How did we imagine the future when we were growing up? Hoverboards? Holographic 3D television projections? The Jetsons whizzing by outside the window? All very disappointing really, but if we'd known then what we know now, we'd probably have settled for a lot less clutter and cabling around the house. With OnLive making its European debut this September, we're taking one step closer to that long overdue future.
What is OnLive?
OnLive is a new cloud computing service that delivers games directly to your PC, television or tablet. All the hard work of processing your games and delivering them straight to your living room is taken on by OnLive's server clusters. (Picture the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey but dedicated to lag-free, high-definition gaming and you're probably on the right track.)
If you've found yourself itching to upgrade your PC but can't justify the cost, OnLive beams the latest games into your home without the need for terrifying, expensive hardware tinkering. If you prefer to play your games with your feet up on the sofa, OnLive's tiny console replaces your hardware collection with one compact device.
What are the options?
The OnLive Game System - sometimes called the 'microconsole' - costs £69.99 and comes with one OnLive controller as well as an HDMI cable. You can purchase the system at www.onlive.co.uk. Games will be offered from between £1.99 and £39.99 depending on the game title.
First-time OnLive purchasers can get their first OnLive PlayPass Game for just £1 - and BT Broadband customers can get 100+ PlayPack Games for free for three months in addition to this.
There is also an OnLive PlayPack subscription service, which offers unlimited play of over 100 games - new and back catalogue - for £6.99. BT customers will get three months free.
How do you get started?
Regardless of how you choose to connect to the service, the first thing you'll need to do is head over to the OnLive website and sign up. Here you can bag your Player Tag (OnLive's equivalent of a gamertag or PSN ID), view your purchasing history, synch up with Facebook to share your successes, and customise your presence on the service with your own unique player video and motto.
How you then play your games is up to you, but we've broken it down below with some simple startup guides.
PC / Mac
If you're reading this then you've made it onto the internet and are halfway there - well done. Don't worry if you don't have the latest PC hardware - as long as you have a broadband internet connection and a PC made since the Millennium Dome went up you're good to go with the service. Simply download the small browser-based OnLive app from the official website, sign in with your account details, and start browsing the dozens of titles currently available.
The low-cost OnLive MicroConsole will be the most familiar way of connecting to the service for console owners. It couldn't be easier to get started with and, if you were sensible enough to attend the greatest gaming show on Earth then you may already be in possession of one, you lucky thing.
Simply plug the console in, connect it to your high-definition television and attach the MicroConsole to your router via ethernet or Wi-Fi. Everything you need from the HDMI and ethernet cables, to the wireless games controller, is provided right out of the box. If you've an older TV that lacks HDMI connectivity, component cables are available to purchase from the OnLive store along with additional controllers.
iPad / Android tablets
Too lazy to sit upright in a chair? Is your other half insisting that they watch something absolutely dreadful on the television? The OnLive service is also available for your iPad, with Android support coming in the near future. Simply download the app from the iTunes App Store and connect to the service as usual for touch-screen gaming anywhere in the house.
Once you've hooked up to OnLive, you should find yourself on the main menu. Showcase brings you the latest offers and announcements, while Arena lets you take a closer look at the most frantic action in a live spectator mode. Marketplace lets you check out the latest deals and games, while My Games lets you jump straight into those you've purchased. The Friends area covers all of your social gaming needs, along with the Brag Clip system which allows players to lovingly show off their most brutal headshots, preserved for posterity.
When OnLive launches this September it will feature over 70 games, from the latest releases like Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, to indie favourites like World of Goo and Braid. Classics such as Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee will provide you with a whimsical, nostalgic evening or - if you get bored of that - you can jump straight back in to blowing people's heads off in the latest shooters.
Not sure whether a game's for you? Almost every title featured on the service includes a free 30-minute demo, allowing you to get a taste of the action before handing over your money. If you're tickled by the latest FPS, you can choose to either rent the game for three or five days, or purchase a full pass which provides unlimited access.
Games you've purchased outright will be supported as long as players continue to play them, but OnLive guarantees that the games you've purchased will be available to you 24/7 for a period of at least three years.
If you'd rather gorge yourself on a variety of games, for just a few pounds per month you can choose to subscribe to the service, giving you unlimited access to over 70 games and a 30 per cent discount on any other purchases you make, all with no minimum contract period.
The library of games already announced for the OnLive system is just the start. With more and more publishers signing up for this new way of playing games, OnLive should continue to grow until many more tastes are catered for - so whatever kind of gaming you happen to be into, there should be something for you sooner or later.