Tips for making your first Android game
Jon Hare, CEO of Tower Studios, is a bona fide games industry legend; co-founder of Sensible Software, of Sensible Soccer fame.
He has spent recent years making mobile games – most recently, the Android version of Sensible Software's Speedball 2He has a wealth of dos and don'ts for those toying with the idea of making an Android game – many of which chime with Simon Read's experience.
Think about your control system
Hare says that if you've got a lovely great touch-screen like that on the GALAXY Note II, you need to use it: "It's most important for young designers to understand that you're making a touch-screen game: there's no joypad or buttons.
"Even virtual D-Pads are not a good thing to put in a game. D-Pads are a hangover from console games, and you should never design originally for them – it's a bit like having a mouse emulator on a PlayStation. Also, you have to consider physicality: you don't want to stay cramped up in front of it a small screen for long periods of time.
"So you have to design the game around snacking-type gameplay. The most successful games are where the concentrated input per move lasts one or two seconds. The ability to drop a game at any point – when you're getting off the bus or going to the toilet – then resume from where you left off is essential for an Android game. You have to design around that."
Those are lessons that the likes of Angry Birds, New Star Soccer, Cut The Rope and Bejewelled 2 all took to heart.
Don't expect instant success, and collaborate
As Read's experience shows, you can't walk into the world of mobile games and expect to take it instantly by storm. Hare has this to say: "To go through the process of making a game, it is easier to do it with someone else, for two reasons.
There aren't many people who have good art and programming skills. And it's quite motivating to have another person to work with. Game development is a lot about momentum and caring, and feeding off people.
"The other thing is to not expect anything first time. Take Rovio, for example. Angry Birds is the 52nd game they made. From the perspective of someone just starting: just get something out there that proves that you're up to it. The big similarity between the old days and now is the ability to have a one, two or three-man team to make a game and get it out there. That wasn't available for years and years of console development."
Make it free-to-play
Hare continues: "The majority of Android games are free-to-play. That alters some of the way you view progression and unlocking.
The most successful games, number one, have a great game mechanic that people want to play and number two, things that are going to monetise them – for example, if it's a shooting game, you can get so far but you know that if you have some extra ammo, you'll be able to finish the job off properly.
"The key is to make that uppermost in the player's focus. It's very much like a fruit machine – they say that you've got a two or three-second window. The purchases that work best in games are when you've got that feeling you have to perform instantly."
Shades of retro games
Finally, Hare suggests that with your first game, at least, you should stick to 2D, rather than 3D graphics. Which, of course, brings to mind the early days of gaming.
You could do worse than seek inspiration from some of the classics from yesteryear. Such as PGZ Space Invaders (Adam Pigg, 65p), which takes one of the first, best-loved games but reinvents it for touch-screens and accelerometers. Atari's Greatest Hits (Atari, Free), should also provide your game-design sensibilities with succour.
Then, when you've got something under your belt and out there, you can perhaps thinking about adding some sophistication. Like the unbelievably clever and addictive Minecraft – Pocket Edition (Mojang, £4.99) or the hilarious. Plants Vs Zombies (EA Swiss, 99p). So get programming and best of luck.
Also check out on Your Mobile Life: