"You write about games... on your phone?"
"Yes, massively multiplayer games."
Luckily there are many new ones that offer a much more robust gaming experience. I can proudly show people examples of games like Order and Chaos Online, Star Legends or Illyriad. Of course, I sift through many poor examples before I get to the good ones. So let's take this opportunity to discuss what I think makes for a good game. Click past the cut and feel free to add your ideas in the comments section!
"Sure, I'll accept your class-based linear quest driven world, but at least give me one or two optional systems that tie them together."
Style: If I had a dime for every ugly mobile game I have downloaded, I would have around six dollars and 20 cents. Yes, I know that development for a small screen is tough, but with some creativity it can be executed wonderfully. I think too many mobile games try to cram in some sort of realistic detail or lighting effects that just do not work. Designing for a tiny screen is a lot like painting a picture with limited materials. Understand your limitations and work with them. Instead of marching characters across hideous 8-bit landscapes, why not move them by using lovely hand-drawn hex maps? I hate to sound harsh, but a lot of the time indie developers are the smart types, the individuals who have a good time plugging away at lines of code. A lot of the time, the mechanically minded are not the most artistically minded. The developers of Illyriad, for example, literally hired artists to improve their character portraits and other in-game assets. What resulted was a game that had its own style, even while residing in a familiar gaming genre, the MMORTS.
Flexibility: Again I am asking to fill a tall order. If it is possible for your mobile game to work across many devices, make it so. HTML5 is supposed to be bringing us games that will be playable no matter what device you have, but so far there are very few MMOs that use the technology. Some games are exclusive to one device, or at least it takes a long time before they work for all. I feel a lot like a console player when I discover a new MMO for my phone or tablet. I have to read how it might be available "soon" on other devices or just get used to lugging around my laptop, my HTC Inspire Android phone, and my disconnected iPhone and iPad. I long for the time when there will be no boundaries between devices. Perhaps the lines in the sand can be erased with new technologies that allow hardware manufacturers to retain their unique market presence and connect with each other while still making a profit. We'll have to see.
"I have played so many cool little games that could have benefited from great music or sound. How many mobile games use the same goofy song over and over, no matter where you are in the world?"
After adding up these rules, I'm not surprised I have such a short list of mobile favorites. It holds under a dozen titles. Many folks might think that by writing this column I am exclaiming that the world of mobile gaming (and in this case I am talking about tablet or phone gaming) is as rich and vibrant as browser-based or "normal" MMOs. It is not, and I am not pretending that it is. But it is growing. The developers are learning from mistakes and are quickly adapting. I write this column because I truly believe that, simply due to advancing technology, we will be experiencing much more than a dozen wonderful mobile MMOs very soon.
Soon enough I'll find more MMOs that follow this list perfectly.
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.