PC gaming isn’t the only thing that has some rules that all developers should abide by. Mobile gaming has plenty of gripes with people as well, and so I believe it is time some commandments shall be written.
Of course, I won’t be as fancy as Kirk was in his post, though I’ll do my best to hit some of the problems that are common with mobile gaming. And while I only have experience with the iOS ecosystem (I own an iPhone 6S+ and an iPad mini 3, so I’ll be using those two devices as my focal points), I’m willing to bet Android has many of these same problems.
These aren’t written in any particular order, by the way.
1. Thou shalt have support for both iPhone and iPad users in thy same app.
It is unsavory to offer two different apps that provide the same game to different devices. Most people have a phone and a tablet; there’s no reason to separate iPhone and iPad versions into two different apps. Not to mention, it costs twice the money.
2. Thou shalt not relegate one’s save data of any kind to one device.
When you delete an app, it warns the user that “deleting this app will also delete its data” without any way of restoring said data. This is why we have things like iCloud and Google Drive - so we can save our data directly to the cloud, and sync that data to multiple devices (for example, you start a game on the phone at work, then come home and finish it on the big ol’ iPad Pro). Problem is, there’s next to no games right now that actually utilize it. Also, let’s stop with the one-time data transfer mechanisms that some F2P games have.
3. If thou offer thy games at a price, thou shalt forbid the usage of microtransactions.
Square Enix games typically run $15. Some of them have microtransactions. That, in my opinion, is about the same as offing them in $60 AAA games - unnecessary. So stop it.
4. Thou shalt state thee file size at thy vendor, in truth and in full.
Tales of Link and the new Kingdom Hearts mobile game occupy 1GB each after in-game download. Miitomo and Sonic Runners occupy 500MB each, also after in-game downloads. Rayman Adventures occupies 400MB. The problem? You are never told of any of these file sizes on the App Store page, or in-game until after the download is complete and check storage in Settings. People need to know this stuff before downloading - not only so they can watch their storage space, but also their data usage too! It needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
5. Thou shalt provide a method of clearing excess data.
Sometimes people will also want to delete that download data without deleting save data. There’s no way to do that unless developers implement it themselves, and so far that’s only happened in Sonic Runners. Not to mention any other data that might get accumulated.
6. Thou shalt not force people to complete thy tutorial in order to change options.
Pretty much every game I mentioned above is guilty, but Destiny of Spirits on Vita was by far the worst offender. Seriously, if there’s an option I need to change, LET ME FUCKING CHANGE IT. Don’t EVER make me go through your damn tutorial first!
7. Thou shalt ensure that thy game continues to work in thy future.
iOS updates happen every year. And every time they happen, it usually changes code that developers may have coded their games around. When a major update is looming, make sure your game works on it (that’s why Apple provides developer betas) because if it doesn’t, then you’re going to come across as lying thieves on the App Store, allowing people to buy the game only to discover that it doesn’t work on the newest version of iOS. (You guys have no idea how much I wanna play Drakerider on my iPhone 6S+, but I can’t because Square Enix hasn’t fixed the bloody game!) There is a special place in hell for those who can’t be bothered to keep their games up and running on newer OS releases, yet continue to display it for sale on the App Store.
8. Thou shalt make touch controls reasonable and fun.
We understand that developers want to make traditional games on mobile devices, and that such devices have a severe lack of physical buttons. We also understand that, in such circumstances, virtual buttons might be necessary. However, that does not mean you can make the buttons so goddamn big that we can’t see the onscreen characters, especially if said game is in violation of commandment 9. That said, thou shalt also provide the ability to reposition and resize the buttons to accommodate users needs.....so long as the game also follows commandment 6.
9. Thou shalt optimize thy game for use on future hardware releases.
Keeping in line with commandment 7, we also see new iOS devices come out every year, and with them bigger screens, faster processing power, and more RAM, among other things. Just like PC gamers do, mobile gamers desire to play games at their device’s native resolution, not a lower one. We do not want blurry graphics, or games that appear to be made for older devices but enlarged. We want ones that take advantage of our shiny new hardware. And while we understand that it may not be possible to have the game ready by day 1 of the new hardware’s release, thou shalt make such update available within a reasonable amount of time.
10. Thou shalt not steal.
Remember Flappy Bird? No? Well....how about that one game that looks like it?Or that other game? Well, I remember. I enjoyed Flappy Bird, but all those other games that looked exactly like it...well, sucked. You know why? Because they’re all the same damn game. Don’t flood the App/Play Store with clones of wildly successful games. It’s confusing to the consumer and can be damning to the original developers. And while we’re at it, I haven’t forgotten the fact that Flappy Bird itself rips off a bunch of assets from Mario. Quite frankly, I’m surprised Nintendo hasn’t submitted a takedown notice to Apple....
The ONLY exception to this rule is Gameloft’s attempts to adapt mainstream AAA console games to mobile devices. Because despite their similarities, they work out well IMHO.
And there you have it, my 10 commandments that I think all serious mobile game developers should abide by. If they do so, I think mobile gaming will be better...and perhaps be taken much more seriously.
I’ll see you next time.