I recently accepted a chance to start reviewing mobile games for The Koalition. As such, I’ve already faced an embarrassing (for me) problem that I haven’t recently encountered during my time as a mobile gamer, particularly for the iOS platform: Apple upgrades its phones far too often. And that’s fine for them; they’ve clearly developed a business strategy that will help them optimize maximum profit potential; however, this comes at the cost of alienating audiences who choose not to upgrade their phones or tablets with each incarnation of an iOS device.
Such is the case for my first assignment: The Spookening, of which you can see my full review here. After being sent a review copy, I read up enough details about the game’s setting and unique premise, which gave me enough of an idea that had me interested. When I booted up the game, however, I found that the game was plagued with frame-rate issues and slow gameplay. While I was ready to write this in my review notes, I curiously went back to the game’s page on the app-store, where I found that the developers wrote at the bottom–of course I never scroll down that far—that clearly states that the game is designed with the latest iOS hardware in mind. Any mobile gamers who didn’t have an iPhone 4S, 5, or iPad 4 were simply out of luck (I’m playing with an iPhone 4).
I understand and respect Modesty for wanting to push the game to the device’s maximum potential, and in some way I wish most iOS developers also pursued similar ambitious endeavors. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that the developer was missing out on a huge opportunity in terms of reaching its audience. Even with the sluggish frame-rate issues, I can still tell that this is a game worth playing should a player be fortunate to have a device that is optimal for running the game, and many players will not be able to pick up on the smartly designed game until it’s time for them to upgrade. This is why I think that it might be time for app-store developer’s to take a page from PC gaming: allow options for low, medium, and high settings.
I’ve only seen this practiced in one game on the app-store: Gunman Clive. While the game isn’t necessarily a graphical powerhouse, it utilizes a beautiful, sketchbook graphical style that will likely impress many of its players. Even though the game focuses on graphical style over power, it still allows players the option of adjusting the graphics so that the players can run the game as smoothly as possible. If I had an earlier version of an iPhone, I would love to test out the graphical settings to see how much of a difference this smart addition made for the game’s performance.
Obviously iOS development cannot adopt every aspect of PC gaming. Unlike PC gaming, we can’t simply put more RAM or a new graphics card into our phones. And considering Apple is bent on rapidly releasing more and more powerful devices, many gamers will have to wait until they can upgrade. And maybe my idea of designing app-store games with graphical settings won’t work across the board (I’m not a game designer); however, I hate the idea of some mobile gamers being able to miss out on excellent games like the popular Infinity Blade, or in this case, the newly released The Spookening just because technology won’t stop imitating Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights.