Monday, 16 August 2010

John Carmack: Cloud Gaming Is "Interesting"



id Software's John Carmack has never been one to shy away from stating his opinion on something, and after his thoughts on "exploiting" his current franchises, his thoughts have turned to cloud-based gaming:
"Cloud gaming is interesting. I haven't tested the products out there now, but it's not exactly clear when the market will sustain it. There's no question that eventually that will be the model a lot of people will play games with."
He also said that he figured cloud based services could get around problems like draconian DRM, and could also be used on other systems - like Linux - that are currently hostile to AAA gaming.

On the first part, he's pretty spot-on, but I don't know where he's coming from on the second one. Cloud based anything is a DRM nightmare, because you lose it once you stop paying for the right to use it. Take one look at the Terms of Service for OnLive. I was going to do a look at the service for Diehard GameFAN, but wouldn't do it because the service essentially forced me to forfeit all of my rights, and buy games that I would not own and would no longer be able to play once I stopped paying a fee. It doesn't get more "draconian" than that. Furthermore, OnLive only supports Windows and Macintosh, and is able to do so because you still need a client to play these games. AAA games that need serious resources to play them don't just magically appear, nor can they be played in your browser. Even if they were browser-playable, there's the issue of managing plugins, something Gametap couldn't do on Linux. Even if there was a Linux app, it would have to integrate with the hardware, and most cloud-based games - assumably high-tier games like Mr. Carmack is talking about - are made to run with DirectX, which is proprietary to Microsoft. Even Macintosh clients have problems integrating over to Linux, and that's before we start getting into the different flavours such as Ubuntu, Open SuSE, Fedora, Debian, Cocoa Pebbles, etc., all with GNOME and KDE desktop environments.

In short: cloud-based gaming is just a buzzword, and imagining it spreading onto platforms that aren't gaming-centric is wishful thinking when you start looking into the minutia.

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