Monday, January 9, 2023

The Future In Our Hands?

It's 2023 and I'm still playing Noah's Heart. Every day. I know! I'm as surprised as you are.

I sat down half an hour ago to write a post to try and explain why. I was writing it as much for myself as for anyone who might be reading. 

I got eight paragraphs in before I realised I don't really have a clue why I'm doing it. About the best I can come up with is I like the whimsy of it and it's really relaxing to play. Not a lot, is it?

Then, as I was sitting back, trying to come up with something a bit more substantial, I had a mini-epiphany. An epiphanette, if you will. You won't? Can't say I blame you.

Noah's Heart is a multi-platform game but it's fairly obvious that the core design comes from mobile. The placement of the UI elements gives that much away. 

I play the game on PC, where it works well for me, thanks to the free cursor that allows me to click buttons instead of pressing keys. Those buttons, though, would be even better on a handheld screen like a phone, tablet or iPad. 

And that's when it occured to me. Noah's Heart is a mobile game I would actually play on a mobile device. Not just occasionally but regularly. Maybe even every day. If only I owned a device that could run it.

I'm sure this is where we said we were meeting...

I am, theoretically, in favor of mobile gaming, particularly for the kind of games I enjoy on a desktop PC. I announced myself as a relatively early adopter of the form, albeit, once again, more in theory than in practice, back when I first wrote about playing mobile mmorpgs, more than a decade ago in April 2012.

Back then, I was playing a game called Elemental Knights on my iPod Touch. I still have the iPod and it still works. I use it several times most weeks, mainly for listening to music and checking if my lunch-hour is over.

If it's surprising the iPod is still going, it's a hell of a lot more surprising Elemental Knights is too, too. In fact, now that Apple have retired the Touch, I'd have to say the game I once described as "a standard Korean style grinder with anime graphics and a fairly obstreperous cash shop" has had the last laugh over the tech giant.

More surprising yet, at some point when I wasn't looking, Elemental Knights spawned both a PS4 and a Switch version. How come we never read about that on MassivelyOP?

Presumably for the same reason we never hear about anything much from the mobile side of the fence. It seems no-one really cares about mobile mmorpgs or wants to write about them. Or read about them. Although I wouldn't mind. Reading about them, that is. You couldn't pay me to write about them. 

Well, I guess you could. It would all depend on how much. Everyone, as they say, has their price. It'd be a grim job, though, wouldn't it? Or maybe it wouldn't. I mean, I'm writing plenty about Noah's Heart and no-one's paying me a cent.

I'm telling you, that flamingo cage isn't up to code.
Anyway, the point is that there are plenty of them. You only have to look. And I've played quite a few.

Off the top of my head, without going through my post history, I can think of Dragon Nest M, Black Desert Mobile, Celtic Heroes, Heroes of Skyrealm, Villagers and Heroes, AdventureQuest 3D, Mobile Legends, Animal Crossing Pocket Camp...

Of all of them, the only ones I really stuck with for any length of time were Celtic Heroes, Heroes of Skyrealm and Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. None of them was better than a run-of-the-mill PC mmorpg but reason I stuck with them is they weren't available on PC. Well, you could emulate them, I guess, and I did, but that's another kettle of worms.

Even that doesn't tell the whole story, though. It makes it sound as if I don't play mobile games because I prefer to sit at a desk and use a mouse and keyboard so I'd only go mobile if there was no other choice. While there's some truth in that, there's also the fact that I've never owned a really good mobile device capable of playing games effectively.

The best I ever had were two Windows tablets, both of which broke much too soon. And even that is cheating because although I did play mmorpgs on them, mostly I played games made for PC, using some kind of touchscreen AddOn or even with a mouse plugged into the tablet.

Unsurprisingly, that didn't feel as good as playing the games on an actual PC, making the whole thing seem fairly pointless, so when the second device gave up, so did I - on Windows. I went through a series of Android devices, eventually settling on a Kindle Fire just because I was fed up of the damn things breaking down all the time.

Spot the odd one out. (Hint - it's not me.)


There's not much wrong with the build quality and reliability of Amazon's device and the price point, at well under £100, is very acceptable. The problem is, it's pretty feeble when it comes to running games. Even with Google Play installed to break free of Amazon's own walled garden, there's precious little I'd want to play that will run on the thing.

All of which leads me back, in circuitous fashion, to my minor epiphany; that if I had a mobile device that could run it, I'd just as soon play Noah's Heart on a tablet. I already play the game, awkwadly, one-handed with the dog on my lap. It would be better for both of us if we were settled comfortably in the armchair next to the fire.

Except that a tablet or phone capable of running Noah's Heart or Genshin Impact or any of the other gorgeous, modern mobile mmo or mmo-adjacent titles would cost me hundreds of pounds. It's a bizarre irony that the games are free but I'd have to spend a fortune to get something to play them on.

Maybe I will invest in some kind of handheld gaming device that's fit for the next five years or so. The Switch looked good for a while but I hear rumors of obsolescence already. The Steam Deck is another obvious possibility or perhaps one of its inevitable copyists. Or I could buy a decent tablet. An iPad, even. After all, that iPod, extravagant a purchase as it felt at the time, turned out to be very good value.

I'll think about it. In the meantime, I guess I'll just keep playing Noah's Heart on PC. At least there it runs effortlessly on hardware I already own, even if I do have to sit upright instead of slouching in comfort. 

Probably better for my back, anyway.


  1. Buy yourself a decent tablet. You might find that you use it for things other than gaming. A tablet is less likely to obsolesce than the Switch or Steam Deck, which weren't built to run mobile games anyhow. The hard question is iPad vs Android tablet, and I think the argument there is complicated and quite personal.

    I need to buy myself a modern Android tablet. The one I'm "using" now was given to me by Google when they first came out with one. The fact that it works at all is kind of amazing. A modern tablet is something I could really use, and it would be fun to try mobile gaming.

    1. Yes, I think that's good advice. I really can't see myself using a dedicated handheld gaming device enough to justify the cost but a tablet would be constantly in use for all kinds of things as well as gaming.

      My main problem is that I've had very bad experiences with tablets and quite consistently so. When I was looking back through the blog yesterday I saw several posts where I sing the praises of this tablet or that but none of them ever lasted much more than a year, if that. I was very happy with my Linx and my Teclast 10" tablets but I broke the screen on one and the other just stopped working altogether. I was also very happy with my Cubot phablet, but that developed a screen fault, meaning it's still fine to use as a phone but you wouldn't want to play games or watch video on it.

      All of that puts me off getting another cheap import, even though the actual performance of the ones I've had was excellent until they died, but it also pusts me off paying three or four times as much for a well-known brand because at least 50% of the failures have been me breaking the things not any fault of the manufacturer.

      Maybe I should go for an iPad... after all, the one device that's really proved it's resilianece and reliability is the iPod Touch.

  2. Razer has an interesting Android table/cloud gaming gizmo coming out.

    It has a better screen than the Steam Deck or Switch. It comes with the Kishi thing to make it seem like a handheld for what you want physical controls. On paper (on photons?) it seems like a decent device but there are no reviews or anything yet, as it hasn't launched yet.

    1. I saw your post about that one. It looks interesting but as per my reply to bart Massey above, I don't think I'm likely to go down that route, either with Razer or the Steam Deck. If I can force myself to spend the money yet again I'll probably go for a more straightforward tablet. It's really the number of failures I've had with them already that's putting me off, I think.

  3. I like the idea of portable gaming on an android device a lot, but so few games seem to execute it well. So often games that I try 1. assume I have a bigger screen than the one I am using, 2. assume I have a smaller screen than the one I am using (i.e., the screen controls are awckward), 3. assume I have a controller hooked up, and/ or 4. are designed to get money out players first and to be a fun game second.

    That said, I recently discovered that Netflix has a decent selection of full games you can play for free on your phone if you subscribe. For example, the full version of Oxenfree is on there, which is about $10 on Steam of GOG. I think Netflix needs to do a better job of letting people know about their games.

    1. Hmm. I knew Netflix had some kind of games offer. I think I might even have mentioned it in a post once. At that time, though, it was pretty much just a few Stranger Things casual games. I remember them saying there would be others but I never heard anything more about it.

      After reading your comment I looked into it a bit with a view to doing a post about it. So far, even though I can find clear descriptions of how Netflix Games are supposed to be accessed and installed, absolutely none of it works on my Kindle Fire. I don't even get error messages or "Not available for your device". Almost certainly a Fire issue. Amazon really don't want the device used for anythiong outside their ecosystem.

      I'm going to look into it some more because as you say, there a few interesting games on there. If I ever find out how it works, I'll post something.

  4. "Where's the agent? She said she'd meet me here!"


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