Last night was a rare opportunity for me, I was bored and checking out the App Store on my iPhone and to be honest found nothing I wanted to download/buy. Nothing seemed new or exciting and my mind went into overdrive about what makes a fun or interesting game for a mobile.
So without further ado here is Ash Morgan’s 5 Pillars of Fun Mobile Games!™
Optimization and Loading Time
Let’s face it – you mobile games when you’re bored. Be it on the train to work, waiting for a friend at the pub or wasting a bit of time while on the loo!
Mobile games need to be fast when starting up, fast at level transactions and have fast reaction times. Players only have a limited time to play and don’t want to waste time looking at loading screens. Good mobile games must also be optimized to run smoothly and use as little resources as possible; there is nothing worse than a game that swallows up all your battery on a long flight. People use their phones and tablets for other reasons besides games and so need battery power to do those things.
Look at games like Angry Birds and Tiny Tower, they load up extremely quickly and then are there straight away when the player access that game later. A game that takes too long to load whenever the player does something and devours battery and resources should not belong on a mobile device!
Good Examples: Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Game Dev Story
This is a big gripe for me; controls can make or break a mobile game. If the controls are too complicated or get in the way of gameplay then problems are going to arise, alot of games make use of simple gestures on the touch screen or other built in instruments however some games use painful to use onscreen controls such as D-Pads and buttons which can really cause frustration due to lack of physical feedback and can easily cover up the action on screen.
A good control scheme is simple but allows the player to do exactly what they need to do to play the game, I’m sure mobile devices will evolve to include extra controls in future for games but until then developers need to focus more on simple swipes and touches instead of following convention and sticking a huge controller on screen.
Good Examples: Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride, Temple Run, Beat Sneak Bandit
Now this is a tough one to gauge but also very important, it’s very hard to explain what gives a game its charm but it is vital to make sure it is fun and that people download and play it. This doesn’t mean that all games have to have cute visuals and be cartoony to be appealing; some more “hardcore” games ooze with charm and a certain spirit that makes you want to play it.
As I said it’s a tough one to monitor but a designer needs to make sure that some form of spark is there to ensure their game is a hit.
Good Examples: Tiny Wings, Whale Trail, Horn
Games sadly can’t be created and released for free and so developers need to come up with a way for their creations to make money. There are many ways to do this and it can be difficult to pick the correct method that works with your game and is also fair to consumers.
Some mobile games are expensive and rightly so, they offer either a lot of content or have larger production values then other games while some games are free to begin with and then charge for additional content.
This is a discussion for another day as there is ALOT of the subject of monetization in games however a developer needs to take care when deciding how to charge for their product. Free to play with paid additional content may be popular but not fit the dynamics of the game, whereas some smaller games may annoy customers by being so expensive. Finding a balance is key if a game is to sell well and make a profit.
Good Examples: Plants vs. Zombies, GTA 3, The Simpsons: Tapped Out
Like charm this is a tough one, games need content so that they can be played and enjoyed but can’t get too repetitive as it will stop players from playing. This is a very line and developers need to really focus on what makes their game fun and play to it to ensure players continue having fun and load up that game when bored.
Some games do this with updates and patches, either paid or unpaid but this takes time as the content needs to be created. Other games are open ended or use sandbox elements to let the player continue playing and make their own fun.
Some games don’t need to worry about how much a player gets out of there game but it is something designers should focus on, the longer a customer continues to play your game the more loyal they become to the brand and the more likely they are to recommend it to friends and buy additional content or sequels.
Good Examples: Minecraft Pocket Edition, Draw Something, Tiny Tower
I have left out some obvious subjects such as innovation but I believe this should be present in all games design, hell maybe in all entertainment and media! These 5 pillars focus on the mobile market and what designers should focus on when developing a product for people to join, mobile games are becoming bigger and bigger with each day and designers need to ensure that they are always making sure that they’re products and fun and engaging.