For a while there, the video game industry seemed destined to continue moving towards bigger, better, and more complex. Then a strange thing happened: mobile smart devices started to show up in the hands of gamers across the globe. What’s more, groups that had previously been completely uninterested in video game entertainment began to show interest, and it wasn’t in the huge immersive titles or the ones with convoluted plots and storylines written by award-winning authors, either.
The games that really took off were simple, easy learning curve time-killers like Angry Birds. This new direction for video games turned the entire industry on its head. Instead of creating games that required several years of development and testing, not to mention a literal fortune in design and marketing costs, game producers could see real success without having to spend nearly as much time or money. This opened the doors for a flood of amateur third party developers, each looking to hit it big with the next popular mobile app game.
That’s where you come in.
You know how to design and program your game. You know all of the technical mumbo-jumbo, and all of the weird computer code stuff. What you don’t know is what kind of game to design. Well, you’re in luck, because here are five tips on how to design a game that everyone with a mobile device will want to play. You’re welcome.
1. Keep it simple
If you have dreams of creating the next Legend of Zelda or Metal Gear Solid series, then more power to you. However, those kind of things just aren’t what today’s casual gamers are after. In-depth gaming still holds a prominent place in the world of video games, but that place isn’t on a tiny screen (or a medium sized screen if you’re a pad user) being jostled about while riding the bus during a morning commute. Mobile gamers want something that they can get into quickly without much thought or context. Does your main character require an in depth backstory and loads of dialogue to explain why he or she is doing whatever it is they’re doing? If so, then a mobile app may not be the best platform.
2. Make it look good (but not too good)
Console video games have become so disturbingly photo realistic, that sometimes it’s difficult to tell if you’re playing a game or watching a live-action film. However, mobile app games have moved in a different direction. Rather than use state of the art graphics to reproduce a digital facsimile of the real world, they concentrate on fun, cartoony visuals that would be equally at home on a Saturday morning TV show. Ironically, the less photorealistic the visual effects are, the more easily they can be seen and understood by players. Remember, many players will be interacting with your game on a screen the size of a credit card, so make sure the graphics are clean, colorful, and uncluttered. Likewise, sound effects should be fun, but uncomplicated. Generally mobile device speakers are small and can be difficult to hear in some circumstances, but HD audio recording features may be coming in future mobile units, so stay tuned!
3. Concentrate on intuitive controls
When it comes to controlling the game, an overly steep learning curve is not something that most mobile gamers will accept. In fact, the most popular game apps available today generally use simple swipes and taps to move the game along. Of course, players don’t like to know that what they are doing is simple, so make sure that these swipes and taps result in visually entertaining and dynamic effects. To use Angry Birds as an example, the simple act of launching a bird at a pig-filled structure results in an orgy of destruction as blocks topple and crash together. It’s easy to get the hang of, and it’s rewarding.
4. Reward the player
There’s something in the human psyche that forces us to constantly strive for reward. This is true, even when the rewards themselves are useless and ultimately meaningless. Points, coins, achievements, or whatever you wish to call them will keep the player coming back for more. As such, it’s important that the rewards themselves are plentiful, occurring nearly constantly as the player progresses. Make sure the rewards are heralded by some sort of visual effect or special sound, so that the player can know right away that they’ve achieved something good. In addition to points, players should also be rewarded with content. New characters, levels, abilities, sound tracks, or any other game play or cosmetic changes that you can throw into the game will keep players hooked.
Also read: Top 4 Tools for iOS Developers
What good are high scores if you don’t have anyone to share them with? Games that offer players the ability to post their accomplishments on social media sites such as Facebook allow gamers to compete with each other without having to even play at the same time. Additionally, online leader boards which keep track of the best scores for around the world give gamers a pinnacle to aim for. Mobile app games are uniquely suited to this, given the near constant connectedness of the mobile smart devices on which they are played.
Of course, just because the most popular mobile app games have followed this formula, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. There’s something to be said for innovation, after all. However, if you want to play it safe and make a game that will appeal to the broadest audience today, these tips should really come in handy.