by: Chris Maginnis
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 5/25/2012
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Have you ever wanted to play an MMO on the go? Think of all that precious grinding time wasted on the bus. Well it's not just a pipe dream any more; you can play an MMO on your iPhone or Blackberry. I take a look at the pro’s, the con’s and the future of handheld MMOs.
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The time you spend sitting on the bus could be better spent gaining that next level. The time you spend waiting in the queue could be better spent grinding for that new sword. Imagine you could stop wasting time and play an MMO on your handheld device.
We have all been at the point where, instead of being able to game, real life beckons. With the push towards handheld devices and mobile broadband this is becoming less of a problem. What if you could play your MMO from your iPhone or Blackberry?
The idea is not entirely a dream.
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The Pro's Of Handheld MMOs
The obvious advantage to an MMO on your iPhone is its portability. Being able to play anywhere, anytime as long as you have some battery power and a cell signal. You could be walking along the street or on the side of a rock face. You are no longer tied to your computer.
If you had an MMO on your Blackberry you could spend long journeys farming gold. No more staring out of a window or listening to music, you have mobs to kill. There are only so many times you can play Tetris, with an MMO there is always something to do.
Even if you are in the house, you can play from the garden or the couch without having to break out the gaming laptop.
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The Con's Of Handheld MMOs
There are, of course, a few problems with playing an MMO on a handheld device.
We are not quite at the point where an iPhone has the power of a desktop. The technical restrictions are a pretty limiting factor. The graphics won’t astound anyone and if the game is in the least bit complicated the frame rate is really going to suffer. The battery on your cell is also likely to take a beating.
The next problem is the controls. There is a reason people pay good money for a gaming keyboard, the extra keys. Now think of PvP with the iPhone pop up keyboard and the limitations will start to sink in. If you have a Blackberry, you will have the keyboard but you would have to play with that tracker ball. You just can’t win.
Signal reliability and speed is also a factor. You could spend an hour preparing a party and travelling to a dungeon entrance, just to find your cell signal cutting out. This is situational depending on where you intend to play and the quality of signal in that area.
Despite these restrictions, there are some options if you want to play an MMO on your handheld device.
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Existing MMOs for a handheld device
The obvious choice for an MMO on a handheld device is a text or browser based game. A browser based game rarely requires any quick interactions, which suits the lack of controls, and they don’t require much to run smoothly. As a bonus, most are also free to play.
You can find a browser game for pretty much anything. From running a farm to running a kingdom, from levelling a single avatar to levelling an entire army. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, have plenty of them. You can find them advertised on pretty much any gaming website these days, including here on Bright Hub.
Handheld MMO games are not solely trapped in browsers. Several MMO clients have been developed for the Blackberry and iPhone, which are worth checking out.
It's not a complete list, there are other games out there, I’ve had a look at some of these, they won’t blow you away but they are playable. If you don’t want to settle for a browser game, they’re worth checking out.
It is worth mentioning that games like EVE Online and World of Warcraft haven’t forgotten about handhelds. Don’t get your hopes up; they don’t have game clients just yet.
Both the Blackberry and the iPhone have an EVE application which lets you trade and keep an eye on your characters trading. WoW has an iPhone app which gives you the armory without using the browser. The Blackberry has a third party version but it’s very poor, sticking with the browser is your best option.
If you really want to play your normal MMO from your handheld device, there is one way. You can leave your desktop and remote control it from your handheld. Technically, you will be playing an MMO with your handheld device. In actuality you will be looking at a 3 frames per second slide show. You’ll be able to connect, possibly chat with friends but not much else.
Just keep in mind, before you try any of these, make sure you have a good data plan or deep pockets. You could run up quite a phone bill playing one of these.
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The future of MMOs for handheld devices
Handheld technology will continue to grow and it’s likely the demand for handheld MMOs will as well. I think it’ll be a while before your phone matches the power of your desktop but who knows.
I don’t see a purely handheld MMO doing astoundingly well. New games will come out, possibly do ok, but I think handheld MMOs will take off when they port existing games onto the handheld. When WoW players can play from their iPhone, that is when it will take off. Who knows, maybe on the next version of the iPhone.