Okay, so I definitely would’ve believed it could happen in my lifetime… but this early on and this fluently? Console gaming is now available on your PC, TV, and now your smartphone and tablet! It will actually work on anything with a screen, internet access and some kind of controller, by streaming an actual console’s gameplay to your Android.
In spring, Connor Turnbull outlined then-recent developments in Android gaming showing us that it was only a matter of time before this service was mass released to Android. An application named OnLive, which has been available for PC and laptops for a while, has been released on Android phones and tablets.
The backdrop of OnLive’s initial screen is a series of tiles each playing their own individual videos, and I must say it’s a great way to show off the service. The central tiles provide immediate access to all the main features, including an ability to message just like any other internet-ready console available and a marketplace to rent or purchase games.
You don’t even have to load a preview for a game; there is one automatically streaming upon opening the tile. The amount of info they give you and this instant preview is excellent and something that honestly I don’t even receive on my Xbox 360.
Getting It Going
I will be referring to how this handled on my rooted HTC Thunderbolt running CM7 during this review, as well as on a rooted HP Touchpad also running CM7.
The app can only be run on Android 2.3 or higher, and it stays open in the background if you switch to a different app without explicitly exiting it – which is great if you receive a text while playing.
Another interesting ability is that a universal controller can be used with it as well – a free service upon submission of whatever email address you choose. Alternatively, there are touch screen controls just like you would see in any touch screen action game or emulator; these controls are very accurate but as you can imagine for an Xbox or a PS3 game they take over the screen.
The “On Demand” gaming concept is one that is relatively new and will gain interest as more games become available. At the moment there is only a handful of titles to choose from, but the selection will presumably expand with time. For now they have all their bases covered, it seems: from sports to racing, and even action and RPG.
Darksiders w/ Controls
Stream Me the Goodies
After signing in, you can navigate to:
Previously Played Games
Brag clips (movie clips you’ve recorded during gameplay)
Arena (watch other people play)
Marketplace (buy or rent games to stream and play)
The Service We Need, or That We Deserve?
I was given a free game (LEGO Batman) for signing up and I must admit it didn’t perform the way I had hoped it would. I actually enjoy LEGO games, so this was kind of a bummer. Even connected to WiFi I experienced some lag as well as inability to load after cut-scenes. This was frustrating and I actually didn’t continue to play after I encountered this.
Batman Preview Screen
This is odd, because I played two hours of Darksiders and Dirt 3 immediately prior with no problems. Maybe Comcast was throttling me for gaming too hard!
The interface for game selection and game info is just like you would see on your computer and renders very nicely on a smart phone. On a technical level, the picture is cut into 16 slices; each slice is encoded therefore increasing the rendering speed. This is supposed to severely reduce latency, though I still experienced some of that, as mentioned above. Latency and compression were the main issues during initial release, as well. In time I am sure this bug will be worked out, but it’s not perfect yet.
Despite that, I actually can’t really complain, even if I did get a little lag – because outside of that, the application handled extremely well. I guess what I’m saying is that even if you experience the occasional lag, you should remember you are playing a console game on your smart phone, with new technology; just relax and wait! It’s trying to stream from miles and miles away to your phone…
All in all, this is a beautiful thing! Yes, there are occasional problems and the on-screen controls can be cluttered but, seriously, for this streaming ability to render as well as it does on a smartphone is absolutely awesome! Everything has a build process and patches are always given out for these kinds of things – or, in the Android world, I should refer to them as updates. Just think of this as a true beta version rather than a final product when you’re playing.