Friday, March 17, 2017

Kakao releases "Star Player" Android emulator

Kakao has launched a new free full-fledged Android emulator called "Star Player" (별플레이어). Currently there's a Windows PC version for download at ~300MB, and they say a Mac version is coming soon. It's all in Korean, but the set-up is simple so a very basic level is all you need. So if you want a free, powerful Android emulator on your PC, let's check this out.

Promotional image for Kakao's StarPlayer. Image: Yonhap

Gaming on StarPlayer

The app is ostensibly for playing battery- and data-heavy Kakao games that would burn your hands off if you fully immersed yourself. Some of these games are Starcraft-level already. However judging from the FAQs, you should be able to use it to play other games too.

They also include some warnings like of course not every game will work with this, especially those that aren't optimized for large-screen viewing. And other paid games or in-app purchases may not work right. Finally they recommend PC hardware of at least an Core i5 with 4GB RAM. Like I said, some of these Kakao games are intense. Koreans don't screw around when it comes to hardcore gaming.

Here are the screenshots via Kakao showing the process.

Set-up process for StarPlayer. Image: Kakao

Installing and using StarPlayer

I tried it myself. The process was fairly painless.

  1. Download the installer and run it. I had that "jumbled text" encoding problem, so had to follow my own advice to fix it so I could know what I was clicking. Once installed, the program will sit in your system tray until called on. During the installation you can set it to auto start-up when the computer starts-up or not. 
  2. Log-in to the StarPlayer site with your Kakao account (*required*)
  3. You can now browse their game list. Find one you like (I went with 병아리 키우기 because that's more my style/speed) and click the big 게임하기 button.
  4. Chrome will ask you if you want to open StarPlayer-type links in StarPlayer. Say yes.
  5. StarPlayer launches in Windows.

Now the game will need to download into your emulator via the Google Play Store, meaning first you need to set-up your emulator just like you would with a first-time use of a new Android phone. Here's the emulator in action on my laptop.

Screenshot of StarPlayer emulator running on my computer

Honestly, the emulator was very sluggish on my old Pentium laptop. Now I understood their i5 spec. It's not just the games: this thing seems a near full Android OS. It took at least 30 minutes to go through all this at sluggish speed, and I ended up needing to get to sleep, but not before I got the full Play Store working:

Screenshot of Google Play Store on the Kakao StarPlayer emulator

So overall, it looks like I really only needed my Kakao account to launch that game to launch the emulator. Once that was done, I could fool around with the emulator all I wanted. The catch is that you can't launch the emulator stand-alone (at least I couldn't get it to open). Bookmark a game page in your browser and 게임하기 it anytime you want to open the emulator. With Play Store access like this, it looks like you can basically do whatever you want from there on out. So go play around with it and explore.

Final thoughts

This looks pretty promising. It's nice that a major corporation like Kakao has released this. Sure there are plenty of other Android emulators out there, but mostly from individual developers and modders and you can't be sure how stable or secure it is. But for the love of God, follow their recommendation about a Core i5 processor or higher. Otherwise the lag will drive you crazy.

And once again, download it here:

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