Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Into the land of mobile development

It has been a recent dream of mine to run away and build a startup - my first tentative step into this is to start building small Android mobile games in the hopes of getting my foot some way into the door of casual gaming. My first real attempt at this is a fairly simple reaction memory game for which I've made a fair amount of progress over the last few days - in the practical sense it is currently functional, however it has a couple of bugs to work out in both the technical sense and the interactive sense.

However I now have a list of features that I can add which should make the game a much more enjoyable experience. These include tweaking the difficulty curve and making sure the user's hand does not obstruct the screen - so for this I'm lucky to have some friends who are willing test subjects. The moral of the story is live, naive user testing is a good idea. Naturally adding the most evil features, social media sharing and ads, took a disproportionate amount of time to get right.

Having looked at the numbers, it seems like getting hold of a low cost iPhone development platform might be a good move. iPhone 3GS's seem to be going for less than £40 on eBay right now.

Anyway, for now here's a screenshot of what you see when you get a game over in the app as it currently stands:

My current highest score :D

The banner at the top was an interesting idea (this also appears at the start screen) - I wondered how I could best get across the gameplay concept simply and decided that indicating that you had to look for the middle value and a sequence of 4,3,6 followed by a tap from the user could be illustrated as it is to the left. However, from what I found, this does not translate well to intuition for the user of the game. As such I will be adding some explicit instructions.

You may also note at the bottom right the new logo (don't steal, it is my eye-P ;)) and identity for my one man shop named after this blog.

I've been using LibGDX for this project - so far it has shown a great amount of promise and a good tradeoff between flexibility and quirks, given it can target most platforms a casual games maker would be interested in. In particular I like its abstractions for hardware accelerated graphics - although I'm finding the UI system somewhat cumbersome. (particularly in terms of skinning - some things are available in code which are not available in JSON, or at least aren't easy to find documentation for); however that does its job well, too. I would definitely recommend for rapid development work when you want to target multiple platforms.

It is surprising how much work can go into designing a relatively simple game if the concept is novel (as far as the designer knows ;)). Hopefully after the next iteration of features it will be ready enough ship and that's what I'll be posting about - and if I don't, I guess I can always just say "April Fools!"

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