David Perry isn't the kind of guy to work on just one project at a time, and at this year's GDC in San Francisco, following the reveal of the OnLive streaming games technology, he outlined some plans of his own in that area.
Called Gaikai, the service is intended to be a way for publishers to put games in front of large audiences for set periods in the hope they'll then like what they see and buy it - here, Perry explains more.
Well first of all, does it interest people like Google? The answer is yes, and they were among the very first people to contact me. They're very aware of this kind of technology and its potential impact.
But the question I get all the time is: "Is it possible?" The answer is yes. There's no grey area to it. It's possible. There are two factors - lag, or latency, the speed of light travelling through wires, switchers, routers, how many hops... there are many different ways to talk about it, but basically the question is how quickly can I get my controls to the server, and how quickly can I get my video back?
My personal experience in the US - we have a server where it will finally be in the US - that isn't close to my house, but close enough, and I get a 10ms round trip, so 5ms there, 5ms back. That is so fast, it's not even worth discussing.
If I ping San Jose, which is the length of England, from my house I can do that in 20ms - which is also not worth discussing. You could not feel 20ms. You could argue you can, but really you can't. I spoke to the Guitar Hero guys at E3 and asked them what an acceptable latency for Guitar Hero and they told me 55ms - so that gives you an idea.
Now, we're not intending to run such twitch-heavy games as Guitar Hero, so our goal has been to stay sub-100ms, but we'd like to be 55ms if we can - but we'll use that as a way to work out where to put the servers. So every time we see somebody that's more than that, where they get a crazy ping time, we're going to put servers in that area - and we're going to do that continuously.
And when we think we've got them all, then we'll look at what the highest is then and take it down another layer, and another layer. It's very simple, and that's how the issue with lag works.
If someone, for some reason, had a really bad lag - and you get that if you try to play through a cell phone modem, we'll remove the service. Don't play through a cell phone modem - that's not going to work.
Yeah. You basically won't even know there was a service available, because we won't have offered it to you - no button will show up, because it won't be a good connection.
But anyway - that's one step. The second part is the bandwidth itself, and how much data you can push. That's where we're really different to OnLive, because we'll be pushing publishers to go smaller - and we're trying to demonstrate that. You don't need to have full screen HD to play a game, you just don't. It needs to be good, but each game has a set size it'll work at, and we suggest that they go as small as they can while still having a great experience - because the audience will be exponential. The smaller you go, the bigger the audience.
That's really our position - I know everybody has the idealistic world... like, wouldn't it be great if all your music was just the same recording as when it was made? On the other hand, I have a whole bunch of mp3s with me, which are heavily compressed but they sound just great to me - but I can carry an awful lot of them with me.
That's kind of our attitude - let's not get crazy about this. Our goal is to deliver games on any sensible bandwidth connection to the biggest audience possible... and I don't want to rule you out because your connection is 1.5mbps. OnLive is looking for 2-6mpbs, and that's a lot to expect.
I came to this hotel [in Brighton] and jumped on the internet to see what my room connection was. It wasn't great, but it works, so I was able to play the game through this hotel's internet connection, and that's real world. That's what I want - we don't want to tell people they can only play from home, on a really good connection, and that if you're recording HD from somewhere else in the house your internet connection is gone...
We're trying to keep it real. That's our goal.