Lost Pages of Taborea: Test driving Magic Hub

Runes of Magic/Magic Hub image
I'm going to jump on this one before anyone else does. The company Overwolf developed a little application that provides MMO players with social networking, web, video and screenshot functionality without the need to alt+tab out of a game.

It's a lot like what Trion has built into RIFT, only in a third-party package, and Frogster partnered with Overwolf to provide a Runes of Magic-branded version called Magic Hub -- complete with RoM-specific buttons.

After some technical problems, I got Magic Hub to work and put it through its paces. There are other applications out there that provide a wide range of functionality for gamers, but since this one is customized for RoM, I thought I'd give my impressions.

Magic Hub buttonsTo clear up any confusion, Magic Hub is not a RoM addon, nor was it created by Runewaker or Frogster. It's like an addon, browser plugin, or universal chat application. The personalized buttons complement RoM.

Frogster also announced the app on its European and U.S. RoM sites, and the file name is appended with EU, but this is not some app programmed specifically for any country. The app is universal in the way other apps are. Frogster elected to have customized buttons shoot players to its European sites; however, since these are just RoM websites opening inside Magic Hub's web browser, you can easily click the region you need at the top of each webpage that opens in-game.

The video

I remember discovering Xfire and how impressed I was with its video quality. As it turned out, Xfire was using a slightly altered, proprietary version of the beloved H.264 video codec. And I didn't like was how resource-intensive Xfire was for me when I was trying to use the best settings.

I've since learned to appreciate gaming apps and web apps that steer toward lo-fi quality and are wrapped in a snazzy package. I believe there is a time and place for low-quality. Take my video camera, for instance. I have an HD video camera I bought for pennies on the dollar, but it has no bells or whistles and it only works optimally under bright, outdoor lighting. Do I care? Nope. It's good enough.

It's this good-enough sector of the market that has exploded for many kinds of merchandise, and I think it works well for game recorders. While I enjoy dabbling with high-resolution gameplay graphics, I need to go all out. I have the codecs, recorders, splicers and converters to make a work of art. Socially, I want quick, easy and good enough for recording my RoM videos. I want to quickly zap a clip to YouTube or Facebook and share it on Twitter. When I'm running newbies through Forsaken Abbey and one pulls a horde of zombies on top of the group, a good enough video recorder is perfect for sharing the moment with friends.

Magic Hub screenshot
Let's get sociable

I don't know whether Overwolf is the best of the bunch, but I've tried Magic Hub and I know that it loads fast and is unobtrusive, easy and quick. And in a way, the video recorder is a secondary feature. The main purpose for me to use it would be to share my RoM escapades with my social networks. That does include sending video and screenshots to those networks, but now I can quickly pop open a window and shout "Need healer for quick DoD mem run" on Facebook, Twitter or instant messenger while I play.

All the pop-up windows are resizable, and a slider lets you set opacity. When I click on the Facebook button, it quickly pops open for me to drag to any location. Without starting to sound too much like an infomercial, I am loving the app. I can check my Gmail, Skype and just about everything I'd normally do on the web without leaving the game. I'm glad I can bring up the RoM database with the click of a button, in-game. Normal alt+tabbing for me is a little unstable, and there's always a delay.

Magic Hub settingsWhat's nifty

Aside from the fact that the app allows me to be a virtual social butterfly while gathering a bajillion abyss mercury ore, the shoot-to-record feature stood out to me as a neat idea. You can set up the hotkey and post-delay in settings. Once activated, it will only record so long as you hold the hotkey down. If you're gathering next to the goblin village in Aslan and another player comes running out while being chased by dozens of angry goblins, you can quickly push a key to start recording the unexpected hilarity. When the spectacle is over, let go of the key to stop recording.

Having a Chrome-based browser in game lets me watch Boss strategies on YouTube and listen to Pandora Radio.

Not so nifty

Recording in any setting will drop your framerate considerably. Many apps do this. They really don't work that well for low-end machines. My framerate consistently dropped in half every time I pressed record. If you have a moderately powerful machine, you'll probably be fine, especially on lower video settings. Beastly computers can take advantage of full-screen, but no matter how good it is, you won't get the quality from using dedicated video software.

Overwolf appends its web address after Facebook posts. I haven't found any setting to turn it off. What's more annoying is that it does this on every comment you make. If I had to have anything appended to every comment I made, I'd want it to be a tag letting everyone know I'm commenting from inside RoM. There's no screenshot sharing ability for Twitter. You also can't view lists on Twitter. This is really problematic for people who make multiple lists to keep from drowning in a timeline that could have hundreds or thousands of followed accounts. Finally, I couldn't get Skype to work at all.

Conclusion

I don't care who brought these functions to me, but I'm glad I have them. I can be shopping on the auction house and click Magic Hubs' pre-configured button to instantly bring up the RoM database to compare items, load up the forum to participate in a thread, or any of the other things I've already mentioned. It did give me some headaches before I talked to Overwolf's support, but the company managed to get it working for me. I'm curious to see whether you're having trouble getting it to run or if it's an application you'd use a lot.



Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or how to improve versatility in RoM's content, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to jeremy@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.