Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Keep Taking The Tablets

The list of MMOs that I like to imagine I'm still playing that was included in Saturday's post, stopped at a nice, round dozen. The thirteenth seat at the table could have been taken by a number of other titles but the front runners might easily have been Allods or Villagers and Heroes.

Allods is a game I have never given as much time as I would have liked. Mrs Bhagpuss and I played it in beta and enjoyed it a great deal. For a while it was effectively the main MMO we were playing. We each had several characters and we leveled into the mid-thirties, far enough to see some dungeons and take part in the mid-game's open world, non-consensual PvP.

Those characters, of course, were all wiped when the beta ended. We re-rolled for launch but second time around we didn't last long. As I remember, it wasn't the infamous cash-shop shenanigans that put us off, just the usual "I just did all this last month" beta-tester's ennui.

That was Mrs Bhagpuss's last run at Allods but I've been back twice more. The first time was to take a look at the soviet-inspired Empire side of the fence, having always played League before. The second was both to try the new race and its starter area and to test out the viability of playing a full scale MMO on my new 10" Windows tablet.

The concept of playing MMOs on mobile devices has fascinated me for a long time. I first blogged about it back in 2012, when I was playing Pocket Legends and Elemental Knights on my iPod Touch. I'm still using that iPod to listen to music and podcasts and I even occasionally watch YouTube but I stopped gaming on it not long after I wrote that post.

At the time I thought it was the combination of small screen size and not particularly interesting games that made playing an MMO a less-than attractive option for lunch-times and commutes. That explanation didn't hold up very well when I got a tablet capable of playing full-scale MMORPGs like Allods and even WoW.

Of course, MMOs made for the PC aren't generally optimized for touch-screen gaming. WoW plays smoothly on my tablet, which is easily powerful enough to run it, but to play normally I need to attach a mouse and keyboard, by which point I am effectively playing on a netbook.

There are apps that you can install to emulate mobile controls for PC games and I have tried a couple but although they work to a degree the whole process feels awkward. Allods turned out to be the most enjoyable of the MMOs I tried on the tablet because all the innate PC controls that allow for click-to-move or click-to-use seem to respond perfectly as touch-to-move or touch-to-use.

So, I could play Allods comfortably on my tablet, it looked great and I like the game. And yet I only played it a couple of times then forgot all about it. It seems that I don't really want to play MMOS, or any other games, during those short periods of free time I have during the working day, after all. Turns out I'd rather read a book or web-browse.

I only thought about gaming on the go again this weekend for two reasons: the first was when MassivelyOP reported that another MMO I like and wish I'd found time to play more of, Villagers and Heroes, is getting a full port to the Android platform. The other was I dropped my tablet and broke it.

The damage isn't as bad as when I was vigorously cleaning the screen of my first ever tablet and snapped the glass in two. This time it's only the digitizer that's busted. That can be replaced although I probably won't bother. The tablet still has a useful life ahead of it if I simply attach it to a monitor with an HDMI cable. I might set it up like that in the kitchen. There are certainly enough spare monitors lying around this house...

 Following the life/lemons/lemonade principle I used the accident as an opportunity to upgrade. I found something with a much better display, a more powerful cpu and graphics and more memory for almost exactly what the tablet I dropped cost a year ago. That's technology for you.

Best of all, the replacement comes with a dual-boot option, Android and Windows, already installed. That should give me the fullest access to whatever the next couple of years holds for mobile gaming, short of anything that releases as an iPad exclusive.

It will be interesting to see what the new tablet can cope with. Black Desert, for example, could be an ideal mobile MMO with its extensive range of automated options and afk processes. Then there's GW2, which has a highly paternalistic patcher that refuses to run if it finds your system doesn't meet its exacting standards. The old tablet couldn't pass the examination but if the new one can it would be handy to be able to log in at work if just to be able to chat in guild.

Having both Android and Windows on the same tablet gives me carte blanche to play just about anything. Several titles I've looked at over the last year, but which were only available for Android and iOS, might come into play. I'll definitely install V&H when the mobile version becomes available and if Nexon ever release the FFXI mobile port they are supposedly working on for Square, I'll definitely be trying that. (All the cool kids are into FFXI right now, didn't you know?)

In the end, though, I suspect that, no matter how good the choice of MMOs becomes, how powerful and affordable the hardware gets, however smoothly and efficiently everything runs, I'll always end up choosing to use my tablet for something other than gaming. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.

On the other hand, it's also nice to have a choice. It seems like, after a number of false starts and failed promises, the age of the Mobile MMO might be here at last. I'd rather be able to play MMOs on my tablet and not want to than want to and not be able.

Conspicuous non-consumption! it's the post-capitalist way!


  1. I'm totally for playing MMOs on my tablet. I have a really solid Nvidia Shield K1 that's just itching to push its specs to the limits with something like this. So I'm all for picking up Villagers and Heroes again on mobile.

    I'd love to see FFXI come to Android, too, but I haven't heard anything else about it, yet. I could see how it would need a lot of work, but also how it could probably be done.

    1. I looked at the Nvidia Shield a while back. It looks really good but I definitely wanted something that can run Windows now I'm used to having that on a tablet. Having Android and Windows on the same unit should be very handy - I hope!

  2. What brand of tablet did you upgrade into?

  3. This is what I bought. Should be here in a week or two. Let's hope it's as good as the reviews suggest. And that it arrives in one piece after its trip around the world!


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