Interviews

Interviews
Take Your MMOG With You

The Escapist Staff | 8 Jun 2010 16:30
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The application uses art and a UI that is consistent with Fallen Earth and the menu shows 6 possible options. The first feature that Bradley showed us was the most obvious: chat. Bradley's friends list and guild roster was viewable on the phone and when he sent a whisper to a different character that was logged into the PC game client, I could see Bradley's message appear nearly in real time. He showed us chatting in the clan channel, which will allow you to banter with your guildies even if you're stuck at your cousin's Bar Mitzvah.

"You can private chat with any other player in the game, and then if they're in your friend's list, it's a little accelerated because you can see if they're online or not and you can select to chat with them directly from there," Holdsworth said. "And then there is clan chat, those are two major chat functions available."

Mail works just like in the game, where you can send a message - including any items or money that you might to attach - to any player. You can also receive mail on the phone and open any attachments, and the items will be placed in your character's inventory. Bradley showed us the character sheet, which displayed all of the item slots in Fallen Earth and effortlessly equipped the gun that he had just received in the mail. The auction house allows you to search for an item and place a bid or buy it directly, which Bradley did from the phone and we were able to see the item delivered through the mail system.

"There's a lot of people who play MMOGs, their whole purpose in playing is the commerce side of it. It's like a virtual business for them," Bradley said. "Something like [the mobile companion app] is perfect for them because you can do a lot that stuff completely offline. You don't have to worry about spending your game time focusing on crafting items or setting up auctions."

Crafting through the mobile companion application is the icing on the cake. In Fallen Earth, nearly 95 percent of the items are player-created and crafting an item can take five minutes or more real time, so the ability to take care of these tasks on your cell phone is invaluable. Bradley opened the crafting interface and easily set up several items to be crafted in a queue. When the item is complete, it is placed in your inventory just like you had made it in game.

"Instead of sitting in front of your PC, waiting for your 20 items to craft you can just set them up on the phone, and let it craft over the course of the day," Bradley said. "When you get home, you're ready to just sit down and play." The ability to create a queue that contains any number or type of item is also invaluable for the mobile companion app.

In fact, orchestrating the game's economy using a cell phone is so easy that I wondered if the application would wrongly encourage the "second" economy: gold-farmers and sellers. But Holdworth assured me that the mobile application uses the game's backend and authentication servers so the potential for abuse is just as secure as using a PC. "Since our application connects to the game just like any other client, we support whatever protection is built into the game. So as far as being able to cheat by using the mobile companion, we don't see that as a practical concern," explained Holdsworth.

After a look at the zoomable in-game map on the phone completed the demo by Bradley and Holdsworth, it is very clear that the tool AFK Interactive has developed would be extremely valuable for players of any MMOG. World of WarCraft has attempted to offer similar functionality through their mobile armory and remote auction house applications, but it doesn't let you do much beyond check your character without paying an extra 3 bucks a month. The mobile companion application that AFK Interactive has created allows you to accomplish nearly all MMOG bookkeeping tasks via your phone and, most importantly, it doesn't matter what kind of phone you have or make you pay more. Now that the engine is complete, it would be easy for AFK to adapt the application to any game, using art assets and special game mechanics to make the experience feel seamless for players. Fallen Earth players are lucky to have it as an option, and here's hoping that more MMOG companies take a look at the technology and contact AFK Interactive to implement it for their game.

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