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Game developers still not sold on Android

Cassandra Khaw | April 3, 2013
Though we're constantly buffeted by stories about new Android-powered game consoles and the continued growth of the Google Play Store, the fact still stands: An Android port seems to remain a footnote in development process, an afterthought, a thing that has to be done as opposed to the thing to do. Even today, you'd be hard-pressed to find a game that's exclusive to the Linux-based platform, or a developer willing to profess an undying affection for "Android. People might make Android games, but they don't seem like it.

For Pruett, the primary point of interest is pertinent to the size and the resolution of the screen; everything else is either irrelevant or working as intended. However, instead of trying to cater to every device, his company uses Google Play's tools to create a list of incompatible devices. If it doesn't meet their requirements, users aren't able to download the company's games--essentially the same as putting up a sign for our metaphorical cafeteria that says, "Our food contains nuts. Take it or leave it".

Pruett acknowledges that the whole system is imperfect, though. Non-pistacho eaters still need food like everyone else. Performance and memory variations are two elements his company lacks decent solutions for. "I'm not sure it's fair to call this an "Android fragmentation" problem, though, because those old devices are not necessarily broken or flawed--they're just old and lower spec than the bleeding edge. And this problem isn't unique to Android: we have the same issue delivering high-end 3D games on iOS because we must continue to support aging devices like the iPhone 3GS."

Much like everyone else, Spacetime Studios found themselves struggling with the enormous number of screen resolutions known to the platform. "When we initially started putting products on both the iOS and the Android marktetplace, we found ourselves doing four times the work we should have.

Expensive as the idea of building for such a diverse range of devices might be, it isn't an impossible endeavor. Not when you've gotten the formula down pat. Baudouin Corman, VP of Publishing for Gameloft, says that the cost behind the production of their Android games has decreased significantly over time. "Partly because we've learned how to efficiently handle the diversity of devices without compromising the quality and partly because the Android platform itself has improved greatly in that respect."

Sitting in between its advocates and its naysayers are folk like Mojang's Johan Bernhardsson. Unlike many other developers, the Stockholm-based creators of Minecraft released their game on the Google Play Store first. "There have been a few issues with the Android SDK on the way with bugs and problems but I feel that the current NDK has become a lot more stable...One issue with development is that we haven't found any really good emulator to run the games without going through a phone/tablet."

Of course, even having a panoply of devices is no guarantee of success. BlitWise Production's Brian McCabe sent in a photograph of some of the equipment--there were a lot of devices--the company has purchased for this express purpose. "We purchased several ourselves, and struggled also to find a QA source that could meet what we thought were the sine qua non requirements for testing. Sometimes a problem would pop up in one phone but not a very similar one, but the fix for that would break something for the other. (I recall there was a graphical error in large explosions on the Samsung Galaxy S II, I believe, that didn't show up on either the S I or the S III.)"


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