Cloud gaming service Onlive is working in the UK

Cloud-based gaming service Onlive started signing up UK players yesterday but thinq_ has discovered that the entire service is up and running behind closed doors.

Even if you have already signed up for an account, you will not be able to sign in using the client application but we managed to stumble upon a way of gaining access to the gaming service using one of the company's own web sites.

We're not entirely sure if this will work for everyone, as we have not had the time to test it on multiple platforms, but running the 30 minute Red Faction: Armageddon demo from this site opens up a back door to the wonderful world of Onlive which isn't officially set to open until Autumn this year.

Frankly, we were excited enough to find that the demo worked in the UK because we were expecting Brit gamers to be locked out entirely until the official launch, but we managed to play through the first few minutes of the game without hitch or hinderance.

It all runs impressively smoothly, albeit on a pretty muscular Mac Pro, as the evidence above shows.

But it's when it comes to quitting time that the real surprise starts. Deciding it might be time to do some work, we hit the Esc key to get out of the Red Faction demo only to find ourselves in the main splash screen for Onlive.

Everything seems to work as far as our brief exploration went. Those games with a try-before-you-buy option allowed us to frag away merrily for up to 30 minutes and we tested that out on Aliens V Predator and Alpha Protocol among others.

You can even watch hundreds of other players doing their thing in the 'Arena' Spectator mode which is a pretty good way of seeing if unfamiliar titles are your particular cup o' char.

To be honest we're not entirely sure how or why we are being let into the Onlive service months before the official launch. We have a vague recollection of signing up for an account when the US service went live months and months ago but, until today, have never been able to get further than the sign-up screen, which always rejected our password (and still does for that matter).

We're tempted to contact Onlive and ask them what the Jiminy is going on but that would probably lead to our newly-discovered back door being slammed firmly shut.

So do us a favour. Go and sign up for an account and see if you can get in yourselves. Let us know how you get on in the comments below and, remember, keep it under your hat. We don't want the whole world in there noising up the place and waking up the owners.

[UPDATE] 16:21 June 7th

The folks at Onlive have contacted us following the publication of this story saying that they wanted to make it clear what user in the UK were seeing and playing.

The company's spokesman told us that, although Onlive's US servers had been accessible from the UK for some time, it hadn't really become an issue because not too many people had discovered the way in.

He also said that registered UK users should be able to log into the US servers and play demos and moose about using the proper log-in application. We have again tried to do this, with our existing registration and a brand new one, and have found the same result every time. We're locked out because it says we are using an incorrect password.

We have since discovered that triggering the log-in process using any link to any game with demo version works just as well as the Red Faction link provided earlier.

Onlive was also at pains to point out that the user experience for UK gamers sneaking about on the US servers might be a bit shonky.

"OnLive has many users already playing the US service from the UK and checking out demos of games via the client. However, given the distance to the datacenter, they will not be getting the best possible experience," said the spokesman.

"All that changes this autumn when UK users will benefit from a centrally based European datacenter. By signing up early and registering their gamertag, these founding players will be given first access when the UK service goes live.

"Meanwhile, OnLive's UK launch partner, BT, is already conducting trials with subscribers ahead of the UK rollout."

So there you have it. Onlive doesn't mind UK gamers having a snoop around, and you're welcome to snaffle up as many 30-minute demos as you can eat while you're there, but don't be too disappointed if things are a bit quirky because that's a hell of a lot of data being squirted across the Atlantic.

We have to say the user experience was pretty impressive here, but that was before we let the cat out of the bag, so to speak.