If you are fond of a bit of downtime gaming on your PC or other devices, then you will have no doubt come across Angry Birds, a few retro reimagined versions of Pac Man, as well as the usual suspects that adorn the online shelves on the ‘App Stores’ we all use.
But, while Angry Birds is fine (actually, it’s very clever in terms of playability), some of us gamers naturally want something more.
The future focused gamer eyes a world where he or she can play online all the time. This is a world with a whole population of virtual citizens, warriors, business strategists and possibly a few goblins and demons. They all come together in an online realm to do combat, or at least interact with each other. This is the world of the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) environment or, more accurately, the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG).
Games in this category start with the simple ‘online only’ category, such as American Racing or The Amazing Spiderman or Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. These games are not multiplayer, but are online only (although you can purchase Lara Croft as a dedicated download for your iPad) and are played via a PC.
While some games will play through Mac browsers on Apple machines, there is a bias towards those that run successfully on Windows based machines. Internet Explorer works well for most games as does Firefox, while Safari is compatible in many cases. This summary is really based upon experiences using Google’s Chrome browser. Chrome offers better synchronisation across devices, so if you own both a Mac and a PC you can try out your downloads more quickly “in the browser” across more than one device.
That said, some games will demand that you download executable files in order to be able to play. I installed ‘seslinstall.exe’ and the ‘UnityWebPlayer.exe’ without any trouble as part of this text. If you are very security conscious you may want to Google these and other filenames that you are asked to install first for any security forum discussion alerts.
Beyond online, we come to true Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) territory. Some games require a subscription, such as World Of Warcraft and City of Heroes, while others are completely free such as RuneScape, Champions Online and Runes of Magic.
The problem some users may find with these games is that there is a strong sub-genre of teenagers scattered around the globe who seem to play these connected games on a 24/7. The issue here is that if you step into any type of combat based MMORPG you may well find yourself repeatedly gunned down within a matter of seconds. I have never felt my 40s so comprehensively.
Worth mentioning here is Dubai-based Game Power 7 who have developed a group of MMORPG games for an Arab speaking audience. Players are invited to register for Allods, Rappelz and Cultures Online and start their journey into cyberspace. You didn’t think there were Arabic speaking virtual online Viking warriors? Well think again.
A few other caveats and words of advice. You may not like the violence in of some of these games, but there are strategy-based challenges and less combat focused titles. Free Realms has a little combat and is more about knocking over cartoon-like characters and exploring mountains, than it is about reloading your Kalashnikov. This might be a good place to start for some.
Some games play almost immediately, while some will require a portion of downloaded code to be sent to your machine. This can take up to half an hour or even more, with a good connection, so be patient if you want to play.
If controls aren’t listed up front, then it’s always a good idea to try the direction keypad on your keyboard first, and then the default used by many gamers over the years: W-forward, A-left, D-right, S-down and the spacebar is often used for jump or action, as is the SHIFT or CTRL key.
When you sign up to play you need to chose a player name and enter your birthday in many cases. Chose a character name that sounds like a superhero or something fun rather than your own name and try and enter 1 January 1900 as your birthday. There is no need to plaster your personal data around the web any more than needed.
The MMORPG world is expanding all the time and these games (which are really online “apps” in a sense) are good fun if you approach them with a little knowledge, which hopefully this brief tour provided. While Windows XP, 7 and Windows 8 desktop or laptop PC’s are the target devices for most MMORPG’s, you will see more of this genre on smartphones and tablets in the future. However, processing power and (most crucially) the lack of an “input mechanism” - a keyboard - will often restrict this.
Now get online and try some new worlds. If you don’t like one, delete and uninstall, and try something new.
The writer is a freelance journalist who specialises in software applications, gadgets and games.