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World of Warcraft Column: The Second Screen

By Reza Lackey on February 25, 2013

A growing trend in the entertainment industry is the concept of a second screen, or companion devices for media consumption. The term second screen commonly refers to a smartphone or tablet device that displays information relevant to what you are watching on a television. A good example of this tech is what Disney has done with some of their more recent blu-ray releases. Tron: Legacy for example allows you to see storyboards, concept art and behind the scenes photos and videos of the scene you are currently watching.

Could a second screen benefit World of Warcraft?

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Two Types of Second Screen

In the gaming space, second screen experiences are beginning to grow with Wii U’s GamePad controller, Microsoft’s SmartGlass technology and the recently announced PlayStation app for the upcoming PlayStation 4. Second screens for gaming can offer such things as inventory management, maps and character stats all while keeping the the main screen focused on the game and free of various UI elements.

There are two ways of looking at second screen experiences as they relate to gaming. The first is having a second screen display relevant, real-time data as a user plays through a game as in the aforementioned examples. Second screen technology can also be used as a way to extend the gameplay experience beyond the keyboard and mouse by offering users with a mobile, remote connection to their game.

The later already exists for World of Warcraft in the form of the Mobile Armory app for iOS and Android devices. This app allows players to perform many game related actions such as managing auctions, checking the in-game calendar and chatting with guild members. While these are handy tools for casual and more avid players, there is still a tremendous amount of potential for this technology and it’s use with World of Warcraft.

Remote Play

Let’s start with the obvious: Pet battles. When this feature was first announced during the unveiling of Mists of Pandaria, there was a tremendous amount of talk about this being a great mobile app or addition to the Mobile Armory. The gameplay mechanics that make up the pet battle system lend themselves perfectly to work as a mobile experience whether against other players or just AI. Perhaps the mobile version could have added gameplay elements such as achievements, automated tournaments or even a Tamagotchi type system where you have to care for a specific pet.

How about the ability to send and receive game mail? Maybe a buddy of mine shoots me a text asking if I have any spare Golden Lotus so he can craft a Potion of Luck to down before running some dailies. It would be great if I could check my inventory and send my friend the materials he needs all while walking down the street.

Or what if I could craft the Potion of Luck from my mobile device and then mail them off? How about crafting in general? How cool would it be if we could craft items, and then sell them or trade them with other players without needing to wake your computer? Let’s take this one step further and look at the possibilities of the more tedious secondary professions, fishing and archeology. If there was some way to perform and level up these skills while I’m waiting at the airport, there is much greater chance I would use them, especially across alts.

How about maintaining your farm? Checking in on your crops or planting new ones - maybe even having a few more plots of soil to plant some extra seeds? It would be pretty rad if I could see what my Enigma seeds blossomed into while I wait two lifetimes at the DMV.

Let’s get a little crazy now. How about being able to perform some daily quests through mini-games? Obviously they can’t reproduce the full quests on a mobile platform, but perhaps there could be mini-games that award small amounts of reputation, valor points or even Lesser Charms?

The idea of being able to perform any of the aforementioned actions on a mobile platform is really exciting. This is because while you’re on the go, these tasks can be performed throughout your day where you are looking to pass time, thus making them feel less of a chore and more of quick gaming fix. This would also free up in-game time for players, once they login they can jump to what they really want to do and not worry about tasks that have already been taken care of on their lunch break or commute.

All of this may seem like a stretch and even controversial as it would give players with secondary devices a slight advantage with their game. Even so, the idea of such abilities on a mobile platform is enticing and could let us take further advantage of all that World of Warcraft has to offer, in one way or another. The problem though is that the world could potentially become barren as there would be less players running around. People would log in, pop a queue, and then log out having barely been seen outside of an instance. There would have to be some sort of restriction on how theses systems would work with respect to the actual game. For example, if you want to be able cook food on your mobile device, your character would have to log out of the game near a cooking fire.

It’s worth mentioning that many players already use a secondary screen while playing in the form of a second monitor. I remember back in the day doing quests while thottbot.com was up on my other display so I could figure out where the heck that one thing I needed was. But now it would be really cool if I could throw the in-game dungeon map complete with loot tables to my iPad sitting in front of me or even see who received what loot on that last boss.

Behind the Scenes

As I mentioned earlier with how Disney utilizes second screen devices with their blu-ray’s, it would be neat if I could see concept art or fly-throughs from early builds of the dungeon I was currently running on my tablet. This could be a unique way to motivate players to go explore the world and see how it all came together.

There are tons of ways Blizzard could utilize a second screen and I have no doubt that they are exploring this. I would expect that their long term Battle.net 2.0 plans include mobile platforms as well as continuing to enhance the existing Mobile Armory.

How would you like Blizzard to utilize second screen devices for World of Warcraft? Do you think the option of some sort of remote play would detract from the gameplay experience or give the game a hearty quality of life injection? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

This weeks throwback item: Raging Deathbringer

Follow me on Twitter @rezalackey


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