Monday, October 14, 2019

Backwards Into The Future!

When I posted on Saturday about revisiting the Vanguard Emulator project I didn't menton that it wasn't what I'd planned to do with my time that morning. Vanguard was, in fact, the fourth MMORPG I tried to play that day. The first three wouldn't let me log in at all.

I started with Riders of Icarus. It's now been about three months since all my account details were copied to the new owners, Valofe or VFun, whatever they're calling themselves these days. It's also been six weeks since they began Live operations for the game and six weeks since I was last able to play.

None of the suggested fixes or workarounds have made any difference. I still get Error 602 (or occasionally Error 612) when I try to log in. The game remains unpatchable and therefore unplayable. I hadn't tried for several weeks and I imagined that, in the way of these things, the issue would have been resolved by update, but it hasn't.

Although, as my post history attests, I like Riders of Icarus a lot, it was also always a very disposable pleasure. Maybe I'll play again one day, maybe not. It doesn't really bother me either way.

I really liked this auto-generated name and I would have used it but of course it was taken. Kind of defeats the object of having a name generator in the first place, really.

An MMORPG I've played, on and off, for a lot longer than RoI, and enjoyed more, is Dragon Nest. It's another game that's changed ownership several times and it may be the MMORPG I've replayed from scratch the most of all. I think I've made new accounts and started over four times now - it might be five.

A year or so ago the publisher of the EU version of Dragon Nest gave up on it and since then there's been no official way for EU/UK players to access the game. There are still NA and  SEA versions up and running. I have the NA version installed and on Saturday I clicked the icon on my desktop to see how far I could get.

The game patched and presented me with the login screen. I had my correct details to hand. I input them and they were accepted. Then the game informed me my IP was out of bounds and that was that.

I could, of couse, use a VPN to get around the lock but I'm not that desperate to play. Particularly not when there's yet another version available to everyone  - Dragon Nest M.

The latest incarnation of the eternal Dorah.

DNM is the mobile version and I've had it installed on my Kindle Fire for a few months now. I've tried it and it plays very smoothly. It's not identical to the original but it's very similar. Visually it's a fairly faithful translation. The storyline seems to be identical (and still insane) and the gameplay is familiar, although a lot of typical mobile progression sysyems have been bolted on.

The thing is, I don't really like playing games on a hand-held device. Somehow it just doesn't feel... satisfying. Which is how I came to have my Big Idea on Saturday.

Why not play the mobile games I like on my PC? How hard could that be? Not hard at all as it turns out.

I googled for "Android Emulators" and got a selection of lists and recommendations. I read through those for a few minutes then picked one to try. I went for NOX, supposedly one of the easiest to set up and use. 

Their strapline is "The Simpler The Better" and they're really not kidding. I can't remember the last app or program I tried to install that worked so fast and was so immediately intuitive. It took less than five minutes and I didn't have to read a word of instruction. Everything was entirely obvious and it all just worked.

The original Dorah from the PC version. Actually, I think this is the remade Dorah from the EU game, which I believe was an update from the original.

Except for one thing: the search function returned "No Results" for Dragon Nest. That seemed odd, given that I can log into Google Play and see Dragon Nest M right there. After a bit of fiddling I somehow managed to get a few results from the NOX version of Google Play but when I clicked on them they just took me to YouTube trailers for the game.

It was at this point, with emulators on my mnd, that I logged out of NOX and fired up VGEMU instead. After lunch, though, having played and posted about Vanguard, I returned to NOX to fiddle about with it some more.

This time I decided to try anoother mobile MMORPG I used to play and enjoy, the weirdly-ignored Celtic Heroes. I first played Celtic Heroes on my iPod Touch. Yes, on that tiny screen, over a decade ago.

I first mentioned Celtic Heroes on this blog in 2012, when I said "...time to sit in the garden and play Celtic Heroes on my iPod, perhaps. Been meaning to write something about that one for a while..." I did go on to write about it in some detail four years later, at which point I mentioned the game was already five years old.

From the intro. Everything looks better from above.

And it's still going. I downloaded it via NOX and took a moment to set up keyboard and mouse  to override the expected touch-screen controls. That, again, was ridiculously simple and straightforward. Within a couple of minutes I was playing, using WASD and the mouse exactly as though it was a regular PC game.

I ran through the Tutorial as an unregistered Guest. That took about fifteen or twenty minutes. I remembered most of it very clearly, hardly surprising since this is another game I've restarted several times.

When I got to the end of the tutorial I decided I wanted to keep my progress so I registered a new account. I thought it would carry my guest credit over but it didn't so I'll have to do the Tutorial over again. Or I might make the effort to find my old account details and see if they still work. I think I had a character in the twenties. The level cap, last time I checked, was over 200!

With that all having gone so well, yesterday afternoon I decided to try and find Dragon Nest again. I was still getting "No Result" (couldn't even find the YouTube video...) when I had another bright idea. Since I could find the game on Google Play I just went there via Firefox, copied the URL and pasted it into the search field on NOX and voila! There it was.

I think my mage has attention defecit disorder. Leave her alone for five seconds and she starts playing with her wand.
I installed DN through NOX, made a new account and logged in. A bit if fiddling with the controls and once again I had a fully playable WASD/Mouse MMORPG. I played through the first few instances and cascaded to Level 15.

Compared to the original PC version, Dragon Nest M is visually cluttered and very busy. In typical mobile fashion there is something happening every moment. There are many upgradeable systems, all with Star ratings and ranks.

The basic game underneath all the clutter seems relatively unchanged. They seem to have re-voiced some of the dialog. Dragon Nest was always loosely translated, shall we say, in that oddly endearing fashion that so appeals to me in imported games but it differed from most by having voiceovers that vary wildly from the written text. 

DNM seems to have doubled down on that by having different voice actors doing the dialog for the same character. I'm guessing they may have carried some of it over from the original and then added some new lines on top. I particularly enjoyed the way Timothy changed from a deep-voiced English actor to what sounded like a Korean exchange student doing an improv workshop.

"I really wasn't in that mood". Thanks a bunch, Tim! You just stand back and let me save your girlfriend without even a word of thanks. It's fine. Why else did I come all the way back here from the future?
After about three-quarters of an hour I had to stop to go for a walk because the sun had finally come out for the first time in about three days. I will be playing more Dragon Nest, though, and more Celtic Heroes. Also other Mobile MMORPGs if I can find some.

MMORPGs on Mobile seem to get either bad press or no press at all in this part of the blogosphere. I can't help thinking that has as much do with the nature of the devices themselves rather than the quality of the games. Celtic Heroes, I am certain, would have been well-received had it launched in 2011 as a PC MMORPG. It looks quite old-fashioned now but back then it would have been fine.

Both games were busy. I saw lots of players in the Tutorial and starter zones. Having found a way to enjoy these titles on the big screen and with controls that feel familiar I look forward to exploring more. Recommendations for fully-fledged Android MMORPGs welcome.


  1. Oy. Is Dragon's Nest that bad on the English? "Oh, you're the adventure who saved Lily."

    1. Almost every imported MMO is that bad. Sometimes I can't even work out what they are trying to say. I love it. It's one of the main reasons I play them all.

      What I really hate is the cod-serious, po-faced self-important Fantasy Epic Potboiler prose of English-language games that model their style on the pedestrian journeyman writers who make their living peddling sub-Tolkein epics. I'd take any number of crazy translations that read like a six-year old telling you the plot of their favorite TV show over those any day.

    2. And don't forget that those Fantasy Epics tend to include info dumps of epic proportions.

      Just because Tolkien did it means that everybody else needs to try as well.


      That exact thing is one of the reasons why later WoW expacs don't work as well as Vanilla/Classic. I'm starting up a Human Lock, and having seen both the NE and Human starting zones, they both take the point of you're just a regular person who stepped up for small things, and the missions/quests/whatnot slowly and slowly get bigger without the need for massive info dumps. Somebody who doesn't know diddly about the WoW-verse won't feel hampered at all, because you learn about the world organically.

  2. I think Massively and cover a lot of mobile games, at least what I can tell from my RSS feed. I do tend to skip over them though.

    Is playing a mobile game on an emulator comfortable? I gave it a try probably 4-5 years ago but it seems Android emulation has come a long way since then. I guess I didn't expect a mobile MMO to play nice with back mouse+keyboard movement.

    1. I was surprised how effective it was. Celtic Heroes plays almost exactly as you'd expect a PC game to play. Dragon Nest M is a little more clunky but still pretty close to feeling normal. Graphically they don't look at all bad either, although clearly they aren't designed to be displayed at the size of a PC Monitor. I've seen plenty worse in regular PC games, though.


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