Opinion Piece: Viva La Mobile Revolution!

Well mobile gamers, the time has come for us to decide what it is we want. If you ask me, mobile gaming has come to a crossroads, so it’s worth examining what people truly look for from the perfect iOS title. And, hey, if we shout it out from the rooftops, maybe, just maybe, some developer somewhere will hear one of us screaming lunatics and deliver!

So what is it that makes a good game? Well, that question has been answered many times over the past 30 odd years. We know what makes a good video game; but what makes a good mobile game? We’ve seen a great many attempts at satisfying us since the dawn of the App Store. Big-name games like Infinity Blade, Dead Space, Aralon: Sword and Shadow and Zenonia along with outstanding indie titles like Mission Europa have made commendable advances toward bringing a full-blown console quality title to the iPhone.

Even through all these great titles, I think what we have lost sight of is that this is a phone – a very impressive phone, but a phone nonetheless. While it has been fun pushing its various limitations and emulating what we see on more powerful home consoles, I reckon it’s high time we start a revolution in good old fashioned mobile gaming. Or, as I like to call it, gaming on the go.

Now, before I go off on a tangent, let’s get something straight: I am loving the great offerings I have seen thus far and I hope that that particular trend continues. However, what many of us need is gaming on the go. Most of us mobile gamers just don’t have the downtime we would love to have to play these great iOS games when our Xboxes or PS3s are luring us away with much more impressive titles. When I’m on public transportation, that’s where my iPhone comes out and the gaming begins, but sometimes I get a bit dismayed at barely being able to get into the game before I am on the move again. So here is where I shed all maturity and possibly even some dignity and risk sounding like a spoiled brat in a candy store. This is where I speak for what many gamers want, and let’s face it, what some gamers don’t know they want. Yet. This is what we gamers want in a mobile game – developers, take heed.

We want games that we can easily drop in and out of and pick up and play in short spurts. We lead fast paced lives and our games need to reflect that. This is precisely why Angry Birds was so successful. It’s a simple game that’s easy to get into and play on the go. I don’t need a game with a two minute cinematic I have to skip each and every time I load it up or one that has a menu system which takes a minute and a half to slog through. What I most definitely don’t need is a game that, once I’ve finally loaded it up and got started, throws me back through some time space warp to where I was the last time I picked up the game, so I spend the rest of the day playing the same portion of the game every time multi-tasking resets the game. Developers have to implement easy access into the game and the game has to have some means of keeping track of exactly where I’m at – much like 100 Rogues does – rather than this ill-fitting checkpoint-every-thirty-minutes system.

Now puzzle games and turn based games do this very well, however, I am talking about putting together the next blockbuster title to match these demands – it is possible. Next, the controls have to work wherever I’m at. Many accelerometer controls fail to work properly when I play at some awkward angle when the guy next to me is either sleeping… or doing whatever it is he’s doing (I’m afraid to look because he may be drooling on me!). One bump of a car can send me into utter peril in some titles. The controls must be fluid and responsive. The graphics must also be smooth. That said, while I enjoy realism in a game, I don’t always need to see the freckles on the guy I’m shooting at. Games with a unique art style such as Samurai are a good example of this being done right. The graphics are fluid and smooth while still being free of annoying glitches caused by aiming for overly realistic visuals.

Depth is imperative. We need titles that offer great gameplay, that are tailor-made for on-the-go play, yet still boast a fulfilling amount of depth. Perhaps let my on-the-go-ness be used for organizing my army, or adjusting my gear. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of in-game gear, give me gear that changes my appearance. Nothing is worse than spending all that time working towards that piece of gear and then once I put it on, nothing happens. I like gear that makes me look awesome. But once I look awesome, it’s no fun just impressing myself; we need some kind of multiplayer experience to add not only replay-value, but another aspect of the game to think about. Maybe let me trade gear with other people within range on the subway, something, anything! While we’re on the subject of keeping it fresh, updates. Keep adding stuff, and not just more expansions through IAP that just add some levels. Add gear or new skills that make me strive for something more. Keep me wanting more.

I believe this is where some manner of Pokémon clone for iOS could be extremely successful. Perhaps not an exact clone either but instead something similar where new monsters would be added in some new area all the time. There is always something new to collect, and wait, get that monster before it becomes extinct. Us gamers want to show off to other people and we want new stuff all the time to be able to do it with.

So developers, the ball is in your court, this is what we want. An immersive game that we don’t have to pour hours of time into, but we could if we wanted to, that is pretty to look at, where we can interact with other people and show off our constantly changing load out.  It can be done, and I know it will be. Not all games need to follow that format, but we need more that do. Not that I haven’t appreciated the current big-name titles, but we need something that fits the mobile-ness of mobile gaming. Okay, tangent over. Let’s see what we can get going in the future. Viva La Mobile Revolution!