Are smartphones and tablets replacing mobile consoles as the device of choice for gamers? Is the industry able to make the shift and bring console-like quality to mobile games? We wonder if is the consumer who is asking for the change or is it more of an industry generated trend like, let’s say, the so unsuccessful 3DTV push.
Let’s find out by asking Roberto Mangiafico, CTO at Bad Seed Entertainment, a quite fresh developer with offices in the US and Italy. His team of experienced video game industry veterans intends exactly to bring the quality of console games to mobile.
Roberto, whose background includes a great mix of experience as Team and Project Manager and as Senior Gameplay Programmer, delivered a speech on How to Web’s Game development track.
How to Web: What do you think that actual mobile games lack the most?
Roberto Mangiafico: I think that most of the games now present on the biggest mobile stores lack freshness, originality and quality. And the low entry barrier on mobile stores doesn’t really help in that sense.
If on one hand this approach allows a huge variety of content available and downloadable, it makes the products (and even the users) get lost too easily among the millions of offers on the other hand.
Can a touchscreen smartphone be used as a game console without adding additional controls/physical buttons?
It depends by the “target”. It depends by who will really play the game. The touchscreen can give you a great feeling. It is possible to create great and amazing game experiences using the touchscreen. Moreover, the increasing power of devices is going to reduce the gap between mobile devices and game consoles. But I think that for some kind of games, such as FPS or MMO, a physical controller is absolutely mandatory, in order to feel the challenge and push the limits.
Do you expect mobile gaming to kill the portable console business of Sony, Nintendo, Razer or Nvidia?
I think that this is highly probable. In my opinion only the content might save the portable console market. If console manufacturers are able to offer exclusive contents on their platforms that could make the difference.
For many people the term ‘console quality’ means high end graphics that will probably further impact on autonomy. How do you expect to deal with this challenge?
Obviously the performance of batteries is going to increase side by side with the computational power of the devices allowing to create more and more gorgeous games. But more than this I think that in the next future services of game streaming like Gaikai would be a reality also on mobile devices, and they will probably change the way we develop and play
games for smartphones and tablets.
Smartphones are primarily communication devices so the user behaviour will adjust to this purpose, therefore the most popular games are still those which don’t imply much time and attention. Do you think this behaviour will change?
I think that this behavior will probably not change on smartphones, but in my opinion this is due to the small size of screens rather than their communication purpose. Having bigger screens, devices – in my opinion – can lead to longer sessions of play, as it already happens with tablets.
Some console games ported to mobile were successful, some don’t. Which kind of games do you think are best suited for a mobile experience?
I think that games that could be successfully ported on mobile are those that have simple and intuitive input/controls and that give the player the sense of progression also with quite short play sessions.
What are the key ingredients of your first successful title, SheepUp? And why did you chose a puzzle-like game and not a more ‘console-like’ one?
We chose the puzzle-platform as the game genre for our first title because it best fitted the idea of the new gameplay: make an always bouncing sheep jump floor-by-floor through a different perspective by using the tilt control. We use a brand new perspective with a top-down scrolling gameplay camera to create new unique gameplay mechanics and an original game experience for our players.
From a developer’s perspective, what are the technical challenges of designing and developing for mobile?
Support the great variety of mobile devices is the biggest technical challenge for sure. There are so many devices out there, mostly on the Android platforms. It’s far from being easy to make a game that is well suitable on so many different devices, with different resolution, different screen ratio, different computational power.
What was the most important lesson you learnt business-wise since you started Bad Seed and which context triggered it?
We learnt a lot of lessons, but what we feel the most important thing probably is that the people that work in a company are the greatest company values.