Hello everyone. I’m back, and this time with a little FAQ on the world of mobile phone gaming.
I guess this should have been the first article here on Mobicritic, our mobile games blogzine. Still, it’s never too late to get some things straight and talk of some more obscure things such as platforms, memory or resolutions.
No, this is not a lecture explaining how a mobile phone works. It’s just a noobie little intro on the world of mobile gaming and issues here, and these explanations might save a lot of trouble and even money.
- There are three major phone gaming platforms around there
The first would be the Java one – a great family of phones, with the largest marketshare. There are two main JAVA standards, MIDP 1 and 2. The first and oldest one not only doesn’t use the entire available screen of the phone (the status bar of the phone will always show on top of the game), but the JAVA application (your game, basically) will be very limited. That’s why no modern games will be found for the MIDP 1.0 platform, only for the MIDP 2.0 on. Basically, if your mobile phone has color games and some kind of Java logo, there are big chances it’s MIDP 2.0 compatible.
The second family would be the Symbian one; Symbian is an operating system that has been adopted by the high-end line of mobile devices of most producers(for a full list of the devices see here). It’s a lot more powerful as a gaming environment than the Java MIDP 2.0 one, so you’re likely to see a lot of great games here. The problem? The devices are quite expensive and therefore not very popular. It’s also the reason why you haven’t yet read any Symbian game review on our site. But it’s going to change in the near future. Promise.
The third major mobile phone platform is the Smartphone one; namely mobile phones that are also PDA and run the Windows Mobile OS. Being a Windows platform makes the games easier to develop and not meeting the same limitations as the Java ones. In other words… interesting games, more similar to the PC ones than the Java ones…; same as for Symbian, we’re preparing to launch a review section dedicated to it. These being said, in the following paragraphs we’ll be talking about the JAVA games, since they are the most popular ones and the ones we’ve been talking on Mobicritic so far. Plus, these are the ones with most issues:
- The Phone Model matters.
I want to clear things up a bit; although Java was supposed to be a Write Once, Run Anywhere platform, it isn’t! It’s just another programming language, and its implementation on various handsets varies from one to another. Never believe that a game running on one mobile phone will run on another, unless it’s EXACTLY THE SAME MODEL.
For instance: Basil owns a SE(Sony-Ericsson) K700, Alex a SE v630i, Tara might have a Nokia . If you own a SE T610 or maybe a Nokia 2650, most games will not be compatible and you’ll have to download the version for your phone model.
- The game CHANGES with the model
Let’s say you read a mobile game review written by Basil that makes you want to buy and download the game. The review said that the graphics were really cool, with exciting music and some amazing explosion effects, 20 stages, three characters to chose from, etc… Pretty cool, and it really is; but remember: that’s true for the K700 owner; it might not be true for your phone model. Your game version might be a stripped-down one, with crappy music, no explosion effects and only 10 levels.
Why? Because of the phone limitations; just as a PC version for Need for Speed isn’t the same as an XBOX one, a SE K750 version will certainly be different than a Nokia N80 version. So never blame the reviewer if the game doesn’t look like in the screenshots. Get a better gaming-ready mobile phone instead
- The RESOLUTION matters
Most last-generation handsets have a resolution of 176×220; it’s the most common, and the minimum recommended one to enjoy a mobile game. If you bought a mobile phone just for the GSM/CDMA capabilities, then it probably won’t bother you. Still, if you discovered that you enjoy spending quite a bit of time playing games with it, here’s the tip: for resolutions below 176×220 you’ll only find crappy games. The good ones start at at least this one.
- The Device characteristics.
Here is some boring extra info that might help you chose your phone wisely:
* The available global memory matters, as it gives a limitation on the number of games you may install on your phone.
* The Java implementation matters – on some phones it asks java applications to have at most 64 KB, 128 KB or 150 KB. Give that most cool games nowadays have around 300 KB, this is a serious limitation. Not to mention “monsters” like V-rally or Superman, with over 500k(a huge number, if you remember the old times when your PC’s RAM was of 640K… )?
Other features you should be aware of when buying your mobile phone?
* Does it have Bluetooth? If it does, does it allow Java applications to access it? Not a vital feature, but still important, as more and more games start to add multiplayer capabilities via Bluetooth (take a peek at Naval Commander, for instance).
* Does it allow easy installation? You don’t want to buy a mobile phone that knows Java games but won’t let you to install any, do you? (I know at least a couple of Samsung phones out there that will drive you mad)
* What about the controls? Just like the console joystick, the game controls can change the whole gaming experience. In the case of mobile phones, they may completely destroy a game: if your keyboard has buttons too small, too close or too hard, your fingers will get numb before you end the first level of your favorite game. If the phone has a sort-of-joystick(for instance the navigation buttons in SE v630i), check it out closely: is it easy to handle? Are the direction keys nice to touch?(in this case, they aren’t – I’d recommend buying a SE K750 instead – same games, better controls). You;d be surprised of the number of great games that can’t be played on some phones, because of the crappy keyboard.
One final observation (actually the 2+3 roundup): if you found a great game for your phone and want to share it (assuming you can – since most commercial ones won’t allow you to) with your buddy who owns the same brand but a different model, then you have 80% chances that it won’t work, and 90% chances that if it does it’ll be buggy. Be advised, and not at all surprised when it eventually happens…
To sum it up, if you’re planning to go mobile in terms of games, just open your eyes when buying your phone, or you risk being stuck to lame oldies that nobody plays anymore . Remember! Phone design isn’t everything; mobile gaming has its own extra requirements – ergonomics, performances, software and more…