Ouya and GameStick remain basically flawed – stop trying to shove a TV into my mobile games.

Look at this review of Ravensword – for a mobile title, the amount of polish is impressive. This is very near or at the level at which one would call a smartphone / tablet game “AAA.” The visuals are of a high quality (generally), the game is pretty original (as original as a 3rd person sort-of-medieval open world RPG can get), and the amount of content seems perfectly reasonable given the price and scope of the game. This really is about as good as it gets for a “serious” open world RPG on Android.

I would never, ever want to play this on my television. I wouldn’t even want to play it on my computer monitor. The demands of the game’s open world rendering mean major sacrifices on terrain and foliage textures, and the limited power of mobile GPU’s also heavily limit the amount of active character models you can render at any one time. Everyone loves to talk about ‘console-quality’ graphics being just on the horizon for mobile, but that’s just not true. You can be tricked into seeing something that is approaching original Xbox / Gamecube / PS2 levels, but you are being tricked: it’s only because you’re inside a dark room with a few bad guys, no shadows (or very simple ones), no dynamic lighting, lame physics, and dead-simple wall textures that it looks at all “good.”

This game (Ravensword) doesn’t hide the capability of mobile GPUs. Sure, some things look pretty OK, but a lot of the environmental stuff (eg, the walls, trees, ground) could pass for Nintendo 64 textures.

The alternative is the Infinity Blade approach – 1 enemy, small, controlled environment. Yes, everything looks pretty, but it’s only because the GPU is focusing on rendering a few complex elements, as opposed to 50. And who wants to play something like Infinity Blade on their TV? Not me – it’s much more convenient to sit back with a tablet. Fact aside that games like this were designed from the ground up for touch, and its inherent imprecision. Playing most mobile games with a gamepad kind of sucks – you expect a lot more control, precision, and customization than you actually get.

The sad (but also good!) truth is that many games can be simplified such as to be enjoyable and playable on a smartphone or tablet. A tablet is more portable than an Ouya or a Gamestick will ever be, and it’s a lot more versatile, ubiquitous, and easy to use. These companies are trying to ‘reinvent’ the game console on the notion that consumers can be convinced that many of the reasons they play mobile games (convenience, ease of access, portability) should be sacrificed in order to use a controller and a television.

I don’t need a controller and a 60″ screen to play the DS port of Final Fantasy III – and I don’t want those things. I prefer it on my tablet. It’s more laid back. It’s more convenient. Yes, 15 years ago, you might have wanted to play a game like that on a TV – but if someone gave you the option to play it on a 7″ screen using a touchscreen for controls on a device with always-on internet and no cartridges or CDs, guess what: that would sound god damn amazing.

This game just adds to my point: you can make good mobile games meant for mobile devices. This one needs a bit of work, apparently, but it doesn’t change the fact that the TV and controller really aren’t what people want. People want good games, and developers are adapting to the medium they want them on.

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