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Big Games, Small Screens

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If you're considering designing mobile games, check out your competition by looking at the current micro platforms including WAP, SMS, MIDP, and J2ME. Learn what's hot, what's coming up in the future and how you can compete with all of it.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In This Chapter

  • Your Competition
  • WAP Games
  • i-mode Games
  • J2ME MIDP Games
  • J2ME Palm Games
  • iAppli Games
  • What Are You Waiting For?

Over the next few pages, we'll look at some of the current micro games currently out on the market. Many of these games are popular blockbusters and come from top game companies such as Sega and Bandai, but you'll also notice that hobbyists and small independent teams have created some of the best examples out there.

This chapter covers a wide variety of games for various micro platforms:

  • WAP games

  • SMS games

  • MIDP games

  • J2ME Palm games

  • iAppli games

Your Competition

If you really want to design games that wow, it is highly recommended that you check out your competition. Playing and studying other games is a terrific way to get interface and gameplay ideas, learn what doesn't work, and become sure you're not doing something that has already been done.

Although many of these games are just tinier versions of games we've already seen, loved, and gotten addicted to, many of the most exciting products in this chapter are utterly original. You'll find games without graphics, games that rely on global positioning, and games that wouldn't work anywhere else but on a micro device.

The goodies in this chapter will show you that big-game concepts are indeed possible on the smallest of screens, and often with the smallest of budgets.

Things to Look For

The reasons why the best games are fun to play are difficult to encapsulate. Finding gameplay features that work is especially important in the micro world, where there are so many limitations and so few examples of quality gaming.

Some qualities to look and aim for:

  • Easy to learn—If the game is too complicated, most people won't take the time to hike up that learning curve. And there's almost no room for instructions on handheld device screens. So make things ultra-intuitive!

  • Clarity of visuals—The graphics should be as large as possible. The screens are, as you know, very tiny, and most people like to hold the screens at chest level, about a foot away from their eyes.

  • Simplicity of gameplay—The gameplay itself should use a few keys and be very clear and easy to understand.

  • Quick game periods—Cell phone users often play games while waiting for meetings to begin, during quick subway commutes, or while sitting on the porcelain throne in the bathroom. Breaking your game into short, quick levels is usually a good idea.

  • Interactivity—Playing against machines is cool. But if you can play the game against other humans, you've got some real competition! And you also have a built-in community, keeping people coming back to be with friends they have met.

The Near Future

As new technologies come into play, Java micro games will become more powerful than ever. Some examples of these technologies are as follows:

  • Color screens with better resolutions will make for bright, engaging graphics.

  • Faster processors and video chips will provide better animation and even 3D graphics.

  • Better audio capabilities will add the element of music and sound to games.

  • Location-based technologies will give games the capability to know exactly where in the real world a player is standing. Games can be written engaging real players in the real world, using the phones only as a transparent tool to connect.

  • Wireless connection technologies such as Bluetooth will give small devices short-range radio connectivity, enabling phones and other devices to connect to other phones, larger servers, or other peripherals—without using valuable and expensive wireless network services. This can allow for extremely quick multiplayer gaming, as long as both players are in the same vicinity. Likewise, third-generation networks will bring the power of broadband speeds to mobile devices.

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