We all have played Bejeweled, Final Fantasy and Pac man at one time or the other. These games are the jewels of different platform, from arcade to console. But most of you reading this article might have played the same games on your smartphone or tablet.
Jason Kapalka, founder of PopCap Games, in his keynote at the PLANET OF THE APPS EUROPE 2011, shared some inevitable pitfalls developers overlook. According to Jason
…there are two main reasons to develop an app based on an existing title: to benefit from an existing fan base and brand recognition; or as a development shortcut based on existing programming work.
PopCap’s Bejeweled was identified as a case of the former, while its Plants vs Zombies falls into the latter category.
It has to feel instantly good. There is no learning curve,”
If we’d released the first version of Plants vs Zombies we tried, with its original controls, I don’t think it would have been played by anybody, because they would have rapidly found it to be difficult and frustrating.
He also added that
….consider device screen size as the most important factor, rather than being distracted by rapidly increasing screen resolutions.
Regardless of resolution, there is only so much screen a user can see or touch when playing a game – you need to look at the worse case scenario…
Consider Pac man, the retro game that changed the world was never imagined without a joy stick. That was how it was developed, keeping the joystick in mind. The same user experience can not be duplicated on the modern devices which are distancing themselves from buttons, let alone joysticks.
The mantra for smartphone success is that the game should be short and not long. Citing the example of Final Fantasy, he explained
Final Fantasy is a great game, but it didn’t do particularly well on the iPhone largely because it was just not the sort of game that people with iPhones wanted. They didn’t want to sit down for a 40-hour role-play, they wanted something they could play in one minute intervals.
The emphasis should be put on reinventing rather than porting. He also warned developers of the tablet trap due to two reasons:
…smartphone market has the real volumes…
…A smartphone game can become a tablet game, but a tablet game cannot become a smartphone game
The real example provided by him was when they decided to deliver the same user experience across all mobile devices for Bejeweled and Bejeweled Blitz, which is available via Facebook and mobile devices. According to him,
it was a real pain in the ass to keep things in sync
That pretty much explains it.