Mobile gaming has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to the ‘core gamer’ fraternity and unfortunately it’s regarded as a kind of vanilla experience that only people who don’t know much about games can enjoy. Of course this is something of a shame and really it needn’t be the case at all – there’s no reason why a phone game can’t be just as exciting and gripping as a game on a computer so what’s going wrong?
Some might argue that the nature of mobile gaming is what prevents it from being as fully realized as console gaming. Sure the processing power of these devices is typically much lower, and of course the size of the screens is a drastically reduced as well. But low powered gaming has been shown to be potentially very artistic by many an indie developer in recent times and to even look very stylish. Likewise small screens and smaller processors have never stopped formats like the Gameboy or the PSP from producing some stunning titles. If a black and white brick of a games console like the original Gameboy can have such classic hits as the Mr Game and Watch Series, the original Tetris, Soloman’s Club, and countless Kirby, Mario and Wario games, then where is this kind of innovation on mobile platforms?
How to Fix the Problem
The problem is that mobile gaming typically is aimed at a more mainstream and casual audience – it’s aimed at Mum’s and girls on the tube to work and it’s designed to be the kind of fun you can dip into and throw away. However the games that aim to do this (like Cut the Rope – no offense) seem to think that this means the games need to be dull, cutesy and slow paced. Of course that’s not the case and if a game is enjoyable and addictive then it’s going to appeal to a wide audience much more than something with a cute character that’s ultimately boring.
Here are some guidelines that mobile games developers could use to make their games more engaging…
Style: As I mentioned earlier, many small independent developers have shown through Xbox Live and Steam that it’s possible to make a game look beautiful and cool even with low powered graphics. Pixel art has potential to look very stylized and the right character designs and colour schemes can make scenes that transcend their limitations. There are a lot of ‘neon’ games on iTunes, but something a little more creative wouldn’t go amiss and would be sure to stand out from the crowded marketplace.
Variation: There are some games on the market that start out very promisingly but then quickly reveal themselves to be incredibly shallow. Take the game ‘Canabalt’ which has you leaping across roof tops, jumping through windows and disturbing flocks of birds all while wearing a cool suit. It starts out great but quickly you realise that the game consists of just timed presses of the jump button with an infinitely looping background and random series of objects. Imagine if the developer had taken the time to program in some diverse levels and to have him running through explosions and swinging through the jungle so that you never knew what was happening. It would be amazing.
Controls: There are some games that we can’t really complain about on iTunes in terms of variation and graphics – simply because they’re direct ports of games we know and love like Sonic the Hedgehog and GTA 3. The problem this time though is that these games were never designed for touch screen controls and so they’re fiddly to use. Games like Canabalt and of course Angry Birds make use of the touch screen in order to make this a bonus rather than a irritation. Be imaginative and think about building games from the ground up which are built with the touchscreen as an integral feature of the gameplay.
Robbie Crowe is a tech blogger who has shared his knowledge on how to jailbreak the iphone 4 safely through his blogs