GDC09 interview: OnLive founder Steve Perlman [page 2]


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The encoding system, then, is it that granular? That it's looking at what's going on in the game, and it's saying, "This part of the game, there's this thing, and we're going to encode it this way."

"... we are going to be so transparent, as far as showing this thing."


Yes, yes. In fact, it suddenly evolves. You know, the stuff we're showing ... one of the things I told everyone before we came here, I said, "Look, everyone's going to be super-skeptical; we are going to be so transparent, as far as showing this thing." You know, if the thing crashes, it is in beta. If there are some artifacts in the compression, point it out to the people in the booth. I want them to know that this is where we are, and that's why we're doing a beta this summer until it's finally released. Because, I think people need to understand that it took a long evolution to get here, and this is a waypoint where we feel like we can share it. But there's more work to be done, like certain scenes, you'll see there's contouring with walking, we still need some work on that. And the chips that we have working in the servers that do the compression, we're able to go and download new programming into them to deal with this case, that case, this case. Literally thousands of cases of different scenes, and different transitions are cataloged, and are handled by the silicon. This is an immensely complex, technical problem.

One of the biggest issues that you're going to have is latency, and right here on the show floor, you guys are sending this out of data centers in Palo Alto, correct?

Santa Clara, yeah, a little south of there, about 50 miles away.

So, within 50 miles. That's 1/20th of this thousand mile radius that you're talking about. How far have you been able to take the service away from that center?

We did a press tour before this and a lot of the press that hit, rose from the different cities we went to. So when we were demoing in New York City we were running off the Virginia servers. I think that was a few hundred miles, alright? But that's just where we had our server centers and what can I say? The cities we went with were on the coast. We've demoed in Las Vegas, we've demoed in Denver, and when we demo in – like we've been in Dallas for example – when we're in Dallas you can just see a little bit of a lag. When we're anywhere in the Midwest, of course we need a Midwest service center and we don't have one yet. But anywhere on the coast we're okay, going east to Denver works fine. You can almost get to Chicago. You just figure it out. It's amazing how real it is, the speed of light thing.

That said, we've also done demos because we had to meet with people, obviously we announced the relationship with Ubisoft and with Eidos which are UK- and France-based. We had to give demos for them there to show them what it is. It's funny, you certainly can feel the lag there. Totally. But a lot of the games are playable; you can keep the car on the road and everything. And you wouldn't want to play them that long with that much lag. And then they're like, "Whoa this is cool!" And then we met with their US people here in the States, and then they tried it in homes within the distance as we said and they could see there was no delay.
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I know our readers are really skeptical. I'm still skeptical. Further on in development, would you be willing to do something like a blind taste test? Give us one of these boxes, let us go somewhere within a thousand miles of where you say the data center is and test it blind. So, not giving you a heads up on where it's going to be or when we're going to do it.

"... there will be plenty of opportunities for not just you guys, but for the public to go and do a blind taste test."


SP: Well, we will be doing our open beta this summer which is not very far away and there will be plenty of opportunities for not just you guys, but for the public to go and do a blind taste test. Not only that, but we'll have the equipment in place to go and measure things and determine if there's any mishaps or things like that. We haven't been going really to the press for testing this thing, we're mainly working with the guys who design the games, and the people who test the games, and the publishers. It's not at all to diminish what you guys can offer, but the server is not available to be released yet. It really is in beta and basically we are, as far as people who are testing it, are the people who have something to offer for the service right now.

I think the best thing to do, honestly, is to go and contact one of the publishers or talk to any of the people that have worked with us, our PR person can give you a list, and try it out. Or come down to our office and hook up to DSL. You've got to remember, when you're in beta, when you're in development, we're turning the service every 24 hours or so with a new build and it's either not up or sometimes we're testing something, etc. It is available. People have used it. We've had hundreds of users on the system. It's for real. This is a real connection. But at this stage of the game it doesn't serve any purpose to provide an internal prototype system for a press story for something we can't release yet. But, sure. Down the road, sign up for beta then try it everywhere you want.

PR: We're happy to have you guys test it, we know you guys are hardcore gamers, we expect you guys to go and try to poke holes in it.

SP: There's no great secret. So you're based in LA?

No, I'm in Philadelphia, Kevin here is in LA. We also have San Francisco. Our bloggers are everywhere.

Just find someplace we are and just come check it out. The cool thing is, we went to the Midwest and somebody had FIOS and we tried it there and it's like we got 1500 miles, because the fiber does have the last mile latency.



Stop by tomorrow for the continuation of our interview with OnLive's Steve Perlman