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OnLive's Tom DuBois

The executive producer on cloud gaming, iPad and being valued at $1bn

Cloud gaming service OnLive launched in the US in June, following much speculation as to the feasibility of streaming games hosted on remote PCs as controllable video to any PC or Mac with a fast enough internet connection. While the service has yet to launch globally and for now still requires a wired (rather than wireless) connection, it appears to have broadly met its promises. sat down with OnLive's softly-spoken executive producer Tom DuBois, and as well as witnessing a genuinely impressive demo of the tech on an iPad, talked about the firm's future plans, the perception problem it's suffered, the possibilities of rival systems - and on rumours that the company is valued at $1.1 billion. So you've started demoing OnLive on iPad...
Tom DuBois

[Brings it out] This is really nothing more than a tech demo, we've added these controls but they're not very playable to actually play a game. That's really the only barrier. Would you look at a physical controller add-on?
Tom DuBois

Yeah I think for each game it needs to be aware of the device it's on. Basically a lot of the ideas in the OnLive interface... basically all we're sending to the devices is video, we use video as much as we can. So this area goes into the arean. It's really just a place where you can watch other people play. I think this is going to be an interesting way for people to find games that they want to buy and we're seeing on our servers in the US a lot of people who just enjoy spectating. Almost like a ChatRoulette for games, then?
Tom DuBois

Well, We have privacy settings so you can turn it off, you don't want to be watched. We're also adding rankings so if you want to watch a really good player play a game you can pick up some tips. Another thing is we're building a lot of social features into the platform, because you have to be online to play. We also have this idea of brag clips. Everythng you do is being recorded TiVo style, and if you do something cool you hit a button and it captures the previous ten seconds of play. You can do ratings and these show up on your profile. In the US it's getting pretty large, you can sort it by views and things. Is any of this actually installed on the system, even the menus, or is it all video?
Tom DuBois

As part of what we're showing is this very rich interface that you couldn't possibly run on any of these devices. So what we shipped in June is PC and Mac, but a lot of people are playing a lot of these games on little netbooks – they're playing Assassin's Creed or Splinter Cell. We also have a lot of trailers, and they're all HD – you don't have to download the trailer, it just starts playing. When you look at a game that you maybe want to buy, we show you trailers, maybe people playing it live, brag clips of that game, Metacritic... Do you have a window of release for the iPad version?
Tom DuBois

Not really. The next thing that we're launching is really the Microconsole, at the end of the year here. You must feel you're at the point where all the people who criticised you and said this can't happen don't mean anything to you?
Tom DuBois

Well, yeah. I mean two years ago we were in stealth mode and nobody knew who we were. We just appeared at GDC and said "hey, we're going to do this cloud gaming thing." Everybody was pretty sceptical. My job is to work with publishers and developers to get games on the system; it's the same thing. There's nothing like walking into a meeting and firing up the demo first, and it usually gets people pretty excited. Then it's usually a pretty easy discussion.

[Loads well-received indie tower defence title Defense Grid: The Awakening on his iPad]. We have a lot of interest from major publishers, and we have these indies. We had a good experience working with these guys. To get games up on OnLive, there's some effort, you basically have to create an OnLive SKU of your game. But it's relatively small, it's about 4 man-weeks worth of effort to integrate our SDK. Some people think you just take a piece of your game, put it in a data centre.. it's a little bit more involved than that, but it's not super-involved. It's not like you're making a PS3 SKU. But we do want the game to run well in a data centre and behave, and respond well to messages and startup and shutdown, that sort of thing.

Alec Meer avatar
Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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