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Tales of porting games to microconsoles

August 27, 2013 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
 

It's fair to say that the majority of games landing on Android-OS microconsoles right now are PC and mobile ports. Creating a port of your game is a great way to test the waters on an emerging platform, to see whether it's worth making games for the Ouya, GameStick et al in the future.

But porting to microconsoles isn't always a walk in the park. For some studios there is only a small amount of work to do, and for others, it's a massive undertaking. Either way, there's bound to be hiccups throughout the process.

I talked to a variety of studios who have ported their games over to the Ouya or the GameStick, with the aim to get a decent idea of the trials you may come across if you yourself are porting for a microconsole.

If you are trying to make a decision regarding whether or not it's worth putting in the effort to port your games, make sure to give these stories a read, as they may well hold the key to how your porting job would progress.

Fusion Reactions - 100 Rogues

"Ouya was really just an ideal opportunity on all fronts," explains Wesley Paugh, the developer who ported mobile hit 100 Rogues over to the Ouya.

"Timing was perfect; the Kickstarter for the console was announced shortly after regular content updates for 100 Rogues iOS stopped, so I had the time to take on the immense amount of work required."

This immense amount of work came as a result of the game's programming, rather than the act of porting to the Ouya itself.

"This was an incredibly tough process for us, but this has nothing to do with Ouya," he explains. "Using Ouya's APIs to set up controller input, purchasing calls, etc., couldn't have been much simpler."

He continues, "Our problems began much, much earlier than Ouya. When 100 Rogues development began initially, it was supposed to be a three-month project we'd crank out and move on to another. Further, there was no Android at the time. So, the obvious choice was to write the game in Objective-C, a programming language designed to work on iOS and only iOS."



Porting the game to any other platform meant rewriting all 40,000+ lines of code into a language that could be used on Android. "We've considered making an Android mobile port in the past, but knew it would have required this immense amount of work," he says. "Now that the game is cross-platform, Android mobile may be our next target."

Paugh's plan was to have 100 Rogues ready for the Ouya launch, but as it turned out, writing a game from scratch in that time frame was never going to happen.

"I still tried as hard as I could though, and I've crunched as hard as I ever have before," he notes. "It doesn't much help that I made a real poor choice of technology that ended up being incompatible with Android, which set me back about 4, maybe 5 months, all told. Going it alone, in my spare time only, made it the hardest development experience I've yet weathered. But still, I'm a better programmer for it all and 100 Rogues is a much better game for it all."

The most interesting part of developing for Ouya, says Paugh, is watching public perception of the console shift over time.

"Everybody seems to either love or despise the thing, but the naysayers' arguments have changed in particularly interesting ways over time. Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot of hate for it (God knows why it's 'cool' to so outwardly hate something you can safely ignore), but the prominent negative opinion has changed from 'Ouya has no use' to 'Ouya is only useful as an emulator / media center' to 'Ouya has a few good games, but developers won't keep making games for it.' I would love to see that trend continue."

As you can probably tell, Paugh is a big fan of the Ouya -- the developer loves the idea of a games console that provides an alternative to the larger console offerings.

"Genre throwbacks like Shadow Complex and bolder ideas like Fat Princess enjoyed occasional success on their more open digital marketplaces, but even they had the power of a proven name, expensive technology and a marketing budget behind them," Paugh reasons. "In Ouya I saw a promise that the existing system could be changed to allow smaller developers with such great ideas to find their audience and make a living. I wanted to support that 100 percent by bringing a great game to the platform."

100 Rogues has only just been released for Ouya, but I asked Paugh if he feels like the port has been worth it.

"In a word, yes," he answers. "It's been disappointing to see developers share some objectively dismal sales figures, certainly, and I've had to prepare for less financial success that I might have hoped for. Additionally, since the success of the Ouya Kickstarter, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have all announced platforms that are more open to game developers that have found their home on Ouya, and that does present some risk to my investment in the console."

"For now, though, Ouya provides games like 100 Rogues, Amazing Frog and Hidden in Plain Sight. I'll gladly do what I can to support a console that does that."


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