Game Development Reference
There are literally hundreds of makes and models of mobile phones on the market,
all with different specifications. In order to achieve any kind of market penetration,
game developers have to cater to multiple platforms. Porting a game for twenty or
more different phones is not uncommon.
As you will see in the following paragraphs, there is a huge difference between a
game targeted exclusively at high-end devices like the iPhone and one aimed at the
more limited phones that (at the time of writing, at least) make up the bulk of the
market. A writer should always make sure of line and character limits and any other
constraints before starting a project.
The vast majority of mobile phones are optimized for their primary function—to
send and receive voice and text messages—rather than as game platforms. This is
changing with the iPhone and its competitors, but the heart of the market remains
with basic and mid-range phones. Processing power and memory are both limited, as
they are with many handheld devices, and phone games suffer additional restrictions
because they are not the primary function of the device.
Unlike most other game platforms, too, games are downloaded to a phone in
their entirety. Every one of the game's assets, be it code, art, text, or audio, has to
fit in the phone's memory. That means that every asset has to earn its place in the
download. For example, a narrative sequence will almost certainly be cut if doing so
allows another level, weapon, enemy class, or other gameplay-extending feature to be
included in the game.
Memory restrictions mean that mobile phone games have to be incredibly small com-
pared to games for other platforms. At the time of writing, the new releases on the
Sprint Nextel website had download sizes ranging from just over 100 kB to almost
500 kB—including all the code and art as well as the writing.
The controls on a mobile phone are unique, and again they are optimized for the
device's primary function. This is as relevant to writing as it is to game design. Al-
though it is theoretically possible to allow text input in a game using the same system
as text messaging, the restricted processing power and memory—not to mention the
small-team, fast-turnaround nature of almost all phone game development—mean
that it is impractical to develop sophisticated text parsers. At the same time, the
restricted screen size makes it difficult to display multiple-response options in a con-
versationtree(likethoseusedin Monkey Island -style adventure games, for example).
Controls for handling conversations may well be restricted to “Yes” and “No” inputs
once the rest of the game's controls are assigned.