Gaming, the UMPC/MID, and you
This guest article was submitted by Steven Law.
So, you're on the road and tired of listening to the music you have on your UMPC or MID, watched all the videos, read all your emails and ebooks, and don't have any websites you want to check out (or have no internet connection . . . where are you, in a submarine?) What to do? Well, you could
take a nap do some work game!
You certainly won't be playing Crysis, but there's a large number of gems available, especially if you're willing to go back a few years. In fact, there are so many that I couldn't even begin a comprehensive list here; what follows are just some sources to get you started.
Of course, there are some issues to be noted. First, yes, there's a pretty good chance that you aren't carrying an optical drive with you. This actually isn't a big deal nowadays since there are plenty of online stores where you can purchase and/or download games directly. Second, certain games may require a mouse and/or keyboard. This may end up being one of your biggest problems if you have a slate UMPC. Oh well. At least you'll be able to play on your tray table once you plug everything in!
About those Emulators…
You may have heard about folks playing old Atari or NES games on their computers. Yes, your UMPC/MID most likely has the grunt to handle up to and including games for the N64. The trouble lies in obtaining copies of those games; after all, you won't be able to simply plug that old cartridge into a USB port (well, at least not until this guy starts selling his custom adapters)! Those game files — called ROMs — simply aren't available through legitimate channels, so unfortunately I can't point you in the right direction. Your usual search tools may be able to help you here.
Jay is Games
Our first stop proudly announces what they are about: turnips. Err, I mean games. Jay is Games (JiG) is typically updated between two to four times each day, introducing readers to games from all sorts of genres: action, puzzle, social commentary — the list goes on. One thing to point out is JiG's theme days: each Monday JiG will suggest some games for your iPhone/iPod Touch; Wednesdays always bring an "escape the room"-style game; and weekends are when you'll find the most downloadables. However, what really makes JiG shine are the healthy comment sections. Here you'll find interesting critiques, recommendations, and tips for when you're just plain stuck!
Note: JiG leans more towards Flash-based games. As you may already know, Flash is CPU-dependent; witness HD YouTube clips going into slideshow mode on Atom-powered devices. As a result, some Flash games may play poorly — or not at all. If you are attempting to play a puzzle or point-and-click game, you will probably be fine. However, you may want to wait until you get to the office to play anything involving quick reaction times.
The screenshot for JiG leads us to our next source of quality games, PopCap. The 800-pound gorilla of casual gaming, PopCap has spawned quite a few famous titles; you may have heard of Bejeweled, Peggle, and Bookworm Adventures. In fact, their games catalog has been likened to a pantry of fruit-flavored crack cocaine. Folks who strive to get "just a couple" seconds faster in each round of Minesweeper that they play, I'm sorry. PopCap has both Flash-based and downloadable versions of many of its titles, with the former behaving as free trials for the latter while still being fairly substantial themselves.
One of the games I recently finished is Plants vs. Zombies (PvZ). It's not going to win any Nobel Prizes, but PvZ is good ol' zombie-exterminating fun. As the name implies, your goal is to defend your house from waves of the undead with naught but a variety of flora and sundry gardening tools. Silly? Yes. Simple? Not a chance. While PvZ starts out fairly easy, it doesn't take too long before one encounters rotting businessmen, zombie dolphins, and undead bobsled teams. Don't worry, though; you'll have watermelon catapults and exploding potatoes on your side. There's also a plethora of mini-games and hidden content to toy around with. When you get tired of that, you can grow your own in-game garden! Incidentally, PvZ runs very smoothly on my Viliv S5.
Good Old Games
The final stop on our tour is Good Old Games (GOG). Here is where you'll find a whole lotta classics as well as quite a few underappreciated titles at very low prices — Beyond Good and Evil, anyone? If you've been around a few mouse pads, GOG is a great way to revisit old favorites. For those who have gamed very little or mostly on consoles, it's a great source of highly entertaining games that are new . . . to you. Some of GOG's selling points that may be of interest: their games can be purchased from any country and they don't add DRM.
For the most part, your hardware should have the power to play many of these games, though you may need to fiddle a bit with the program to get it to run smoothly. It's best to start with the lowest video quality possible before slowly cranking it up to find decent-looking visuals that are still playable. Of course, anything requiring a discrete graphics card probably won't work. People with UMPCs or other devices that have a GMA 500 graphics set may want to do a little research before purchasing. Thankfully, GOG has pretty good customer service; on the one occasion that I was unable to run a game, they were very timely in providing a refund. The game was Fallout, for those who are interested.
Oh, one other thing: in most first person shooters, the program calculates where you're aiming by tracking relative mouse movement, not by absolute position. Tapping on a touchscreen to target and fire in Quake 3 and shooter games will not give you an easy hit. Instead, most of the time all that will occur is that your viewpoint will suddenly change (and get you killed as a result ). So don't bother!
As I mentioned before, this is merely the tip of the gaming iceberg.
Two other reputable digital stores are Amazon.com's Game Downloads and Valve's Steam. Both have very large software catalogs that continue to expand. Both offer ways to try out their wares; Amazon's system allows you 30 minutes to putter around in each game, while you can often find standalone demos in Steam. You'll also often find huge discounts on Steam titles during the weekends. Unfortunately, both do require the installation of proprietary software. Also, it's a little harder to sift through and find games on Steam that aren't just for monster gaming rigs. Keep an eye on the price; it will often clue you in.
Well, this post has gone on long enough. I hope this entry will help you out the next time you need to procrastinate for another half-hour. If you know of any other gaming resources that are suited for UMPCs/MIDs, please share them in the comments.
Time for me to get back to Unreal Tournament…
Guest Contributor Steven Law is not a Nobel Prize-winning author, not a cosmonaut, and not a three-time Tour de France winner. When not researching a cure for Dusselheim B Disorder and not climbing the mountains near his home in Kilimanjaro National Park, he cannot be found tirelessly campaigning for the preservation of the passenger pigeon's natural habitat.