Category Archives: iOS

Mobile Dev’s Weird Advantages

Hey guys, I complain a lot about mobile game dev on my social media, since the Google and Apple app stores are very frustrating to work with. Their API features change every year, they bother you with new regulations, their tools are clunky to use (and sometimes don’t work at all), the documentation is bad, it’s very difficult to contact a human for help, and it’s just an unpleasant experience all around.

Since the EBF4 port is almost done (Ronja is currently playing it) I figure I’d write a bit about what I do actually like about mobile game dev, and why I’m spending a chunk of my time porting my games to Android and iOS, despite the frustration.

1. App stores only take a 15% cut from smaller developers, instead of Steam’s 30%. So that’s a very cool bonus, and is the main reason I considered mobile dev once this policy was announced by both Google and Apple.

2. Everyone has a phone – I can show my games to anyone if they’re on mobile, even to non-gamers. The potential audience is massive. And people asking for Switch ports will have no right to complain, since they also have phones.

3. My games are designed for mouse controls, so touch controls are an almost perfect fit. I do have to update the interfaces to display tooltips differently, and to make text and icons bigger, but in general mouse controls translate well to mobile, and in many cases using two thumbs is faster and more convenient than using a mouse. And if you really liked the mouse controls (rollover to see tooltips, etc), you can use a device with a stylus, and it’s functionally identical to a mouse!

4. The bar is really low for mobile games – I struggle to find games that aren’t full of bad practices like microtransactions, daily notifications, repetitive grinding, and lowest common denominator design. Being able to make good games feels like it gives me somewhat of a competitive edge. Good, well-known indie games do exist on mobile (Terraria, Stardew Valley, etc), but a lot of them require you to pay up front, or they’re better suited to consoles or PC due to complex controls and detailed graphics. The EBF games have point-and-click controls and cartoony graphics, and were originally free-to-play in web browsers, so they fit well on mobile. I feel like mobile gamers are getting just as good an experience as the PC players – and since it’s free-to-play they also get to try a huge chunk of the content before spending any money!

(I should clarify that while my games are free-to-play, they don’t have microtransactions. They have in-app purchases that disable ads and unlock side content, and the spending limit is only between $12 and $24 per game, more or less the same as buying the games on PC.)

5. The algorithm may bless me – much like on YouTube, success on mobile platforms seems to be a bit of a gamble due to the all powerful and completely opaque store algorithms. But this potentially means that my games can get a huge amount of exposure without any marketing at all, and that’s what seems to have happened with EBF5. The game’s got around 600,000 downloads on the Google Play store, and almost all of that is from the store algorithm showing it to people – my own marketing attempts are a drop in the bucket. It’s impossible to know exactly what metrics are important for the algorithm, but I have to imagine that having the game translated into many languages, good review scores, and long-term happy players helps here somewhat. But most importantly, I find the uncertainty of the algorithm very exciting – watching the daily downloads fluctuate due to forces outside of my control is pretty addictive, where as on Steam, the stats are more predictable and uninteresting, outside of a major sale or feature.

6. Flash works better on mobile than anywhere else! I’m still using Flash for all of my games, and before Adobe abandoned it, they made a final push to optimize it for mobile, especially iOS. For games with vector graphics, like EBF, the performance is comparable on mobile and PC, which is crazy. There are some visual effects that slow things down, but if I avoid using those, I can install PC versions of my games on a phone, and they will run fairly well before I make any changes. It’s very satisfying to see my games running smoothly on a small, portable device, especially since Flash hasn’t historically had the best reputation for performance. And in case anyone reading this doesn’t already know, Flashplayer (in the form of AIR) is now being maintained by HARMAN, a Samsung company, and is getting regular and sustainable updates. It’s not going to keep up with other cutting-edge game engines, but it’s still totally viable for small-ish games on desktop and mobile.

EBF4: Mobile Almost Done

After a few months of work, I’m testing EBF4 on a mobile device for the first time! (my smashed Note 8)

It works as well as I had hoped – might not need any additional optimization. (almost identical to Steam version)

Like in EBF5, there’s the occasional stuttering due to garbage collection, but that’s pretty much the main noticeable performance issue.

Most of what’s left is to add Google services like achievements, in-app purchases, ads, cloud saving, and application rater. With some luck most of that code from EBF5 will be re-usable.

EBF4: Widescreen Cutscenes

Hey guys, I extended all of the cutscenes in EBF4 to fit the new widescreen format. Since the art style is so cartoony, scaling and rearranging stuff was pretty simple to do.

I’ve also been quietly optimising how assets are loaded – maps and menus with a lot of icons loaded quite slowly the further into the game you got, and that hopefully won’t be the case any more.

The port is 33% finished so far.

Next up: updating the out-of-battle interface to suit mobile screens.

EBF4: Battle UI

Hey guys, I’m making progress on the battle interface. It looks a lot more like EBF5 now! The 2nd image is the original layout, for comparison.

I guess I’ll include the option to change the UI window color, since that’s also a useful accessibility feature. The PC version won’t get most of the UI updates, as they are mainly for making the game play better on mobile.

Though the foe HP bars with more information could be helpful on PC too…

EBF4: New Content

Hey guys. Porting games to mobile is a fairly in-depth but boring process, so it would be a waste not to do something fun in this time. I’m thinking of updating EBF4 in a similar way to what I did with the games in the Epic Battle Fantasy Collection – I’d like to add some more content that could have potentially existed at the time EBF4 was released.

So far, my ideas are to add another column of summons (8 more), and another column of weapons for each character (4 each). This way I won’t need to create any new graphics, and can mostly work with what already exists.

There’s a lot of existing weapons to choose from, from my earlier games and other work. So some fan favourites can be added, if you have any preferences. I think only Anna will need completely new weapons created for her.

For the summons, it would be cool to summon some more tough looking monsters like Golems, but also some with interesting buffs, such as the Spirit, who could revive the party. Let me know if you have any favourite monsters, or ideas for effects, that you believe should be represented.

As for other new content, I think other areas of the game, such as skills or flairs, are already quite full, and I don’t know how interesting any additions to those could be. New areas or monsters would be too big of a commitment.

Since I’m copying quite a lot of code from EBF5 for the mobile port, it’s tempting to copy some other aesthetic features too, but they may change the original vibe of EBF4. For example, I quite like the vocal sounds that NPCs make in EBF5, but I’m not sure everyone would like to see that in EBF4. I’m also tempted to copy the element and status effects icons from EBF5, since a lot of those were updated to be clearer on mobile screens. Changes like these would probably be welcomed by new players, but may feel weird to long-time fans.

As I mentioned in my previous post above – most of these new features can be added to the Steam version of the game too, after the mobile port is finished.

Let me know what you think.