Part 1 of 4 Part Blog Mini Series on Porting your Game to Mobile
Martine Spaans has written a 4 part comprehensive article for our blog on porting Web games to Mobile. She is the owner of Tamalaki Mobile Publishing (http://www.tamalaki.com/) and freelance consultant in the field of casual gaming and online marketing. Martine has 7 years of gaming experience under her belt, which can be considered as quite a lot in our young industry. In previous roles she was Senior Licensing Manager for Spil Games, heading the Online Marketing department at the Ubisoft studio Blue Byte and as Chief Marketing Officer at the mobile social gaming network Gramble. While Tamalaki Publishing has only been around for 6 months she already had some successes like a #1 hit on Nook, a #10 paid app on Amazon and multiple games in the top 100 new free charts on GooglePlay. iOS soon to follow…
When porting your game to mobile a few basic elements need to be taken into consideration, regarding screen size, performance, controls and the mobile audience that you have one shot to impress.
A while ago I was talking to a befriended game developer who asked me if I could have a look at his turn-based RPG. It was a Flash game he was considering porting to mobile. Before long I was writing an email the size of an essay. In the process, I realized that the information in that email could be useful to other (indie) developers as well, so I wrote it all down in several articles which will be posted over the coming weeks.
Of course, it all sounds differently when it’s not about YOUR game specifically, but about some game publishing rules in general. Therefore I will do my best to make this article as hands-on as possible. Let’s start at the beginning, when you are actually building a mobile game.
When you have a bunch of games originally made in Flash for desktop, you have to consider a few basic elements when porting your game to mobile:
You are Designing for a Small Screen
If your game contains a lot of small details on screen it can still work on tablets, but for a small mobile screen maybe not so much. Imagine how much it would frustrate your player if they want to tap the button for upgrading a building and instead they tap the small delete button next to it.
Too Much Performance?
So many devices, so many different hardware setups! If your game is performance heavy, marking it only suitable for certain faster devices when publishing it in the Appstore. However, players usually don’t read these details before buying an app. Result? The game might frequently or run on an unacceptably low frame rate. Players will then blame the game and possibly write a bad.
It really pays to invest in game performance. Make sure the game runs smoothly. Stores like Google Play don’t accept APK’s over 50MB! If you can manage it, try to keep your app under 20MB. For iOS, this allows your app to be downloaded without a WiFi connection. And not to forget, the AIR Captive Runtime will add nearly 10MB to your game.
Controls- A New World of Possibilities
If your desktop shooter needs WASD, Z, X, C, Space and mouse controls, you really want to re-invent your control scheme for mobile. On Desktop, game controls should not be too complicated because people only have 10 fingers.
On Mobile, people actually only have two fingers. Because of this, you might want to automate certain controls. For instance, you could enable automated aiming so the player only has to walk and shoot. Or you could auto-enable shooting, so the player only needs to walk and aim. Play around with ideas like these and determine what would be the best balanced experience for your game. Of course, this also depends very much on your audience. Are you targeting hardcore shooter fans, or is it a cute and cuddly shooter for kids?
Don’t feel limited. A touch device can also bring a whole range of new possibilities with it as well. And I don’t just mean the gyroscope. Not everyone wants to attract attention moving their tablet about like a steering wheel. Besides, in a real car, the world around you doesn’t rotate like it will with the tablet.
Touch devices also offer more subtle control mechanics. On a desktop, our movements are translated from the brain > to the hand > to the mouse > to the screen. With mobile devices, you can cut out one step. Now controls that involve timing feel much easier and natural. Try playing Whack-a-Mole on a desktop and on a tablet. Which one felt more natural and less frustrating?
Gestures are another thing. Why was Fruit Ninja or Draw Something such a hit on mobile? Was the same thing less likely on desktop? Same reason why digital artists use a Wacom tablet for drawing instead of a mouse! Does your fighting game use combo controls like Z+X? Why not let the player draw a “Z” on the screen with their finger to do the same?
The Mobile Market and Audience are Different
Web games are easy to launch stealthy, test, update, test again only when you are finally satisfied do you need to consider promoting your game. In the mobile market, you really have one chance to launch the game. Every game ends up in the app store’s new-list. This is the best moment to push out your promotions to make the biggest impact. If it turns out your game is still buggy, you will have wasted a great opportunity. People will likely give your game a bad review and your game will never recover from that first bad impression. Be 100% sure to test everything before you launch on several devices. I will explain more about this in the follow-up article about Marketing.
But first, my next article is about Monetization. I’ll sum up the different kinds of in-game monetization and what might or might not be suitable for your game or your strategy as a game studio. Stay tuned!
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