because I guess it’d be unfair but you know, in terms of my own taste in games, I like historical things and so on, so I really love Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. I spent some time just looking at them developing it. I love Mafia II because I go back and then I go look up some of the songs they’re playing — in the cars, you can Shazam them — and then you can find out these old songs because the team made such an effort to find what was the top song during that time.

So if you’d like my personal taste in games, I tend toward more that kind. But as far as making the system work I test all of them, across the board.

Informer: It’s great to hear you’re so hands-on and you’re really trying to make the service as good as possible for the users.

Steve: Absolutely. I mean, look, I do manage the company. I’m the CEO and that’s a side of what I do. But you know, the reason I’m doing a start-up and the reason we’re structured the way we are, is because I can be hands on and can offer my direct input. If you look at my career I’ve always focused on media-related stuff: That’s what I really love. I’ve always focused on, in particular, interactive media. Which, games, you know, are rising to the highest form of interactive media. Which is, I keep hinting at, and you’re soon going to see mind-blowing stuff, which is going to be the intersection of cinema and video games. Where we’re just going to absolutely blur the boundaries and you’re going to see really a new art form. Cinema and its analog television arose as the major, popular art form of the 20th century. In my view, video games merged together with cinema and television, so that it can be interactive. My view, that’s going to emerge as the popular art form of the 21st.

Informer: We have to agree. A lot of our users are really excited about the OnLive Browser that’s coming. Could you give an update? Limitations? Release date?

Steve: So it is coming, it works. The only issue has just been triage. You know, browsers can let you do anything, and we have to make sure that the stuff you do is not going to either cause harm to others. I mean we’re giving you access to a 10 Gigabit connection to the Internet, okay. So someone could cause some trouble. We don’t want you to start a spam site there, alright. It’s also the case that we don’t want this to be used as sort of a jumping off point to break into something else. So, it does take care and it’s just one of the things that we’ve got to do the right things.

Some opportunities come our way that we don’t expect, okay, and some of those opportunities you’ve actually heard of. Some are recent announcements, and there’re some other announcements that are about to come that are absolutely going to blow your mind. So when you see the stuff we announce I promise you, you’ll forgive us.

But we have to triage our resources. The Browser works just fine. You know, technically, actually it’s a very easy thing to do. But to go and build around all the different security and everything else to make it work in a way that’s appropriate and reasonable, that’s the thing that just takes some time and careful thought.

Informer: On the subject of games, you said we’d have [150] games by the end of 2011 and I’ve even heard you quoted as saying by the end of 2012 don’t be surprised if we have close to 1000 games. Will that be from existing partners, new partners, or a mixture of both?

Steve: Yes. A mixture of everyone. So it took us one year, from E3 2010 to E3 2011, to get a hundred games. It’s been 3 months since then, we’re at about 150 games. In fact we’re not quite there but we’ll be there in a week or two. So you can see the acceleration, okay, and there’ll be continued acceleration through the end of this year, and then well into next year.

So what’s happening is, first of all the publishers are all, now, they’re confident that [OnLive] works. There’s confidence [that] there’s an audience, there’s confidence that they’ll make money on it as well, of course.

The other thing is that we’re getting more and more Indie developers on there. And the other thing we’ve done is we’ve created a wider and wider range of different virtual machines, which are the things that allow these legacy games to run. I mentioned in the talk I just gave that the original Deus Ex: GOTY edition we have from 2000, that is running in a very sophisticated virtual machine, on a brand new server. I think the servers that that run on probably were installed last year. It’s super hard to make a game like that run on it.

So as we’ve built all these various virtual machines, once we get that game running we can bring in more great legacy games.

SOURCE: OnLive Informer.

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