02 May 2009

Cellphone games

I've been thinking more and more lately about trying to enter the cellphone/PDA/PMP game market.
The advantages are quite big:
1. Big companies don't compete, so there is enough room for the small guy.
2. Those devices have limited capabilities, so there is no need for fancy graphic (3D) and anything complicated. Many devices don't have a touchscreen so the control has to be done with just a few buttons.
3. Since the development time is relatively small, you can sell the games for cheap (1-2 bucks), and most people would buy such a game if they like it, since no one cares about 2 bucks.
4. It MIGHT be possible to find some manufacturer to license your game and include it by default on their device. I am thinking mostly of the chinese PMP makers.
5. Porting the game on different platforms should be relatively easy, because we are talking about 2D games here. No external libraries are needed except for Zlib, which can be statically linked with the code, and all I need is to access the frame buffer, read/write files, read the buttons state, and sleep().

The only problem is the different screen sizes and orientations. Probably a different set of artwork would be required for each screen size, so the scene will look the same. I think it is poor taste to resize images on the fly on such limited devices, because it consumes CPU time, and, implicitly, battery.

What I have in mind for my first game is 2D quest game. It will look similar in a way with the Mario games, or the old Dizzy games, but, of course, with better graphics. So you'd be able to move left, right and jump. There will a key for accessing your inventory and using objects. In total, 4 keys, perfect for a cellphone or small device.
This game will use artwork from EL (pre-rendered), and will be based on the EL universe. I'll let you know if/when I have something to show.


Blogger Unknown said...

Touchscreens are the future and they are selling very fast see iPhone and Nokia 5800. I have one of them and I'll not buy a game that use buttons.

Target of touchscreens are exactly the peoples that would play a game like you described.

Would be a mistake to target the game to Blackberries, Nokia E series and other phones with small screens and buttons.

3/5/09 04:10  
Anonymous m said...

the crowd over here is addicted to http://parallelkingdom.com/ since a few days.


3/5/09 08:48  
Blogger Radu said...

"Touchscreens are the future and they are selling very fast see iPhone and Nokia 5800. I have one of them and I'll not buy a game that use buttons."So let's see: I have to chose between a potential client with a touch screen who would not by it, and a potential client without a touch screen who could buy it.
Considering the fact that the devices without touchscreens outnumber those with by a great number (probably at least 10 to 1), I think I have a pretty good strategy.

3/5/09 13:42  
Blogger Radu said...

I really hate the way Blogger formats the posts, the past one came like crap. And the fact that you can't edit the comments doesn't really help either :/

3/5/09 13:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh great - now I gotta get a new cell phone (actually I should have upgraded years ago)

5/5/09 11:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could write it for Android!

11/5/09 21:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting to hear this new development :) Please do update your blog on your progress, ala http://www.30daygame.com/

All the best!

20/5/09 12:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should write it for Android.

21/5/09 22:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to see this come to be.

It's gonna be much MUCH harder than you could ever imagine though Radu.

The BIG problem has to do with (#5) different resolutions. Maybe there is a way to initially re-render sprites for different resolutions? Even then I see problems.

Anywho. I am always amazed when folks prove me wrong. Makes me feel humble ^^


6/6/09 03:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think an interesting idea for cell phone games based on EL would be to put codes for EL in the games. i would provide incentive to buy the games in the first place. big problem would be if people shared codes. but if you could make a way to restict that, it would be a good idea. (say, when you get a code, make the person hasnt already gotten it, and text/call the code to some server that holds the code) just an idea, hope you consider it

6/6/09 20:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screen resolution is not as large a problem as it may seem (using the j2me game api at least) - Draw your HUD items to fit into the corners of the smallest screens, and full screen mode for the game. Large screens will have a larger view, requiring less scrolling, whereas small screens will have the same HUD showing, but less room to fit Tilemaps, Sprites, Layers, etc. J2ME game API handles this nicely for compatibility with multiple devices. I hope that makes sense...

Graphics g;
int bottomOfScreen = g.getHeight();
int rightOfScreen = g.getWidth();

so top right of screen is located at (g.getWidth, 0)

bottom left is at (g.getWidth(), g.getHeight())

Contrary to what Spoilala Cristian said, targetting BlackBerry is exactly what you want to do, if you want money. Use application stores by MobiHand such as Crackberry. The game will be easier to find, and, therefore, despite the fact that the market is smaller, you will get more purchases. You will need a 20 USD BlackBerry dev kit, which is Windows only :(

Selling mobile games, I had the most success on BlackBerry platform. Best to provide controls for both touchscreen and buttons, and fit your game to all screen sizes.

2/9/09 22:42  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'v done +20 cellphone games (simple like Qix to more complex like RPG) and I can tell you its not that easy.
Each game was made in 5 versions (screen rez. 128*128/160 Fast xpu + slow cpy, 176*2xx fast + slow + 240*320) they were then transformed into 11 versions and then to 49 versions to support the 350 terminals we sold for...

At that time GameLoft was compatible with +700 terminals (cellphone types) and I just won't start talk about different java VM:s, BREW and all that..

We sold some games to LG(we were the only ones actually able to run a game on their phones ATM) and sure that was cool but if you don't have dedicated graphic guys you won't sell any game to ship on a phone.

I'm just saying this so you won't waste all your time on that instead of continuing what you make best ;)


1/11/09 15:49  

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