If you play any MMOG, you've probably had the desire to log into your account when you were away from your computer. Whether you might want to search the auction house, check the stats on a piece of your equipment or just chat with your guildmates, it is frustrating to be tied to only inhabiting your favorite virtual world when you are sitting in front of your gaming rig. While you can't always have your computer on hand, most gamers carry a cell phone that is able to install applications and connect to the web. Wouldn't it be great if someone could create an application that would allow your phone to log into your MMOG of choice? Well, that someone is AFK Interactive.
"The genesis of the idea was someone in our company said one day 'If there was an app, that would let me chat with my guild members in WoW and tell them that I was going to be late for a raid, I'd buy that.' And we thought, 'You know what? A lot of people would probably buy that,'" Doug Dyer, CEO of AFK, told me at this year's Game Developers Conference.
Based in Raleigh, NC, AFK Interactive was formed to let you play when you are Away From Keyboard. In partnership with nearby Icarus Studios, the creators of the post-apocalyptic MMOG Fallen Earth, AFK has developed a mobile companion application that allows players to access most game functions on their character. You won't be able to move around or fight using your avatar, but you can check and send mail, buy and equip items from the auction house, set up a crafting queue and examine the game's maps. The mobile application launches today for use with Fallen Earth.
AFK is not content to offer this technology for just one game. "We are looking for some other partners to build this for and eventually turn this into a platform that we can offer to any MMOG, social network game, even fantasy sports," Dyer said. If the buzz at GDC was any indication, we may soon see AFK Interactive mobile companions for major MMOGs in the coming year.
Perhaps the most forward-looking stratagem by AFK is that the mobile application is available now for Android devices and the iPhone, and will soon be usable on Blackberry phones and almost all other handsets. "[The application] hits not only the iPhone, it hits Android, BlackBerry, Brew, Java. We've also got plans for Windows Mobile, WebOS and even a web client," Dyer said. "Because most MMOGs, the big ones, a lot of their customers are in emerging markets and those customers are never going to see an iPhone, they're never going to see an Android [phone]. They're still going to be on a handset that's J2ME [Java] for a long time and the ability for them to buy a virtual good or chat from their phone is going to be huge."
Not content to merely hear about how the application works, we decided to take advantage of AFK's proximity to The Escapist offices and see the application in action. Brian Holdsworth, Senior Software Engineer, and Paul Bradley, Director of Quality Assurance, were happy to oblige by logging into the Fallen Earth game client on a laptop and with the mobile companion app on an AT&T Blackberry phone. Once Bradley successfully logged in, he showed us the various tasks that could be accomplished on the phone.