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Mobile Game 
Design 
What makes it different? version 2
What’s this about? 
● Mobile Games are different from 
PC/Console 
● Using the strengths and weaknesses
Pricing 
Mobility 
Duration of play 
Connectivity 
Social 
Size limitations 
What’s so different about mobile? 
Updates/DL...
Pricing 
Price Ranges 
● Average 
○ Free - $0.99 
● Premium Indie 
○ $1.99 - $3.99 
● AAA 
○ $3.99 - $9.99 
Minecraft is s...
Pricing 
● No retail model, but middleman still gets 
30%
Mobility 
● More portable than a game boy, but usually 
used as a time killer
Mobility 
● Mostly played during “downtime” 
o Poop gaming 
o Car/Bus/Train rides 
o Waiting in lines 
o Chillin’ in bed
Shorter play cycles/sessions 
● Session length affects when played, use check-ins 
● Easy in, hard out. Hook/Progress in 3...
Interruptions and attention 
● Easily interruptible by text, calls, real life 
● Keep attention requirements short!
Connectivity 
● Always “potentially” connected 
● Speed and reception erratic, great for bursts
Connectivity 
● Local push notifications - useful to retain, but 
interruptive
Intermittent Internet 
● Multiplayer should be asynchronous only 
● Communicate to servers in small bursts
Intermittent Internet 
● Support some form of offline play/cache
Intermittent Internet 
● Use “cloud” syncing for device switching 
o Switch mobile devices or to Facebook
Social 
● Very little face to face play
Social 
● Good support for FB/Twitter/Game Center
Social 
● Text and e-mail under-utilized
Social 
● Non-multiplayer interactions with friends
Social 
● Multiplayer w/ friends & randoms
Use social 
● Leaderboards/Achievements are easy 
o Game center is easy and free 
o Infrequent FB/Twitter achievement post...
Use social 
● Use social trading/gifting, but not spammy 
● Look at viral methods that got your attention
Use social 
● Use push notifications to keep connected
Size restrictions 
● Small phone drives ● OTA download limits
Size restrictions 
● Updates take space! ● Graphics/RAM limits
Updates/DLC 
● DLC sold as In App Purchases
Updates/DLC 
● Easier to update than consoles 
● Can’t force updates unlike Steam/Facebook
Updates/DLC 
● Updates have the gatekeeper still
Control Schemes 
● No physical controls (mostly)
Control Schemes 
● Touch and Accelerometer only
Control Schemes 
● Multi-touch possible, screen size limits
Control Schemes 
● Takes screen/GUI space, keep it simple but forgiving
Controlling where you play 
● Accelerometer increases attention, decreases comfort, sucks to play for 
long or in bed.
Landscape 
● Good for long sessions, but requires both hands 
● Touch areas on the edges, think about how you hold it! 
● ...
Portrait 
● Good for burst play with 1 thumb 
● Keep low for tall screens/short thumbs, no fingers covering screen 
● Keep...
Sound issues 
● Often playing privately in public with sound 
off
Sound issues 
● Sound cues/hooks, feedback more difficult 
● Tie the audio cues to visuals as much as possible
Don’t be annoying 
● When in public, interesting or annoying? 
● Short catchy music loop, get em humming it! 
● Make it ea...
App store markets 
● Apple and Google control, at their whim 
● There are some alternatives like Amazon
App store markets 
● Charts and editorials vital to sales
App store markets 
● Visual style matters!
App store markets 
● Video previews only on Google Play, for now
Frequency of updates 
● They act as a reminder, but too frequent is frustrating! 
● Update frequency can hurt your chance ...
Bug Fixes 
● Do hyper critical bug fixes fast and stand-alone 
● Save minor fixes for content/feature pushes 
● Keeps play...
Planning/Budgeting 
● Design for indie long-tail, not AAA 
● You’ll make little, so spend little
Polishing 
● Budget for polish time and lots of updates 
● Beta-test using Test Flight
Business Model 
● Pick the right business model 
o Pre-pay for a more packaged product 
o Use Ads to monetize cheapskates ...
Content vs Systems 
● Content is expensive in both $ and memory 
● Content is like movie studio props and sets 
● Rearrang...
Content vs Systems 
● Systemic/Procedural design has replayability 
o Great for Puzzles, Rogue-likes, Sandbox
Questions? 
Devin Becker, devin@devinbecker.com
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Mobile game design: What makes it different? v2

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Part of a class on mobile game design about what makes it different from game design for other platforms. Intended to get you thinking about all the differences and how they impact your designs so you aren't surprised!

Updated a bit from the old version.

Published in: Mobile
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Mobile game design: What makes it different? v2

  1. 1. Mobile Game Design What makes it different? version 2
  2. 2. What’s this about? ● Mobile Games are different from PC/Console ● Using the strengths and weaknesses
  3. 3. Pricing Mobility Duration of play Connectivity Social Size limitations What’s so different about mobile? Updates/DLC Control Schemes Sound use App Stores Varied Devices
  4. 4. Pricing Price Ranges ● Average ○ Free - $0.99 ● Premium Indie ○ $1.99 - $3.99 ● AAA ○ $3.99 - $9.99 Minecraft is special! Don’t do Lite versions!
  5. 5. Pricing ● No retail model, but middleman still gets 30%
  6. 6. Mobility ● More portable than a game boy, but usually used as a time killer
  7. 7. Mobility ● Mostly played during “downtime” o Poop gaming o Car/Bus/Train rides o Waiting in lines o Chillin’ in bed
  8. 8. Shorter play cycles/sessions ● Session length affects when played, use check-ins ● Easy in, hard out. Hook/Progress in 30 seconds! ● Limitations leave you wanting more!
  9. 9. Interruptions and attention ● Easily interruptible by text, calls, real life ● Keep attention requirements short!
  10. 10. Connectivity ● Always “potentially” connected ● Speed and reception erratic, great for bursts
  11. 11. Connectivity ● Local push notifications - useful to retain, but interruptive
  12. 12. Intermittent Internet ● Multiplayer should be asynchronous only ● Communicate to servers in small bursts
  13. 13. Intermittent Internet ● Support some form of offline play/cache
  14. 14. Intermittent Internet ● Use “cloud” syncing for device switching o Switch mobile devices or to Facebook
  15. 15. Social ● Very little face to face play
  16. 16. Social ● Good support for FB/Twitter/Game Center
  17. 17. Social ● Text and e-mail under-utilized
  18. 18. Social ● Non-multiplayer interactions with friends
  19. 19. Social ● Multiplayer w/ friends & randoms
  20. 20. Use social ● Leaderboards/Achievements are easy o Game center is easy and free o Infrequent FB/Twitter achievement posts
  21. 21. Use social ● Use social trading/gifting, but not spammy ● Look at viral methods that got your attention
  22. 22. Use social ● Use push notifications to keep connected
  23. 23. Size restrictions ● Small phone drives ● OTA download limits
  24. 24. Size restrictions ● Updates take space! ● Graphics/RAM limits
  25. 25. Updates/DLC ● DLC sold as In App Purchases
  26. 26. Updates/DLC ● Easier to update than consoles ● Can’t force updates unlike Steam/Facebook
  27. 27. Updates/DLC ● Updates have the gatekeeper still
  28. 28. Control Schemes ● No physical controls (mostly)
  29. 29. Control Schemes ● Touch and Accelerometer only
  30. 30. Control Schemes ● Multi-touch possible, screen size limits
  31. 31. Control Schemes ● Takes screen/GUI space, keep it simple but forgiving
  32. 32. Controlling where you play ● Accelerometer increases attention, decreases comfort, sucks to play for long or in bed.
  33. 33. Landscape ● Good for long sessions, but requires both hands ● Touch areas on the edges, think about how you hold it! ● Common for Tablets, but tweak for Phones too
  34. 34. Portrait ● Good for burst play with 1 thumb ● Keep low for tall screens/short thumbs, no fingers covering screen ● Keep swipes simple, don’t do lots of drag-drop
  35. 35. Sound issues ● Often playing privately in public with sound off
  36. 36. Sound issues ● Sound cues/hooks, feedback more difficult ● Tie the audio cues to visuals as much as possible
  37. 37. Don’t be annoying ● When in public, interesting or annoying? ● Short catchy music loop, get em humming it! ● Make it easy to get to the on/off setting ● Respect settings and ringer switch when opening!
  38. 38. App store markets ● Apple and Google control, at their whim ● There are some alternatives like Amazon
  39. 39. App store markets ● Charts and editorials vital to sales
  40. 40. App store markets ● Visual style matters!
  41. 41. App store markets ● Video previews only on Google Play, for now
  42. 42. Frequency of updates ● They act as a reminder, but too frequent is frustrating! ● Update frequency can hurt your chance at charts ● Updates can break multiplayer!
  43. 43. Bug Fixes ● Do hyper critical bug fixes fast and stand-alone ● Save minor fixes for content/feature pushes ● Keeps players looking forward to them, like Angry Birds ● Test well to reduce emergency updates
  44. 44. Planning/Budgeting ● Design for indie long-tail, not AAA ● You’ll make little, so spend little
  45. 45. Polishing ● Budget for polish time and lots of updates ● Beta-test using Test Flight
  46. 46. Business Model ● Pick the right business model o Pre-pay for a more packaged product o Use Ads to monetize cheapskates o Use IAP when you’re willing to support the game
  47. 47. Content vs Systems ● Content is expensive in both $ and memory ● Content is like movie studio props and sets ● Rearrange, re-dress to maximize use
  48. 48. Content vs Systems ● Systemic/Procedural design has replayability o Great for Puzzles, Rogue-likes, Sandbox
  49. 49. Questions? Devin Becker, devin@devinbecker.com

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