MMObility: MUDing on the go and a new Android castle-builder

Lords and Knights banner
In this week's column, I wanted to give you a few mobile options to fill your time. The mobile market is anything but devoid of content or new games to explore. In fact, the problem is often finding games or apps of quality, something worth passing along in one of my columns. Often I search out different games or apps and vet them a bit, and sometimes I just grab the first thing that I find.

This week I have two great apps for those who play MUDs, and one game that, honestly, I have seen many times before and often in ways that were better designed. But I'll still give them all some time on my Android phone to see just how they pan out in the long run. My patience might grow a bit thin, though. That's another benefit of the mobile market: if you're not satisfied with a new game or app you find, there are literally thousands more to choose from. It's a cut-throat world of competition.

Blowtorch screenshot
First let me show you some pretty neat mobile MUD clients. While MUDs are not often complicated in how they interact with the player, the interface or intense list of game-specific commands can often ruin a good time. My current favorite MUD, Gemstone IV, gets a lot of points from me just for being pretty, accessible, and fun to navigate. MUDs can go a long way with just a few basic pieces of art, nice maps, and introductory quests.

You should not expect much in a mobile MUD app, but it would be nice if they offered the basics. It can't be that hard to make an app that offers color options for text, a workable landscape mode, and other basic options. Let me show you two -- one that does better than the other.

Mukluk is a nice, basic MUD client that runs great on my HTC Inspire phone. I plan to eventually get a nice Android tablet, so I imagine it will only do better on that device. You can host multiple worlds, change the colors to pretty much what you want (although it does take some tweaking with) and besides the on-screen keyboard that can often take up much of the screen, you can interact with the world and generally play the game easily. I am not sure how many people would use this on their smartphone in order to play for long periods of time, but it's perfect for checking in with friends or guild mates while you wait somewhere or are chilling in bed.

It does seem to have some timeout issues, though, pushing players off the server if they are not busy enough for long. This shouldn't be a problem if you find yourself chatting and actually playing the game at a normal pace. You can allow for ANSI colors, whatever the heck ANSI means (I fully expect some programmer to tell me in the comments section.) Why not just change the term to something more common? How about just "text colors" or, I don't know... "Colors of Stuff?" One of the main issues with modern MUDs is that they still speak the language that was required back in the day when a knowledge of coding was almost required to use these games. That's sort of like using Vangelis for your modern movie; it's dated and feels dated for a reason. MUDs need to stop using inside-speak for such basic commands. I would recommend MukLuk, mainly because of its flexibility with color choices. Not all of us want to have a black background with bright green lettering; this isn't '92.

MukLuk screenshot Blowtorch looked cool enough when I downloaded it. Once I got into the MUD, though, I knew it was no different than stumbling across yet another MUD that offered the same bland black background as though we had stumbled across a time-travel device to the age of grunge. Also, when you check out the options for the client, the list reads like a series of commands that once again would require someone who knows those commands already might know. "Encoding;" "Process dot commands;" "Cull Extraneous Colors?" Sure, I can figure out what these do easily enough but it only goes to show me that, generally, the makers of MUDs are first coders and second creative individuals. There are reasons you will see so many of the same monsters, names and lore within the world of MUDs. There are more cliches in MUDs than there are in popular music. It would only take a moment for the client to explain what these options mean or, for goodness sakes, rename them something more friendly to a newbie. It would not take that great of a stretch of imagination. Still, Blowtorch does offer a nice set of hotkeys that do come in handy.

Both of these apps are free, so try them both. You might have a preference. I personally like MukLuk because it recognizes the fact that (mostly) keeping it simple is the way to go. Yes, these types of apps will probably be used by those who already understand MUD-specific phrases and commands, but it nods to a greater point: it's time to stop with the math-nerd phrases and terminology. I am making no excuse for those who are not knowledgeable in the ways of MUDs, but I am simply asking MUD developers to be aware that most people do not have the patience to read 40 pages of manual just to understand how to play. Go back to the drawing board, and perhaps hire someone who is more of a creative individual.

Lastly I wanted to talk to you about Lords and Knights, a new mobile MMORTS that promises the standard conquering, alliances and epic warfare. The fact is that these games are a dime, no, a penny a dozen. If I see one more of these quick-play grinders with poor quest dialog that barely makes use of the wonderful tools that a smartphone can provide, I shall quit my job forever. You build up buildings, build up more buildings, make an army, attack your neighb...zzZZZzzzzZZZ. Of course I need to mention that this is a beta so that can explain all of the missing details, but maybe I just need to give it some more time to cook.

Please, take note of this: there are a lot of great MMORTS games out there, including mobile ones, but, they are easy to make for some developers and easy to push out there. There are players willing to suffer through the absolute crappiest gameplay if there is a possibility to reach to "the top." Again, a boring prospect if ever there was one. Lords and Knights is not one of the good ones. Skip it for now. Normally I would advise you to check out every game I play because they are free and you might not agree with me, but skip this one. Save the space on your phone and move on to something better.

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 and Facebook.

This article was originally published on Massively.