Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why OnLive is The Next Big Thing

Maybe you've heard of OnLive, maybe you haven't. Either way- you probably haven't used the service. The reason for that is simple; you already have Steam and/or game consoles. Let me explain why OnLive will eventually replace both (And [spoiler!] your Netflix account).

First, a little background on me: I've been gaming for 25 years, but I'm not your average gamer. I literally enjoy every genre. Whether it's an oldschool sidescroller, a polished FPS... RPG, RTS, MMO, casual, indie, word, puzzle, interactive movie, sports, family- I like it all. I have no bias to any particular play-style. That has made finding a single source for games quite a challenge. I may have found a remedy...

In short, OnLive is a cloud gaming service. Your games are purchased, stored and played in the cloud. Audio and video are streamed to your device of choice. Access your games, friends, save states, brag clips from a PC client, tablet app or micro-console. Blah, blah, blah...

Let me explain how bad-ass this is:

I always thought Rockstar Game's L.A. Noire looked awesome. So I decided to fire up the demo. No really, that's all I had to do. Go to the game and press play. No download, no nonsense. Just instantly start playing @ 1080 on my 46" TV. Of course I loved this game, because, well... it's awesome. So I was saddened to receive notification that my 30 minute free-play was about to expire. At which point I selected "buy play-pass", plugged in my password - and continued playing. No trip to the store. No lengthy download. Game on.
Yes, that's the entire game console less cabling.

Another example:

Sometimes I like to sit quietly in my nerd-cave hunched over a horribly outdated PC and game like it's 1999. Once I launch OnLive, I have the most modern hardware at my disposal. It almost feels like cheating... But you get over it quickly.

Or if I feel like being more social, I can sit on the couch in the living room with my son and play Lego Pirates of The Caribbean from the OnLive micro-console which, by the way, has a smaller form factor than an NES cartridge.

The other cool thing about OnLive: It's free. Yeah, go download it. If you must have hardware, it's pretty dang cheap... $99. Games are priced as you'd expect, but also expect some Steam-like sales and promotions. For example, I bought Batman: Arkham Asylum for 99 cents.

Best of all, OnLive benefits everyone.

How it benefits developers:
  • Make it easier for gamers to play and purchase- sales will increase
    • More sales due to no-download demo play
    • More sales due to no-download game purchase
    • Increased pre-order business due to no-download play
  • More sales from "Arena" (social spectate feature) exposure
  • No retail packaging overhead
  • Consolidate software optimization to one hardware configuration
  • Generate new business from seasonal promotions

How it benefits hardware companies (No, OnLive won't put NVIDIA out of business):
  • Consolidate sales (Selling OEM hardware to one business is easier and more profitable than retail packaging/distribution)

How it benefits you:
  • Play without download or retail purchase
  • Play on the SECOND of release date
  • Game updates without download
  • Inexpensive hardware
    • Always have the best hardware for the latest games (From the cloud)
  • Arena feature
    • Watch your friends or random people play (optional feature)
  • Bluetooth headset
    • Talk to friends or random people as you spectate, or teamplay (optional feature)
  • Get killer deals on games when they go on sale! (I've seen crazier deals with this service than any other)
  • Multi-platform
  • More powerful parental controls

How it benefits the environment:
  • Fewer resources consumed
    • Less packaging going into landfills
    • Less transportation needed

So OnLive is the best deal in gaming. But what about movies?

Currently OnLive does games. But I read a quiet announcement last month that they were going to offer streaming movies, going head to head with the likes of Netflix. Considering the quality of OnLive's gaming experience, I'd say Netflix has something to worry about.

See you in the cloud!

(My OnLive user name: basement digital)

Goodbye Trillian

Over the years I've amassed a large number instant messaging programs, starting with ICQ in the late 90's. For some strange reason I still have my ICQ # memorized... 5288067. Weird. Anyway..

At one point in time I wouldn't want to admit that my primary reason for having an instant messaging program was for communicating with guild mates in early MMO's like Ultima Online. In those days you really didn't have a reliable way to communicate with your friends from all over the world as in-game messaging was notoriously awful. Remember "Communication Crystals?" Wait... Am I getting side-tracked again? Ok, instant messaging - right!

But later on, say, early 2000's; instant messaging became useful for other reasons. I still feel funny using chat clients for business purposes at work, though.

The problem is that as more and more people got online, more and more IM services became available. Trillian became my solution to that problem by consolidating my services to one client.

Fast forward to the age of iOS.

Trillian has an iPod Touch / iPhone app that I have held in high regards for some time now. Unfortunately they have yet to come out with an iPad native version of their client.

Myspace... Really?

imo is free, it works reliably and to top it all off: it now provides Steam support.

Yes, now you can chat with noobs that are logged into Steam from your iPad.

Sorry, Trillian. It's been a good 7 years or so. But I'm leaving you for a younger, better looking application.

Monday, December 12, 2011

OneNote for iPad Now Available

If you're like me, you've been using OneNote for iPhone on your iPad. While not ideal, it got the job done.

OneNote for iPad
Well the iPad-native app is out now and it's pretty much just that. Same features, just adjusted to fit the resolution of the device.

Initially I was a little disappointed; but you know what? It still does a great job of eliminating the need for pen and paper note-taking during meetings. I've never really needed more functionality until I'm at my desk anyway. And since I use Skydrive sync, my notes are always up to date on both platforms.

If you have an iPad - go grab it in the app store! It's free!


All of my notes are fully synced now and I just noticed a nice little zinger that Microsoft has thrown into the mix. Your first 500 notes are free. After that, you're required to spend $14.99 via IAP to continue using this fine piece of software.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sketch Club for iOS. Get it. Now.

If you're like me, then you really wish you had some pixel skills. Well here's the best way to practice: Sketch Club.

Aside from being a fantastic digital canvas, it is a community-based app. To clarify, you create artwork and upload it for "Glops" - similar to "mad props", if you will. People can vote and comment on your creations, giving a sense of purpose to your sketch. Also, the developer is very dedicated, releasing frequent updates, expansions and compo's with prizes.

By the way, I make sketches with big pixels. Check out what some people have done with smaller ones:

I know, right? I said the same thing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Zelda Team Inspired by Farbrausch?

I've poured roughly 20 hours of my life into Zelda: Skyward Sword so far. It's definitely a good game. Best Zelda of all time, as IGN claims? ... We'll see. But one thing that I noticed immediately is the striking resemblance that Fi, the chick that's digitally embedded in Link's sword, has to Farbrausch's Candytron.

"Fi" of Zelda: Skyward Sword, 2011
If you're not familiar with the Demo Scene, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about. I'll be blogging more on this topic later, but the short version is:

Back in the 90's there were a bunch of bored hackers. Originally their computer talents were used for malice and/or entertainment purposes. But over time they began creating digital artwork known as demos. Groups were eventually formed and sanctioned events where they could compete were created.

Farbrausch is undoubtedly one of the best of these groups in history.
Candytron babe of Farbraush's demo, 2003

Ok, so we've seen the "digital hot chick" in video games before *cough - Cortana*, but aside from the physical comparison, there's the creepy vocoded voice and Fi is quite musical in nature. She likes to prance around striking poses that brought back these memories from 2003.

There's at least one difference, however. Fi wears clothes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Legendary Zelda

So after watching an IGN review of Zelda: Skyward Sword, I've decided to go stand in line for a copy this November 20th, 2011. Although the brilliant service known as OnLive will likely some day exterminate this fine tradition, I find myself feeling quite kid-like at the moment.

I know this follows my scathing blog on Nintendo's recent decision making. And indeed, I've been quite annoyed recently. Annoyed enough to decide to skip Nintendo's latest take on the Zelda universe... Until I saw this video:

"The best Zelda ever made" you say? That's a bold statement, as the reviewer acknowledges. And judging from his voice, I'd say he probably is not old enough to have played the original Zelda or A Link to the Past when they first came to market. As such, I highly doubt that this will truly be the best Zelda ever made; but a perfect 10 score is something that always gets my attention. This game will undoubtedly be amazing.

I hope Nintendo has more surprises for me in store.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Boy and His Blog

Once upon a time there was a bard, whom met a fair maiden. They proceeded to hook up and make babies. They exposed the babies to music, science fiction, the Intel 80386 and Nintendo Entertainment System. One of the babies grew into a boy that quickly learned the importance of money.

The boy used nearly every dollar that he earned on software such as Hugo's House of Horrors, Dune IICommander Keen and The Legend of Zelda. He became quite infatuated with these activities, indeed.

One day, the bard and maiden decided to move their family from the silicon valley to the silicon forest.

And that is where our story begins...

When I was growing up, geek was not chic. So much of my time was spent in the depths of my family home, nestled in a quiet culdesac of the Portland area. It was a safe place to create digital artwork, chat with friends I'd never met via pre-internet era Bulletin Board System's, and of course; play a crap-ton of video games.

As alluded to, these were socially unacceptable activities at the time.

Music surely could not be purely generated from a Personal Computer. Nor could arranged pixels be considered art. And certainly if you spent your free time slaying monsters for experience points you were a devil-worshipping introvert with Attention Deficit Disorder.

It kind of blows my mind - the contrast of being made fun of by jocks, or shunned by teachers during my childhood; to the business person of today that raids dungeons in World of Warcraft with his clients.

And that's what this blog is going to be about: My perspective of digital art and culture. How we got here and where it's going. If that sounds too linear, you need not worry; there'll be plenty of side quests.

The bard and fair maiden eventually divorced, but the boy understands.