Saturday, March 21, 2015

Your Favorite MMOs - Now In Tablet Form! : WoW, Allods, FFXI

One of the oddest items of MMO news this week was the revelation that FFXI is being prepped for mobile. In a way perhaps it shouldn't have come as such a surprise. Of all the established gaming houses Square Enix have probably been the fastest and most assiduous to adapt to the new opportunities mobile platforms afford.

The Final Fantasy series is already available on Android and iOS up to FFV. Square's Dive In streaming service, currently only planned for release in Japan and, as far as I can tell, not yet available even there, is set to extend that through the iconic FFVII and beyond, possibly all the way to current blogosphere darling FFXIV.

Of course you can already play any MMO on a tablet or even a smartphone using the excellent Splashtop app. I bought that one several years ago and can affirm that it works brilliantly. Unfortunately I've almost never used it because if you want to play GW2 on your tablet in your lunch hour at work it requires you leave your desktop PC switched on back at home. I swore off that practice when I got out of the Everquest Bazaar business back in 2006 or so.

Full-fat MMOs that run natively on mobile devices have always been very hard to find. Even now, years into the runaway success of mobile as a platform for gaming and with the mainstreaming of affordable, powerful tablets with screens large enough to display the full, rich detail of virtual worlds to much better effect than we ever enjoyed back in the so-called Golden Age of 14" CRTs, lists of possibles rarely offer anything much more enticing than WoW-clone Order and Chaos or the cheerful cartoons from the Spacetime Games team.

I first wrote about playing MMOs on my iPod Touch almost three years ago. Since then I've kept an eye out for new opportunities. So far I haven't heard many knocks. Lists of current media favorites tend to include a whole raft of entertainments like Ingress, Boom Beach and Clash of Clans that seem to me to be part of a different genre entirely, along with the same handful of titles that filled the same lists last year and the year before that.

So, even though we're talking about a game that's now more than a dozen years old, to hear that Square believe they can bring FFXI to mobile devices is good news indeed. I only dabbled briefly with FFXI. I eventually decided that the famously PC-unfriendly UI and controls were more trouble than they were worth. Also, although even five years ago when I played a lot of work had supposedly been done to make the game more solo-friendly, by around level 20 it was already becoming apparent that work went only so far.

Nevertheless, it was a beautiful world with appealing characters and an interesting story. Optimized for touch screen and gussied up for the casual mobile market I would be very happy to give FFXI another run. It could be a while before that's an option, though, so what could I play when I'm out of the house in the meanwhile?

Well, how about WoW? Or Allods? If the MMOs won't come to the tablet maybe the tablet will just have to come to the games. A month ago I bought a cheap 10" tablet that runs the full version of Windows 8.1. I also got a bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The whole lot cost well under £200 for which what I have is effectively a touchscreen tablet that can double as a netbook.

I've been delighted with its performance as a general-purpose mini-PC and this morning I finally got around to setting it up to play MMOs. Thanks largely to the gorgeous Allods screenshots Kaozz posted, as of yesterday I'm playing Allods again, of which more another day. It's a relatively quick, fast download so I set the tablet to doing that while I also re-downloaded WoW for the desktop yet again (I just bought and installed a third hard drive so space is no longer an issue...for the moment).

I now have Allods installed on the tablet's SD card and WoW copied to a usb drive. I played both of them on the tablet for around half an hour each and the experience was, if not ideal, then certainly very enjoyable. They both look absolutely fantastic - every bit as good as they do on desktop. The colors are rich and the detail is delicious. Quest text is easily large enough to read comfortably. (The screenshots here are from the desktop versions, by the way; I did take some shots on the tablet but I'm too lazy to port them over right now).

Of the two, WoW runs more smoothly but Allods is easier to play, largely because it has that "click to go to quest objective" option so beloved of F2P titles. That really comes into its own on a tablet. On the other hand, to my complete amazement, the WoW UI turns out to be fully touch-enabled. I can cast spells or open bags just by touching the hotbar, something I found out purely by accident.

Clearly there's no way I would play either game on the tablet in preference to the desktop, any more than I would play them on my laptop, which can run both flawlessly; not when I'm at home and could be sitting at my desk instead, anyway. Given that I carry my tablet with me everywhere, though, it does open up a whole new set of possibilities that weren't there before. As windows-based tablets are improving in quality and affordability all the time the future for MMOs on the go is looking a lot brighter.

If nothing else I am looking forward to experimenting, seeing what will and won't run, what feels like fun on the go and what's just too much like hard work. I'm guessing that browser-based MMOs, like Runescape or City of Steam or Eldevin, would work even better than client-based games but who knows? Well I will if I get on and test it out.

As for the bigger beasts, I suspect the poor little tablet would melt if I tried to play ESO or FFXIV. It was getting rather warm just running Allods. I will definitely attempt to get it playing GW2 though. If they'll co-operate I can easily see me popping on for half an hour at work to get a few dailies done. That would be really handy.


  1. Interesting to know, I always figured MMO's to be too fast and involved for tablets (one reason I don't have any).

    You mentioned Allods in several posts, wouldn't mind hearing more about it as I have thought about playing it (primarily because of Gibberlings) but a) not sure my rickety computer could handle it and b) yet to find the Zen of Bhagpuss mode ;) (I always end up grinding for BiS somehow).

    If you do end up trying Eldevin, I can give if you want a couple of pointers. I also play on the EU Terra Server (though generally at odd hours :/ )

    1. Allods is a really fun MMO to dabble with although I'm not so sure about its long term prospects. Kaozz's post linked above hints at the problems. The highest I ever got was the mid-30s back in beta, when I played a gibberling warder - or three gibberling warders perhaps I should say.

      The world is really gorgeous with excellent detail in the set design and a particularly striking aesthetic in the Soviet-style Empire zones. I'd definitely recommend trying it out - its free and its a quick download.

      I took a look at Eldevin a few months back, as soon as I learned there was a relatively successful MMO operating out of Scotland that I somehow hadn't heard of. I was quite taken with it and I'd like to go a bit further but as always it's a matter of finding the time.


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