MMObility: Just how mobile was E3?

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MMObility: Just how mobile was E3?
E3 is a massive, loud conglomeration of lights, people, and stress. I spent most of my time there walking from one end to another, trying to find a certain booth or meeting room. Luckily for me, I am in pretty good shape and felt just fine the entire time, despite the fact that I had little to eat, and worse yet, little water. At home I drink water non-stop... no soda, no coffee. Still, it was a blast. Working like that really makes a tiny reporter like yours truly feel wonderful. Conversations with developers can be very, very interesting if games are what you love.

And there were games. A ton of games. A bunch. A lot. Even then, I knew the feeling that was coming over me, the familiar feeling of stumbling into a toy store or comic shop to look for goodies. I was in hog heaven but needed to find my particular fix. I needed indie, tiny or strange games. Games that ran on a toaster but worked well, browser games that would impress me, or phone games that would continue to destroy the idea that immersive, fun gameplay cannot be done on a portable device.

Did I find what I was looking for? Oh, hell yes I did. Click past the cut and I will tell you all about it.

It should be noted that, in the world of consoles, portability is all the rage. The new Wii U and the new Sony PSVita had everyone talking. I literally saw dozens and dozens of reporters take the same pictures and run back to the same press room to write the same stories about the same games. I am not attempting to brag, but I love to be one of the oddballs who is looking for the game that no one is talking about or the booth that had the least amount of bass pumping out of its speakers. The most interesting things happen outside of the main ring of a circus.

I already had some appointments with some great games. Star Trek Infinite Space, brought to us by Gameforge, was incredible. The Unity engine continues to blow me away. There is no longer a discussion about whether or not a browser game can look really good. It can. And this is just the beginning. One day, browser and portable games will be accepted as any other or even become the default. Large clients are here to stay, but our opinion on what "large" means has changed. Now, we can download a gig's worth of data in minutes. It took me something like 15 minutes to recently download and patch a seven gigabyte game. As browsers or portable devices become more robust, gigs will become the new megabyte.

"I had to stop myself from grabbing the developer on the shoulders and literally making a sound like an excited pig."

Browsers were in full force, in fact. I was able to sit down with gamigo to see two incredible strategy games. Both ran in the browser (the developer literally had it running in his), and both ran in Unity with a smattering of Flash. Both games looked fantastic; Jagged Alliance Online in particular showed off dynamic shadows and physics-based death scenes. I had to stop myself from grabbing the developer on the shoulders and literally making a sound like an excited pig. After all, UFO Online was going to allow me to play a real turn-based battle -- no, really -- in my browser, complete with world domination and alien invasion. Both games brought me back to age 13, back to when my father built me my very own 4x8 gaming table, complete with sand for shaping environments.

While Perfect World Entertainment specializes in client-based gaming, its new game Rusty Hearts should be able to run on a laptop. Granted, all the bells and whistles of the game might push those tech demands up higher, but I would not be surprised if the side-scrolling nature of most of the game kept system requirements low. This is good news, especially for those of us who have recently made a pact to never purchase a graphics card again. No, seriously.

Prime World was sick, to borrow a phrase from the goateed biker crowd of American Chopper. While I was not officially assigned a game walk-through, the developers of Nival pounced on me as I glanced at their monitors. The game is filled with neat innovations, combinations of different gaming styles and cool effects. Essentially, you run a Unity-based client while in a sort of "castle mode" used for tweaking heroes and adjusting other items, then you switch to a fully downloadable client for the MOBA-style battles. While the game's not completely portable, the Unity section of the game does open it up for laptop interaction. Perhaps players will run their laptops alongside their larger desktops? I wish I could have spent some serious time with this one, but E3 has a way of pushing you down the stream before you know what hit you.

One thing that surprised me was the presence of so many portable devices. Spacetime Studios was there to show off its truly portable Star Legends: The Blackstar Chronicles. Imagine Pocket Legends set in space but with a more straightforward experience. The console developers all had some version of a portable device, but MMOs simply do not mix with console companies, at least most of the time. It's a real shame, too, considering how fantastic some of those portable machines will be.

It should be noted that my little laptop of choice performed like a champ the entire time. I left it sitting in a secured area most of the time and took audio notes with my handheld Tascam recorder and pictures with my HTC Inspire phone. After appointments, I would rush back to the press room and type it all up or begin the process. Then I would go on to my next one. When I had some downtime (or while traveling), I played my favorites like Illyriad or Fleck on the iPad. I squeezed in a dungeon in Pocket Legends and even showed it off to fellow reporters. It was wonderful to be able to do some gaming during the event... it helped relieve some of the stress one feels after walking 26 miles and eating very little. The week of E3 showed me that gaming -- yes, even massively multiplayer gaming -- is very possible and enjoyable during many different scenarios.

Working E3 gave me the confidence I needed, the little extra push I was looking for to go forward without upgrading my aging desktop anymore. Recently I had to reinstall my operating system due to sluggish behavior and the need for a clean slate. My sound card was not being recognized, and although I had faced this problem before, I decided to go with on-board sound. I started to reinstall all of the client-based games (games I was not playing much of anyway) until I decided to stop and see what I missed. Sure, I need to put Faxion Online back on there, and perhaps some Global Agenda and others, but overall I find myself grabbing the iPad or laptop for my gaming -- or just using the browser. There are so many games now that do not require a beefy machine to run them that I will consciously try to note the ones that do and report on the ones that do not.

I want everyone to have as much fun with gaming as I do, no matter where you are. I explored E3 and found so many reasons to continue using mobile as my main gaming platform that I just might do that even in my other columns. So how portable, mobile and browser-based was E3?

Wonderfully so.

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, Facebook, or Raptr.
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