Game Development Reference
Touch screens are increasingly common among newer and higher-end mod-
browser. At this point, the phone takes on more of the characteristics of a handheld
device such as the PSP or Nintendo DS.
These days, mobile phones with monochrome displays are rare, at least in North
America, but elsewhere in the world they are still available at the bottom end of
the market. However, all but the most high-end phones offer much narrower color
palettes than current-generation handhelds, home consoles, and computers. Camera-
equipped phones have displays capable of handling more colors, but there may some-
times be hardware issues restricting games and other non-camera applications to a
The game developer cannot count on having anything but the most basic fonts and
character sets—even bold and italic may not be available. On lower-end phones, a
line of text can be as little as 16 characters—including spaces and punctuation. A
with characters 6-8 pixels wide. Fancier text may have to be created as artwork,
which is prohibitively expensive for anything except game titles and maybe—just
Most mobile phone users do not put as much into playing games on their phone
as they would on a home console, a computer, or even a handheld gaming device.
Instead, mobile phone games are most commonly regarded as something to kill time:
on the bus or subway, while waiting in line, or at similar times. It is a displacement
activity, which can and will be interrupted at any time when something else requires
the player's attention. Therefore, a game's narrative cannot unfold over an extended
period of play—unless the game allows saves, which (a) cannot be counted on, and
(b) may restrict the number of platforms on which the game can run.
Despite the fact that a mobile phone is primarily an audio device, game developers
can't count on having large amounts of game audio—voiceovers, conversations, and
the like—or even sophisticated sound effects. Again, memory restrictions are the
problem—usually, there simply isn't enough memory to accommodate the necessary
audio files. Things may be easier with a phone that is also an MP3 player, provided
it is possible to access the MP3 memory for a game that is being played on the
phone—and that cannot be taken for granted. And again, by restricting the game to
such high-end units, developers are shrinking the potential market drastically.