How mobiles and games changed

Destinctive Developments: Mobile phone game Rugby Nations 2011.
Destinctive Developments: Mobile phone game Rugby Nations 2011.
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Nigel Little used to be the man with a thousand ‘phones.

That was the number of different models Distinctive Developments needed if to ensure the games it was developing would be playable on European, American and Far Eastern handsets, in the days when mobile games were programmed in Java and there was a multiplicity of operating systems and hardware configurations.

Back then, explains Distinctive’s Johanna Vuorela, you could only sell games through mobile service providers and they insisted developers supported all the handsets they sold, even though only a handful of models accounted for the bulk of sales.

As a result, half of Distictive’s development team used to spend its time making games playable on different handsets.

The present day dominance of two operating systems – Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS – and a switch to the more powerful C++ programming language, which that made possible, combined with the development of internet-based sales platforms for apps that are beyond the service providers’ control, has eased the problem.

Now, most of the development time is spent perfecting a game.

Even so, handset manufacturers using the Android operating system still have the scope to use a range of different hardware configurations, which explains why Distinctive continues to own more models than most of the mobile phone shops on Fargate, put together.

It also explains why games tend to be developed first for the iPhone and, if they are successful, then released for the Android OS.

“The performance level is the major thing,” says Nigel Little.

“Some handsets are really not up to the task of running games.”

Equally important, mobile games developers have to cater for a range of different formats and layouts.

“Some are with keyboards, others are without, some are able to detect multiple fingers on the screen, others, just one finger - and we still have to cope with different screen sizes and button layouts,” adds Nigel.