Cloud-based gaming service has predictably high latency

It’s mid-afternoon on a Friday, so my head’s a little in the clouds. But then so is everything else these days. Cloud-based storage has become more and more popular, and it’s being joined by an increasing number of applications. Even games have floated up into the cloud, including recent titles like Mass Effect 2, Borderlands, DiRT 2, and Just Cause 2, all of which are available from OnLive’s game-streaming service.

Latency is a huge potential issue for any cloud-based gaming service, and it appears that OnLive isn’t immune. A blog post over at EuroGamer teases some preliminary findings from an in-depth article on the service that will be published tomorrow. The site tested OnLive in the United States on a generous 25Mbps FiOS connection and observed latencies no lower than 150 milliseconds. Some games fared worse than others, with latencies in Assassin’s Creed 2 hitting 216 ms.

Obviously, such high latencies are going to turn off hard-core gamers looking for a responsive experience. They’re also quite a ways off claims made by OnLive head Steve Perlman, who said latencies are typically "between 35-40ms". The blog post hints that latency might not ruin the overall experience, but that may ultimately depend on the expectations of the gamer. At the very least, it looks like OnLive has a ways to go to measure up to its own expectations.

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    • scribly
    • 9 years ago

    It’s a nice concept, but I mod almost all the games I play, even those that don’t support modding (Read: I take all the action out of games and turn them into adventure games)

    So cloud based stuff is really nothing for me

    • Chrispy_
    • 9 years ago

    I can see this technology as useful, but not in the way OnLive wants it.

    Imagine sitting with a netbook on your sofa as your wife and kids play/watch TV, playing something demanding at full detail and 50FPS or whatever the stream handles, because downstairs on your Wireless LAN is an i7 with a 5870.

    I’ve tried this with various remote tools in the past, and they can’t handle it but the concept was fun to try. The minute you introduce more than about 50ms of lag, it becomes irritating to make precise movements, eliminating anything competetive.

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 9 years ago

    Does anyone really think this stuff is a good idea anymore?
    Or did they ever?
    Back in the day, the concept was supposedly for people with slow computers, (but an expensive fast internet connection, talk about oxy-moron), but now everyone can easily afford quad-core systems, and ~dx10 level graphics cards.
    Cloud computing is just another name for a vendor-lock system worse than steam, phsyx, and apple combined.
    You gotta be out of your bloody mind to buy into this garbage.

    Even if you admit that it’s really an invasive, draconian drm scheme, it’s still a bad idea.
    You’d be better off streaming the game data with an encrypted connection, and running it locally.
    Something that lets you physically load and run the game, but cuts back on hard-drive requirements makes a lot more sense than streaming video of the game. That’s just ridiculous, and a waste of bandwidth.

    Another point to ponder is how deliberately bloated PC games seem to be becoming.
    You have perfect performance on a console with 512mb of ram, whereas a 2GB PC can’t come close to the same level of performance with the same game.
    It’s a joke, how obvious the scam is.
    Especially when games started hitting the 32-bit barrier of 2GB per app, then games magically started using less memory.
    Once they hit that ram wall, there was no point in bloating it up further, so they stopped trying that method of forced upgrading, because it just didn’t work anymore.
    Same thing with CPU’s. We hit a Mhz wall, and dev’s don’t like programming for an extreme amount of cores, so they quit bloating that all to hell, and started optimizing it more. So the CPU race is now over.
    Then we have video cards.
    Current Dx10 video cards should be powerful enough to play any game out there, and yet there are games so deliberately bloated, that nothing short of DX11 SLI, and a dedicated physx card, can get you acceptable frame-rates.
    I don’t think this really is a performance limitation, but more of a deliberate attempt to quickly obsolete current standards, and force people into blind consumerism.
    The cloud angle supposedly “frees” you from this cycle, but I say no, no it doesn’t, and it has the potential to be much worse.
    Cure worse than the disease, and all that rot.
    This problem wouldn’t exist if developers would properly optimize for the PC, the only problem is that they’re not, and it’s painfully obvious.
    Considering moore’s law, and current history, I’d say even video cards will hit a point of diminishing returns.
    Why? because the performance will simply outweigh the capability of the developers, artists, and corporations trying to bloat graphics.
    They won’t have the budget, or time to program and design for say dx12, since photo-realistic games would take too much effort to mass-produce.
    This is why we have Physx and CUDA.
    The graphics race is going to eventually hit a wall, and when that happens, the race will be about other features.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      Or you could just stop wasting time with games. Do something useful AND stick it to da man! yeeeaah!

    • YeuEmMaiMai
    • 9 years ago

    cloud computing only works whe you have a fast fat pipe.

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      Cloud computing only makes sense if you have a fast (and expensive) pipe, and a shitty computer (like ARM based “smart”book or whatever). For standard everyday PCs with at least 2GHz dual cores this is beyond stupid.

      Pipes don’t get fast enough quickly enough (at least not here in the USA) for this approach not to be outrun by continuedCPU/GPU improvements.

    • dashbarron
    • 9 years ago

    Urgh. I’ve played plenty of games for years with 300-400 ms average, and I’ve enjoyed the games and haven’t really had any complaints. It kills me when others who play the same game as me complain about the 200+ latency they’re getting. Really? Whiners, it’s manageable and still with a good experience.

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      Again, this is not the latency we’re talking about. When people talk about ping times, they’re talking about the lag between what other players do and what you see them doing, and there are techniques to (somewhat) compensate for that. And even when it’s bad, you just see the other guys jumping about in a jerky fashion; it doesn’t affect the responsiveness of your viewpoint in the game.

      But the lag here is between what *[

        • Chrispy_
        • 9 years ago


        Find any game you can control the framerate on and set it to 3fps. I always use Quake3 to get an idea of what framerates are with the “com_maxfps” cvar.

        Playing a game at 3fps is totally hideous in terms of control responsiveness so prettying up that experience with smoother graphics (OnLive) but not fixing the underlying control responsiveness is a frustrating disaster.

    • ronch
    • 9 years ago

    To be honest, all this cloud crap is just hype to me. Wasn’t this the way computers were back in the… what, 50’s or 60’s? Back then you need a big room to fit a million pieces of information. Back then ‘computers’ were just dumb terminals that let their actual calculations be done on a central mainframe computer. Um, isn’t cloud computing akin to that concept?

    It’s so different today. What computer can’t run a word processor that you had to connect to some remote server just to be able to use one? Heck, back in the old Pentium III days they were already saying you don’t need a 500MHz CPU to run Word. And now, it just got worse. Gaming? Come on! Serious gamers WILL NOT trade high end multi-core CPUs and high end graphics cards. In practice these powerful hardware are what really competes with OnLive’s proliferation. And lest we forget, OnLive is just taking off, with practically no gamers yet. What the heck would happen if a thousand gamers are playing all at once? Heck, we have enough lags on Facebook chat, let alone gaming.

    Call me pessimistic but this thing is not gonna take off unless it’s dirt cheap.

      • Krogoth
      • 9 years ago

      Yep, cloud computing is just a new label on an old computing concept called terminal computing. πŸ˜‰

    • cegras
    • 9 years ago

    This will be like playing with vsync on.

      • can-a-tuna
      • 9 years ago

      That’s what I always do.

      • Meadows
      • 9 years ago

      And a 20-frame pre-render.

      • bcronce
      • 9 years ago

      you gotta remember to enable tripple buffering with vsync. the output buffer gets locked during output, so it can’t be rendered to. tripple buffer fixes that

        • Meadows
        • 9 years ago

        Sure, and further increases VRAM load.

          • homerdog
          • 9 years ago

          Yeah we’re really running short on VRAM these days.

            • Meadows
            • 9 years ago

            Have you checked any videocard reviews in the past 3 years?

    • PenGun
    • 9 years ago

    There is no cloud. It does not exist. It’s servers on the internet … same as it ever was.

      • [TR]
      • 9 years ago

      Shh!!! Don’t ruin the marketing department’s day!

    • Sargent Duck
    • 9 years ago


    • thesmileman
    • 9 years ago

    Being Software Engineer and Software Architect for the last 10 years in the defense industry I never though it this would work as I understand the technical hurdles they have to overcome. For example the government has tried things like this many times before. How do you think the drones work? But the latency there is not as important.

    Anyway I can confirm the latency is not as high as the 150ms. I have played OnLive (They gave me a free game for signing up a long time ago). You can play games like Just Cause 2 and fly a helicopter through crowded city streets and never hit a building you simply couldn’t do that with latency at those numbers. Granted I live in an area where one of the data centers is located so that can certainly have an effect.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 9 years ago

    Sounds perfect for starcraft 2 πŸ˜‰

    • DancesWithLysol
    • 9 years ago

    More important than the 200ms latency is that with this system the latency will be variable. Sure, most of the time your chugging along at 150ms, but then suddenly you get a 800ms lag spike and you miss/die/lose. I think this is a much more compelling reason to stick with local hardware and a client/server type arrangement for online gaming.

    • geekl33tgamer
    • 9 years ago

    Not bad… Assuming there’s no other complications, you could use this technology to play any game they host on the most meagre Notebook (I’m looking at you Atom Processor) specification?

    Wonder if anyone in the UK is going to do this…

    • Buzzard44
    • 9 years ago

    Wow, color me impressed. I was expecting latencies to be in the >300ms range. No, 150 – 200 isn’t great, but it really isn’t that bad. I’d like to give it a shot just to see for myself.

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      150-200ms latency means 5-6 frames per second in terms of responsiveness. That might be fine for rail-style games and slower-paced, more strategic titles, possibly even some MMO*s, but it’s going to be painful for twitch games.

      But that’s what the sensible folks have been predicting all along.

        • Fighterpilot
        • 9 years ago

        200ms lag is acceptable for BF2 both on the ground and flying.
        I often have less than a 20ms ping when I play on Japanese servers which is great, but USA based servers at 200 or so aren’t really a problem.
        Over 250 starts to be a hassle and affects game play.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 9 years ago

          You aren’t waiting 200ms for frames to be delivered.

          It would be excruciating.

          • Meadows
          • 9 years ago

          200 ms /[

            • UberGerbil
            • 9 years ago

            Yes, that’s why I specifically referred to “responsiveness” though “input lag” might better get the sense across. Considering there are people who notice this with some monitors which introduce just a frame of lag, I can imagine it would drive a lot of twitch gamers completely up the wall.

      • Farting Bob
      • 9 years ago

      Thats on a nice fast fiber connection. And unless you live near to a server expect it to be more variable.

      • puppetworx
      • 9 years ago

      I am seriously surprised that anyone is impressed by a figure like 150ms.

      Location is very important obviously for this service. Given that console gamers regularly deal with pings like this I think that it could be big for them in the future – when the OnLive TV box launches. If OnLive were to get it’s own little box integrated into a cable companies box it would become a seriously compelling service. This might also help minimize lag.

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