World of Warcraft Armory charms the iPhone

If World of Warcraft wasn't addictive enough on your PC or Mac, now you can carry a piece of it around with you on your iPhone. Beautiful graphics and rock solid performance make this one a winner for checking stats, planning raids, and more. An active WoW account is required.

Some friends at work recently introduced me to World of Warcraft (WoW), a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) that runs on PCs and Macs. I've been playing these kinds of games for years, most recently Fly For Fun (FlyFF) but I've been wary to try new ones because I have a strong tendency to get addicted to them, invest lots of money and time, and end up with nothing much to show for it.

I did try Wizard 101 with my kids for a month or so, but was turned off by the cost model (you get to certain points in the game where you just cannot continue without whipping out the ol' credit card).

So it was with some trepidation that I created a WoW account. The addictive nature of the genre is still there, but it's tempered by the level caps and relative ease of leveling. Experience is gained through quests instead of grinding away at monsters. For example on FlyFF one of my kids recently got a reward (a special title in his display name) because he had killed 10,000 of a certain kind of monster. It took him weeks of sitting in one area pressing the same sequence of buttons over and over killing the same monsters for hours at a time.

Besides experience points, levels, and fancy armor, one of the things you can do in WoW is to earn Achievements. Currently there are nearly 1,000 achievements you can win by doing things like reaching certain levels or making friends with certain races. Comparing achievements with your buddies online adds a whole other level of competition to the game. Which brings us finally to the iPhone app.

World of Warcraft Armory started as a web site where you could log in with your WoW userid and password and see all your achievements, weapons, stats, abilities, events, and more. Blizzard, the makers of WoW, recently released a native iPhone version called the Mobile Armory, which is available on iTunes now for free.

Using the native app is much faster and more convenient than the Web application. The graphics are sharp and true to the game, and when it does need to contact the server for info (for example to get the stats of an item you just selected) the interaction is quick because only a small amount of data is transferred. So far I haven't noticed a single hiccup or crash with this program, which is more than I can say for 99% of the other iPhone apps I've evaluated.

One cool feature is the ability to instantly select any member of your guild and view all the items they're wearing. Or if you know a player's name, you can search for them. Bookmarking makes them easier to find the next time. It sure beats trying to catch up with a friend in-game and doing an Inspect command while you're standing next to them. Now you can see why they keep trouncing you in duels at your leisure and plot your revenge.

Unfortunately for me and my writing deadlines, WoW Mobile Armory will make WoW even more addictive than it is now. About the only thing missing is access to inventory items and auctioning. A port to Android and Blackberry would also be welcome.

ZDNet Dev Connection rating: 9.0 (Highly Recommended)

Someday we'll be able to play 3D MMORPGs directly on our mobile devices. Until then, Mobile Armory is the next best thing.

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