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Rise and Shiny: The empty MMO section on the RT marketplace


As many of you know, I have been in love with portable devices for a while now. I am always perfecting my all-in-one experience, trying to find a device that allows me access to my favorite job and hobby (MMO gaming) while actually getting some work done. That means I need to be able to communicate, type, and create content all with the same small computer. My 3G Nexus 7 was glorious for a while, but mainly as a mobile gaming platform and social network connection. I needed something larger, and I took the destruction of my 7 to mean it was time to get out of my comfort zone.

So I got myself an Asus VivoTab RT, a 10-inch tablet with a 4G LTE connection. It came with the keyboard dock for only $300 US. I'll save the explanation for buying such a device -- especially considering RT's shaky footing -- for my other blog, but I have really been enjoying RT and the fact that I still have access to Flash, browser-based games, and a larger screen.

Searching for MMOs in the Windows Store has been a nightmare, though, mainly because there are none. I'll show you what's being offered and will look at the 8.1 preview to see if we can expect changes.

Uprising St Louis screenshot
Searching for "MMORPG" does little good in the store, either in RT or in full Windows 8. You will literally find more "games" that act as databases for existing MMOs than you will find actual MMOs. Even as I search the store on my gaming PC, it's hard to find anything that would really pass quality tests. Sure, there are a few good ones, like Age of Empires Online (a desktop app for the full version of 8) and Vendetta Online, which will work on both. There's also a very bland-looking Uprising: St. Louis, a semi-political game that looks as if it would have done better sticking to the browser.

The fact is that RT is not a bad OS, at least as far as I am concerned. I still can't figure out why Microsoft didn't just go for a mobile OS that had nothing at all to do with a desktop version because including a "desktop" in this RT device is confusing. I like having access to a familiar file system and a few other items, but that could have been solved within a mobile-specific environment.

Even if we look at the desktop version of Internet Explorer (which is hard to do for this Chrome fanboy), the Flash-based MMOs that you can play in it (I always use Poptropica as a quick test for mobile devices) require more power than most RT devices can provide. That's one of the ideas behind RT, I thought: that it could run on lighter chips like the Tegra 3, chips good for a mobile OS but not for even mildly power-hungry games. I enjoy the screen size, and the device feels well-crafted though a bit flimsy. It feels light in the hand and responds well to customizing. I actually like Windows 8's live tiles, so navigating on the 10-inch computer has been a heck of a lot of fun. But just as with the Nexus 7, I don't expect the device to play the same games or in the same way that my desktop gaming PC does. In fact, I don't want it to necessarily; I want my portable device to feel lighter in more ways than one.

That means we're back to the browser. The browser provides almost any device with at least a score or more decent MMOs. I knew that the browser is the place I would have to go to access MMO gaming on the VivoTab. Luckily, many browser games are deep and complex and require little in the way of power -- consider Illyriad, The West, Grepolis, and Die2Nite. You can load many of these titles in either the desktop version of Internet Explorer or the RT version, but I did not notice much performance difference. Once again, the browser saves the day, even on an OS that not only is on shaky ground but has very little to offer in the way of games inside the store.

"There is the Xbox games section, of course, but the problems continue there. I think the Xbox store is supposed to act more like an extension of the Xbox, but I do not have one."

There is the Xbox games section, of course, but the problems continue there. I think the Xbox store is supposed to act more like an extension of the Xbox, but I do not have one. (Playstation 3, here.) So much of what I find in the store is meant to be played on the PC or on the Xbox... so why are they even listed on my RT device?

There's no chance to play RuneScape's new HTML5 client, either, being that it requires a more powerful machine than the Java-based version does. Ironically, the access of HTML5 across all different devices is limited because of the power needed to run it. Luckily, I have done my homework when it comes to browser-based games and so have plenty to choose from when it comes to MMOs on almost any of my portables.

I'd love to see Spacetime Studios bring its Legends franchise over to RT, but I think that even Microsoft fans are waiting to see what will happen to the OS before letting out their breath. Even though the popular OS-maker has confirmed RT's future and has released a preview version that improves the experience, once the rumor mill starts rolling, the damage may be irreversible.

I started off this week as I normally do: trying to play a new game to introduce to my readers. The first game didn't work out, then I had issues finding the second one. At that point I was pointing to games on the browser, something I cover in my MMObility column all the time. Native RT game pickings are very slim at the moment, but here's hoping that a price drop and a bit of desperation mean that I'll be able to find a much healthier marketplace in the near future.

If not, there's always the Google Play store.

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.

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