Not all of our options are text-based or boring. Fully realized 3-D worlds are yours for the taking, as is some of the most clever design in gaming today. I am glad to bring you this new column to cover the world of browser-based gaming, in the hopes that I can speak to those players who might not be able to afford a state-of-the-art gaming machine. This column is squarely aimed at the basic laptop or netbook crowd -- those college students, working mothers and fathers with little time, or even players who are in medical situations that prevent them from owning the latest piece of hardware. Don't worry; it won't be a non-stop parade of repetitive Facebook games. I aim to push that image firmly to the side, replacing it instead with a picture of gaming bliss.
Click past the cut and let's get started!
- First, I will look for persistence. This means that, no matter the gameplay, the world or universe that players reside in continues on without them. If you decide to log out to go to a meeting, the rest of the playerbase continues on. The changes made while you are away can continue to affect you or can change your situation. I'll look beyond clever instancing and design -- the world must be truly persistent.
- Second, interaction with other players is a must. This means that you can either group with others, as in a "standard" MMO, or can participate with them in other ways. A true chat window or channel of some kind is more common than not these days, which is very important for interaction. If the game allows only for limited messaging, that's fine, but communication must be real and direct. Remember, however, that "interaction" with other players comes in many forms. Release any pre-conceived ideas about grouping or activities -- browser games sometimes have to think outside of the box to get players to work together (or against each other).
- Third, accessibility is very important. This is a two-parter. I mean accessibility concerning system requirements as well as physically accessible games. If a browser game is nothing but a heavy-handed, fully 3-D environment that eats away at CPU usage, it is not for this column. Games like Free Realms are often touted as a browser game simply because their access point is the browser, but in reality, the game is like any other standard MMO and is not contained in the browser environment. Also, I want to encourage games that are disabled-player-friendly. Granted, many browser games do not require such high mobility, but it is still important to note the ones that do.
- Last I want to concentrate on pricing. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and one of those stereotypes is that browser games are nothing but Kingory clones (which is a clone of something else, I am sure someone would say), filled with cash shops that force players to spend hundreds of dollars per month in order to play... at all. Yes, those games do exist. I'll tend to steer clear of them and instead will use this space to discuss the games that do not practice any of that stereotypical behavior. Regardless, I can promise that someone will definitely take issue with almost any cash-shop example I bring up, so as in my other columns, I plan on pointing out how the games work (or do not work) for me, personally. I will play them, see whether they make me spend any cash, and report on it.
I knew very little of Ministry of War before I played it. Honestly, I have nearly 75 browser games bookmarked on my PC right now, so many of the titles sort of blend in. My plan of attack is to take one title per week and explore it, and over the last week I have been exploring the heck out of MoW. What I have found is a Flash-based empire-building game that seemed, at first, to offer nothing new. I've spent many, many hours building up armies and researching new technologies in countless games that look similar to MoW. I would bet that we all have played some sort of RTS, and by this point, a new one would need to be pretty exciting to catch our eye.
"Many browser games place you randomly on a map somewhere (a cheap balancing tactic if I ever saw one), but MoW allows you to choose your side and whom you might be surrounded by."
The chat window was very helpful every time I asked a question, and many players even offered to send me goods or protection if I needed it. Allowing players to join nations is brilliant simply because it builds camaraderie. Instead of seeing in-fighting and ganking, I found myself surrounded by brothers and sisters who were eager to help out.
"The rest of the city-building portion of the game felt almost like a glorious toy set. Thanks to the overly generous new player quests, I received a constant flow of goods and gold to grow my city with."
As I write this, my army continues to train. My fellow Persians have been planning a major attack, and we have been fighting off small armies of enemies all night. Meanwhile, I am attempting to push my people into the feudal age so that I can access better buildings and technologies, and my hero continues to level up. I even received two very nice pieces of equipment that are waiting for him in my storage.
Keep in mind that I have not stepped into the higher ranks of the game, nor have I experienced the cash shop yet. My initial glances at the shop offerings revealed nothing but optional buffs and potions that are pretty standard in cash shops, but we'll see how it affects me once I need it.
So there you have it. I hope this new column will help to shed some light on the ever-growing genre of browser-based gaming. I hope to mix it up quite a bit, offering something different each week. If you have any suggestions for great browser titles, leave them in the comments section. See you next week!
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr.