Mobile Social Gaming

One of the domain I have been interested in the last few months is mobile on-line multi-player games. Having done research in pervasive/location-based games and knowing that this path was still a sort of "ubiquitous computing proximal future" for various reasons, I started exploring less advanced projects such as mobile multi-player on-line worlds/games such as Mini Friday or TibiaME. Although I was silent about it, this was one of the project I work on at the Media and Design Lab. Both the game and the mobile industry are also quiet about this vector, but even old news show that this field start getting some attention. There are indeed various opportunities in this area, depending on various axes/design choices:

  • Be synchronous like Tibia ME or the upcoming DofusPocket (Ankama - Kalmeo) or asynchronous (turn-based game) like Armada Kingdoms (by Bloomsix)
  • Stand-alone virtual worlds such as Mini Friday (from Sulake, who also runs Habbo Hotel) or cross-platforms such as The Violet Sector.
  • Offering of a complete game/social experience or only a subset: for instance it can be very well tbe the "mobile companion" to computer-based MMO like Ragnarok Mobile Mage or this mobile service called Level Up Mobile that allows to manage your account (balance inquiry, password, lock/unlock), get news and guild message exchange. A bit similar to what Rupture or Magelo are doing except that it would be a mobile version.

There's a lot that can be done in that last area, as described in the gamasutra news.

"There are also social networking opportunities in World of Warcraft that could be done on mobile. Text and voice chat are obvious candidates for mobile, allowing players to keep in touch with their guilds when they are away from their computers. Also, things like browseable profiles and screenshot albums could be easily implemented. RSS-like news feeds by mobile could provide players with info on who leveled up or who joined a guild. Players might enjoy rating content that could be viewed on mobile such as rating quests or avatar appearance. Once the technology improves, Youtube style videos of World of Warcraft activities could appear on mobile. “It’s the perfect activity for mobile because it can take up as much or as little of the player’s time as desired,” Roy said."

That said, this wide spectrum of opportunity is not the only solution why I am interested in that. Being a user experience researcher, my focus is on how people use certain technologies (such as urban technologies, location-based services, games). Mobile on-line multi-user games interest me because I see them as interesting platform to study the hybridization of the digital and the physical, especially in contexts such as contemporary cities. Where do people play these games? How do that influence what they're doing after/before/during playing them? The whole interlinkages between the digital activities+context and the physical activities+context was the purpose of my work as EPFL last year. This is another vector than the one we're exploring with Julian since physicality, geolocation and motion is not taken account. In this case, I am interested in pure raw mobile applications deployed on phones that are available on the market.

So, to some extent, as in the CatchBob project, I find interesting to employ mobile social games as platform to explore broader issues, especially the ones related to mobile user experience and what are the relationships between contemporary cities and these games. More about this topic later.