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Old-school gamer discovers joys of UMPC

via Ars Technica
via Ars Technica

I consider “old-school” gaming to be the pen & paper stuff, where you roll dice and track hit points, but I’m old like that. At the end of my gaming days, I used my Tablet PC for rolling dice electronically, tracking my stats onscreen, organizing character notes, and accessing digital game books. Jon Stokes of Ars Technica, on the other hand, has a more high-tech view of “old-school”, citing such games as Baldur’s Gate and Fallout when he rediscovered their awesomeness on a Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC (which he unfortunately only calls a “tablet PC”). A few choice quotes…

…it was as if the RPG gods had created the tablet specifically so that I could reach retro RPG nirvana (or maybe Valhalla, or some outer plane whose name escapes me at the moment).

Thumbstick and directional pad: Samsung actually expects people to do some gaming on these units, so they’ve helpfully included a PSP-style thumbstick on the left, and a directional pad on the right. The [thumbstick] is useful for scrubbing the pointer rapidly across the screen (e.g., when panning across a map to find an item or character); you can also use it to scoot the pointer to a specific location (vs. trying to tap with the stylus), or to click and drag.

If you’ll recall, back when Microsoft was actively pushing their Origami concept, gaming was promoted as one of the selling points. Sadly, that never came to pass as the gaming focus at the time was on making them bigger, better and faster, while the UMPC was mostly on the opposite end. But with the rise of iPhone gaming and the focus on alternate gaming tools, like the Wiimote and Guitar Hero guitar, perhaps the time has come for gaming on mobile PCs. Reading Jon’s story, one gets the impression the UMPC was just a bit too ahead of its time.

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6 Comments

  1. Michael Anderson

    08/19/2009 at 8:01 am

    Personally I love my netbook as a great means of playing classic games like the (real) Fallouts, Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2, Arcanum, Divine Divinity and on and on. Newer models can even handle more recent FPS games like Jedi Knight II and Return to Castle Wolfenstein!

    Reply

  2. Clayton

    08/19/2009 at 8:12 am

    I always felt gypped that there weren’t more tablet PC games. (Never had a UMPC) The only one I managed to find other than Microsoft’s paltry offerings was some sort of tank game… that isn’t even available anymore. -__-

    Thankfully, there are a few games that still work well on tablets even if they weren’t designed for it. Mostly mouse-controlled ones, of course.

    I’ve considered adding a tablet mode to one of my projects…

    Reply

  3. Gavin Miller

    08/19/2009 at 10:34 am

    This is why I never get too hung up on the graphics performance of my PCs, well apart from my desktop which is my main gaming rig.

    I’m working away from home a lot just now and so rediscovering a load of older games that still look and play great using my Macbook Pro and its 9400 graphics – Age of Mythology, COD2, C&C Generals etc. There’s a whole history of great games out there to suit any hardware. :-)

    Reply

  4. SAM

    08/19/2009 at 11:42 am

    Some games seem to be ment to be played with a pen.
    (Most of the Hoyle games play nicely.)

    I’ve tried other games where the cursor just goes crazy when yu touch the digitizer to the screen.

    Reply

  5. Virtuous

    08/20/2009 at 6:44 pm

    I think netbooks have revived the classic game
    market. I love playing Civilization 2 and c-evo on my Samsung Q1 Ultra.

    Reply

  6. Nameless

    08/21/2009 at 7:07 pm

    Never had a UMPC (too big to be a good PDA, too small to be a good Tablet PC, and no active digitizer like the Tablet PCs tend to have), but even computers like these are good for at least a little retro gaming.

    I play the sorts of games you generally find on places like Good Old Games (GOG.com) on my TC1100-the Pentium M 1.1 GHz and GeForce 4 Go 420 can handle most of them fine, and I’m sure that the Samsung Q1 Ultra mentioned above would have no problem, either. (Also, these older games actually play better than most of what we get on the market nowadays. How embarrassing.)

    My only complaint is that a lot of older games (like Fallout 1 and 2) have the cursor spaz out whenever the Wacom pen is brought to the screen. It’s a shame, because they’d play nicely with a pen-on-screen/touch interface.

    That said, I want to see more games specifically DESIGNED to be played with a pen. I’ve seen a few on the Nintendo DS that make interesting use of just a stylus, and even a few desktop Windows games would play well with a pen (one of them being a chalkboard-themed game where you have to draw things on the screen).

    Reply

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