Since the debut of iOS and Apple's touch devices, mobile developers have been feeling around for their own niche, with many assuming that what works on consoles can't work on touch-based devices.
Czech studio Madfinger Games
is betting on the opposite, hoping that there is a market for people who want a console experience in the palm of their hand.
The studio isn't the only one banking on console-style gaming on mobiles. Unreal Engine 3 maker Epic Games continues to license its 3D game engine to console, PC and mobile developers, and that company's subsidiary, Chair Entertainment, has already seen big iOS success with Infinity Blade
Madfinger's latest release, Shadowgun
, is looking to appeal to those who want a console experience on the go. Shadowgun
is a cover-based, third-person action game -- much in the vein of Epic's Gears of War
-- in which players take on the role of a bounty hunter in 2350 who's trying to hunt down geneticist Dr. Edgar Simon. While inspired by Epic's title, it's not a UE3 game, rather it runs on Unity.
Madfinger Games CEO and programmer Marek Rabas talked with Gamasutra about his team's decision to use the Unity engine, the developer's thoughts on the virtual sticks on touch devices, and why Madfinger wants to bring console-style gaming to mobile devices.
Why did you decide to use Unity for Shadowgun instead of creating your own engine or using another engine?
We used to work with our own technology when we worked for various previous companies, so we know how difficult it can be to create proper tools, technology, keep it updated, bug free, user friendly, etc., so our first decision was to use a commercial engine.
We chose Unity because we feel it's the best tech available on mobiles and it lets us create a game for multiple platforms [Madfinger Games is currently hard at work on an Android version].
What difficulties did you face scaling Shadowgun for the whole range of iOS devices?
Memory was the main issue. We had to figure out how to shrink it to suit a limited memory budget. We had to come with a new pipeline of how to create our assets, etc. and we especially had to optimize our graphics and code so it could run on the 3GS.
There's also always a problem because of multitasking. People can have hundreds of apps running in the background, which can really limit the memory for your app.
Having said that, it's been really great that our artists haven't been whining about the limitations, but working with them.
Many people look at virtual sticks and buttons as a negative aspect of iOS games, but Madfinger has chosen to use it in its games. How do you avoid this being a problem and make sure your games have the right feel with that control scheme?
We don't like virtual gamepads either, but it's hard to create games like Shadowgun
without them. We spent a lot of time polishing and changing controls to make them satisfactory and to keep them simple.
Do you think there is, or are you looking into different ways of controlling games that cater better to touch devices?
We did gestures in our first game, Samurai: Way of the Warrior
, but we had problems explaining the control scheme to players, so feedback was mixed. I think controlling the player in that game was really cool, but it's tough because our games are more complex.
I think that in our future games, we will try to mix the two somehow.
Why was it important for you to create a game on iOS with such high-end graphics?
We wanted to show people it's possible to create a mobile game with high-end graphics and all the bells and whistles of a bigger-budget console or PC game with all features like collision, AI, path-finding, etc.
, you had games with high-end graphics and limited gameplay or vice versa. Now you have both. You know, I'm not saying that the gameplay in Shadowgun
is exactly the same as on consoles, but it's definitely better than the average shooter on mobile.
On the Madfinger Games website, you say that you aim to bring console quality games to mobile devices. Why do you feel this is important as opposed to creating something different for those platforms?
Each of our games has been something we thought we'd love to do, but haven't been able to in the past. We want to create something different and something in which we can apply the experience we gathered from from bigger games.
I don't think that just because a game is on a touch device, we have to create something special or different. There are already a lot of developers doing that and we feel we're doing our own thing by making high-end, graphics intensive games.
We are doing what we know and every one of our games is better than the one before it. Also, there are a lot of hardcore players who want to play console games while travelling, and they are already tired with casual games. Mobile, handhelds, consoles; it will all merge sooner or later.