But many of my friends complain about having a really bad connection to the internet. Some of it is the result of location, but a lot is because companies can actually throttle the signal, providing unlimited yet barely workable internet. While there are several titles out there that are playable on almost any connection, throttling can kill gaming for many of us. So just how bad is it?
PerBlue's Parallel Kingdom, for example, is a fantastic mobile title that can be played in via browser or official app. It does depend on a player's real life location, but once the game makes a note of that, it's not sucking as many data as if the player were driving or moving around. I've played the game on my mobile connection before and had no issues, even in spottier areas. Interaction is simple point-and-click, but the game is as complicated as any other fantasy MMO. If anything, the game's sandbox nature gives it that extra something that you would not find in many standard MMOs.
Blogger Stephanie Morrow has complained about data caps in Canada for a while now. The details of her situation show just how hard it can be to get faster internet even if you are willing to pay for it:
My monthly data cap at the moment is 80 gigs. I pay just over $100 CA for 80 gigs a month, and $2 CA per gig over my cap. Understandably, 80 gigs is not that much, especially if you play multiple games or download a lot of games on Steam, watch Netflix, have a PlayStation 3, Xbox, 3DS, iPad or iPhone like we do. Sadly, there are not a lot of other options. We have two major ISP companies in the city that work this way (there's no such thing as unlimited here in Canada from these two ISPs), and then there are a handful of smaller ISPs that do offer unlimited but at a greatly reduced speed.That's a pretty amazing story. I remember the speeds I got when I used another cable company, and I remember just how bad it felt to have to set a game to download overnight. Stephanie goes on to update the situation on her Google + blog, noting that the company she is with is one of the worst throttlers in the country. She quotes TechVibes:
So, I had to make the sacrifice. Did I want an unlimited cap when I'd barely able to download anything because it would take weeks and weeks, or did I want a cap and be able to download at the speed of light? The cap is a harsh mistress, not to mention that everything peer-to-peer gets throttled. That means no free-to-play games for me because they typically download via a peer-to-peer method that gets throttled. I was unable to do my job while using internet from Rogers, one of the major companies here. I had no choice but to switch to a smaller company or give up my job. I wrote to the companies about this situation but didn't hear anything back.
In 2010, Shaw throttled 14% of users and Bell throttled 16% of users. Rogers? The Toronto-based telco throttled a startling 78% of users, and this number has surpassed 90% during some quarters since 2008.Again, it can be hard for many of us to imagine having such a limited connection, but I hear from players all the time who have such issues. Is internet access a human right, as declared by the United Nations? Do players have a right to the internet, even if they are using the connection mainly for gaming? I'd have to say yes simply because there are so many common advantages that come with internet access, access that provides information not only about one's social network but local weather problems, health issues... the list goes on and on. The internet is now so much a part of our lives that we forget just how much we need it.
I'm sure there are reasons that a company would throttle internet access to the degree we just read about. It's possible that, in more remote locations or areas without the infrastructure, higher speeds are just not possible or profitable. It's also possible that the company sees the need and takes advantage of the situation. Sometimes mobile gaming comes to the rescue of someone who works or plays where certain websites are blocked. Browser-based MMOs are big business (just ask RuneScape publisher Jagex and others) and can answer a gamer's call when nothing else is available. I asked Illyriad's Art Director, GM Cerberus, how he came to know the browser-based MMORTS:
About a year ago, I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The military is very restrictive on the websites you can visit at work; it blocks all gaming websites as they're distracting, I guess. This didn't stop me, however, and one night I decided to search for free-to-play browser-based games on Wikipedia. Illyriad was hidden away on one of the lists, and after reading the impressive write-up, I decided to try my luck. Miraculously, the website wasn't blocked, so I actually got to play at work!Cerberus discovered the game he would eventually work for because it ran in a browser and was not on a blocked site list. Browser-based MMOs usually do not require large downloads as well, plus they can save on data limits and can work with a choked connection. Massively's browser category shows just how varied the genre has become with lots of different games for all types of gamers.
One day, I hope to look back on this article and laugh at the fact that there was a time when some people did not have unlimited access to the internet. If I had my way, all gamers from all walks of life would be able to at least access a connection. The internet, and multiplayer gaming, has become much more than a hobby. It's a form of communication that keeps many of us connected to others when we normally live far away from neighbors or friends. For disabled gamers, an internet connection might be a true lifeline to the rest of the world and can act as a conduit for expression. The U.N. might be right on the money with its declaration.
Do you have problems with a throttled signal? Does your provider force you to pay for a horrible connection? Have you found a solution in browser or mobile gaming? Let me know in the comments section!
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.
*Verizon is currently in the process of acquiring AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.