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OnLive duo pitch platform they believe will 'change the world'


"This is gonna change the world." Since our E3 meeting with OnLive CEO Steve Perlman and Joe Bentley, director of games & media development, wasn't filmed, we have no way to convey to you the absolute sincerity with which Bentley said these words. He further assured us, "I left a very successful startup to do this."

Indeed he did -- three years ago, Bentley quit his "architect" job at outsourcing firm LiveOps (where he built software) for OnLive, after seeing parent company Rearden Labs' Mova motion capture technology. And now? Now he's busy helping manage the launch and continued growth of OnLive. He's also busy trying to convince us of the service's promise in the coming months and years.

To begin to answer just how OnLive might "change the world," Bentley and company head Steve Perlman pointed to the immediacy of the service. "It's really about delivering the best games to the consumer on an instant basis. One of the unique things about our service that's really not available on any other service is the idea of rentals. GameStop's closed, Blockbuster's closed, it's the middle of the night and you wanna play something," Perlman explained. "That instant 'I wanna do that now' is what we're really gonna bring to the market that no one else is doing."

And the company is standing behind those words with an offer that's hard to refuse: free service for the first year, via a sponsorship with AT&T. "The main thing we're trying to do, really, is just to get people to try it," Perlman reiterated. He believes that, in terms of this service, playing is believing. That said, he also understands that OnLive might not be for everyone. "Frankly, if you're a competition gamer, and you've got a very high-performance rig, and this is the thing you're gonna tune down to a T, OnLive probably isn't for you."

"You can't render this in real time on a standard console. So this is the reason OnLive really exists."- Joe Bentley

Who is it for, then? "One example, one of our beta users, was trying Just Cause 2, which is a DX10 game [DirectX 10]. And he says, 'Oh, this is awesome, because I want to try it but I don't have DX10 installed yet.'" And the same can be said for us. When we tested DirectX 11-enabled Dirt 2 on our paltry little MacBook (which, as you might imagine, has no form of DX anything running on it), the game looked great and ran smoothly.

That said, outside of PC and Mac gamers who don't want to upgrade their rigs every few months, OnLive will be targeting console gamers with its "Microconsole" go-between by the end of this year (the Microconsole isn't so much a traditional gaming console so much as it's a hardware liaison between your TV and OnLive's service). The company would of course prefer that release to be sooner than later, but is first focusing on service stability and producing enough Microconsoles ahead of launch.

"We'd like to get it out for some huge Christmas kinda thing, but we'll obviously we'll make a huge splash when we're ready ... we've got guys actually out in China right now talking to folks, getting us factories," Perlman assured us. Between now and then, the service will continue to grow its game library and user base, with plans to ramp up the scale of both as the service reaches what Perlman calls "cruising altitude."

And how will the marketplace UI adapt to an ever increasing list of games? Bentley explained that the current list format "doesn't work when you get to about 50," so regular UI updates will be necessary. "The nice thing about this kind of service, we can be updating the software behind the scenes. In fact, it actually is updated every few days," he added.

When we pressed Bentley on using OnLive's service for non-gaming applications (imagine: FinalCut Pro or Adobe CS5), while noncommittal, he did confirm that it was a possibility. "I think you're gonna see other things ... we'll have other things to announce. It certainly is possible."

What he stressed most, though, was Perlman's other company, Mova, working in tandem with OnLive to create impressive new visual experiences in games. "This face here," Bentley began, as he motioned toward a life-like image that had been projected on a screen before us, "is computer generated -- 100,000 polygons. It's the same thing we used in Benjamin Button to capture Brad Pitt's face. Right here, this is an actress. You can't render this in real time on a standard console. So this is the reason OnLive really exists." Bentley claims that Mova is a big part of the reason that a lot of folks originally got involved with OnLive. "We were mind-boggled," he exclaimed. And mind-boggling can be a tremendous motivator, it would seem -- spurring Bentley to leave a successful startup for a still nascent, unknown company working on the fringes of the game industry.

In fairness, what we saw of Mova was terrifyingly impressive, seemingly crossing the uncanny valley into "Holy crap! Are those human beings or computer games?" territory. Luckily for us, someone, somewhere is working with Mova for games. Though Bentley couldn't say much, when we pushed him on the subject, he laughed and responded, "Uhhhh ... ummm ... there's some people working on it." And though we may not see those games for quite some time, when we do, we'll be seeing the future.

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