NHL GameCenter Live on PS3: featureful but buggy

I’m a hockey fan. It’s probably the only sport I enjoy watching. I also happen to be one of those new age hippies that doesn’t pay for cable or satellite… streaming content is the only thing I care about. I am not interested in paying for channels that do not interest me, so I don’t see the merits in paying for TV I won’t watch just so I can subscribe to NHL Center Ice.

The other night I was browsing the web and somehow stumbled upon GameCenter Live. A friend told me he subscribed recently, and the price for the rest of the season was reasonable. I was still hesitant to buy it because I was unsure about watching games on my PC, and I also run Linux or FreeBSD often so it needed to work OK in their terrible flash player. Somehow I spotted a mention of the PS3. That sounded fantastic — not paying for cable but watching games on my TV? SOLD!

The GameCenter Live for PS3 is $10 if you’re not a PS3 Plus sucker subscriber, so I figured that’s not too bad an entry fee if I only have to pay it once. The download of 18MB only took about 15 minutes which is hilariously slow, but I’m not going to complain if it works.

My experience has been partially satisfying so far. I’ll give you a rundown of the current features:

GOOD

  • Calendar, favorite teams, — overall interface is satisfying
  • Multiple feeds (home and away for some games)
  • Watch games up to 48 hours after they aired
  • Great list of classic games going back to the 60s you can watch any time
  • Highlights and Condensed feeds for recent games makes catching up easy
  • Quality of the video and audio

    BAD

  • Audio from feeds isn’t consistent. Different volume levels kind of sucks.
  • Stuttering and video for LIVE feed issues that don’t exist on the web version
  • Stuttering for LIVE feeds that cause the video to jump back like 20 minutes without you noticing can make it unwatchable and super frustrating
  • Missing the ability to jump back 10 seconds with ease like the web version. They should just add a button to do that….
  • These problems are not only on the PS3 — it’s also mentioned on the Boxee and Roku forums. My googling so far has found instances of people complaining on non-Sony / PS3 forums. Someone must be keeping people quiet about it. I’ve read people mentioning that they’ve heard back from Sony and they claim their engineers don’t have this issue. Others say it’s known and being worked on. My only guess is that the streaming done to the PS3, Boxee, and Roku devices are not the same as the one to the web. It’s probably encoded differently and uses different servers to do the streaming. Either way, it needs to be fixed.

    At this point I’d rate the app 2/5 because of how unwatchable the Capitals vs Hurricanes game was last night. If you can handle these issues go ahead and buy it. I’m sure watching the game after it airs will be a decent experience. However, if you want to watch it live you’re going to get frustrated quickly.

    I have high hopes for this market. NHL is getting my money and there’s no reason why this format should be treated like a second class citizen. As more things move to the web the situation should improve, but it needs to improve soon because I’m getting impatient….

     

    edit: For anyone who wants to blame the issues on internet connection problems:

  • PS3 is wired, not wireless
  • I’m a sysadmin/networking guy — I know what I’m doing
  • I don’t have crappy network hardware
  • I have a business internet connection, not a residential line
  • I’d be happy to provide you with traffic graphs
  • 4 thoughts on “NHL GameCenter Live on PS3: featureful but buggy”

    1. I went from stoked to sad. I am planning on getting GameCenter Live next season along with a HDTV and PS3 and was hoping to go down this same road. I too am a sysadmin so thank you for sharing. I suppose I will have to stick with the original plan on HDMI out of my PC to the TV.

    2. I haven’t had time to post an update, but my findings have been rather interesting. The experience has improved 200% for me after I replaced my firewall at home with a device running OpenBSD and pf as the firewall. This gave me the ability to do true ack prioritization which is not possible on Linux (iptables can’t match empty ACKs). With these rules in place the stream is much more stable. I have a feeling that doing this (plus scrubbing and MSS clamping to prevent fragments) lowered the latency and improved general connection reliability just enough that things don’t get out of sync. I’ve also noticed a much better experience with other internet services (heavy imap, web browsing, etc).

      It’s a shame that the streams are over TCP, but if you have this as an option it will definitely help. I wanted an OpenBSD box as my firewall for years but didn’t want to pay for the electricity on a full size PC doing my firewalling. I plopped down the cash for an Alix board recently (256MB ram, 600mhz AMD Geode) and I am very satisfied.

      There are still occasional dropouts but the stream recovers more quickly and there is less of the blurring/stuttering. It’s almost made that problem nonexistent, and I can’t remember the last time it forced my stream to jump back in time.

      I’ll post more thorough results as soon as I watch more hockey and confirm these findings.

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