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Atari co-founder: mobile games make me want to throw my phone (theguardian.com)
388 points by ingve on Apr 28, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 216 comments

If you can get past maybe the top 50 or 100 grossing games there are a lot of really good games out there that aren't looking to leech money from you. I have plenty of games that have been worth every penny I spent with a lot of depth and strategy required in order to master them.

Letterpress, Spelltower, Hearthstone, Tiny Wings, Ticket to Ride, Strategery, GD Swarm, Ridiculous Fishing, Monument Valley...I could go on and on. These games were all priced probably too low for what they offered in time played.

This is almost a fluff piece to promote a developer coming up with 'something new for mobile'.

If anybody's looking for a side project, I think there's a curation opportunity here. I'd subscribe to a newsletter focused on great, non-IAP-driven iOS games.

It could be weekly or monthly, with a mix of new games and classic gems that maybe aren't so well known. I'd tolerate a fair amount of advertising or sponsored content in the newsletter as long as it was clearly labeled.

The key thing for me is quality. I think that's true for many (extremely) casual phone gamers. I'd much rather get 1 outstanding recommendation per week/month than 10 of varying quality. And I know game enjoyment can be somewhat subjective, but there are still some games that are generally well-done and broadly appealing to fans of a genre. If the top recommendation is a racing game, I might skip it. That's okay. I don't need a new game every week or even every month. I just don't want to waste my time sifting through bad games or games that start fun but quickly ramp up the IAP pressure.

HumbleBundle kind of fits this niche, but I found their volume to be too high. And frankly, I don't want to buy a bunch of games at once. I think I'm less of a gamer than their target audience.

"The key thing for me is quality."

I wanted to say that I developed Rocket Renegade [1] for iOS. It's an 80s-inspired arcade shooter, with elements reminiscent of Space Invaders, Asteroids, Galaga... and, of course, it contains bosses.

I wrote all of the code, and I composed the soundtrack as well. The bitmap graphics were done by game designer Daniel Cook, who released them under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

I believe that it fits all of your requirements: the quality is high, the gameplay is fun, it runs rock-solid at 60 frames per second, the music is awesome, and it's a POP game (Pay Once to Play); no IAP, no ads.

It's essentially a straight-up, gun-for-your-highest-score-classic-arcade-shooter.

[1] https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rocket-renegade/id955229059?...

Just purchased and played several times. Very solid gameplay, nice retro graphics, fun music. Congratulations.

I was kind of hoping for some power-ups, like a faster shot rate or scattershot. Those might be present, and I just didn't get to them yet, only made it to stage 3-x on first attempts. I also wish the stages had more variation, might feel too repetitive after a while – though that might happen later also.

Anyway, for $0.99, I'm definitely not complaining. It's a fun game and definitely an example of what I'm looking for. I'd personally be willing to pay more, in the $4.99 range, for a game like this, especially if it had some the variation features I mentioned above – but I might be unusual.

Well, first off, a massive THANK YOU for both the purchase, and for taking the time to provide feedback!

Unfortunately, there are no power-ups, and the levels do repeat after the boss level (although the game does become progressively more difficult). Those are definitely great ideas for the next iteration of the game.

Thank you, again. It means a lot to me.

More unsolicited advice: A prestige mechanic can be a good way to increase re-playability, whereby current progress can be traded for future boosts.

I play(ed) a game called Sky Force 2014 that would have benefitted from a prestige mechanic.

Fun game! (Sorry for your loss, indicated in the credits.) I'm not much of a gamer and I kept getting clipped by the rocks because I couldn't see my ship under my finger!

Thank you for your kindness.

As for your game-play issue, try off-setting your finger on the screen, away from the actual ship. That is to say, I made it so that you can actually have your finger anywhere on the screen to control the ship (i.e., you don't have to have your finger directly on the ship to control it). That will help you as you're trying to navigate through the asteroid field (and the other levels as well)!

Thanks again!


Could you please take a look at my game:


Powerups are there. :)

IAP were something he/she was specifically trying to avoid.

There are no IAPs in iOS version.

At 0.99 though, do you really make much money? Back of the envelop numbers seems that any game at that price point is so underpriced to never be profitable or more than a side project. Especially when an ad driven install costs more than that - relying on the pretty poor app store discovery mechanisms cant drive much traffic. (ive worked for free to play, so maybe we just saw a totally different thing)

The reason IAP became so big is because there was a huge race to the bottom in pricing in mobile, $1 isnt sustainable, so everyone was forced to find alternate revenue streams. If apple got rid of free and <$5, the average quality of the app store could be so much higher

Depends on what you define as 'much money'.

I spent 3 months building Hipster CEO and its made me approx $40-45k (as well as leading to other projects). Not a bad return for 3 months work.

I keep thinking that a virtual arcade model could work well... you get N plays per day for free, but if you want to buy more "coins" you pay like $5 and they carry over...

Each version improves existing games in the arcade and/or adds new ones... you can play your 20 coins/day first, then buy extra if you choose... there's no reason that model couldn't work quite well.

Isn't that exactly what P2P/IAP is?

This is the model most Facebook games use. They might call credits "energy", but whatever.

Piggy backing on this to plug our game as well: Fleet of One [1]. Retro 80s space shooter with an original soundtrack composed by a SAMA (South African Music Awards) nominated musician, original artwork by a professional artist, a lot of time spent on level design with classic bosses. Have a look, there's a free demo as well. No IAPs. Real love went into this.

We didn't even make the development cost back. We actively fought against the idea of IAPs and trying to hook whales, even though it would have been easy to introduce mechanisms to do it (on the hardest level it's almost impossible to beat).

[1] iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/za/app/fleet-of-one/id580453079?mt=... Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=za.co.polymorp...

Is this a Unity game? I built something similar (way worse I'm sure) based on the Space game tutorial:


No, it's not Unity. I used Swift, along with SpriteKit [1] to develop the game.

[1] https://developer.apple.com/spritekit

Sweet, I love SpriteKit. It's really great to work with.

I just bought it and gave it a try. I have to say, it is not really my type of thing. After beating the boss, it just repeats, which is not really fun. I really liked the graphics and whatnot, but there was very little in ways of Replayability. It reminded me a lot of Xenon, but was basically over after the first boss. Still, great job! Hope it makes you rich.

Thank you for checking it out! Yes, your feedback is well-placed; it does need additional game-play elements (e.g., power-ups, shields, variation, etc.) that would give it a higher replay factor.

Again, thank you for taking the time to play and provide feedback. This was my first game, and it's clear that I have a lot to learn!

Welcome. And best of luck. This is an awesome start!

iOS only? It looks fun, but I don't have a working iOS device at the moment.

Thank you. It's iOS only.

I built a crowdsourced version of that general idea: http://www.slant.co/topics/3480/~ios-games-without-in-app-pu...

Ah yeah, that's pretty cool, definitely along the same lines I'm thinking. Thanks for sharing.

Pocket Tactics [http://www.pockettactics.com] is mostly what you want. This site should be stickied every time HN talks about mobile games.

Most of what they cover is buy-once. IAP in their covered games usually takes the form of optional DLC or as a way to buy the game outright after trying the initial levels. When they occasionally review a F2P game, they take the side of the average consumer and discuss how intrusive (or not) the IAP is.

Check out Curated, pretty much does what you're looking for: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.curated.an...

Last updated August 2015

Quality is also a key requirement for me. We developed our game Ellipsis for iOS with quality as the main driving factor. It's a minimalist action game of survival and dexterity, with zero text, no ads and no IAP. We've put a lot of effort crafting a polished experience that respects the player.

Please check it out, you're precisely the type of audience we are aiming for: http://playellipsis.com

Regarding curation, aside from places like TouchArcade, there are occasionally nicely curated video lists of best new premium games like these from Gameranx:

- January: https://youtu.be/Nuaj_ti5MtA

- February: https://youtu.be/aTQO0_bhuUI (disclaimer: we're in this list)

- March: https://youtu.be/oreE8YX5jQI

VSauce 3 used to have videos dedicated to apps. Some were games. I'd be lying if I said I tried all of the games, but I will say that most of their recommended games were of good quality.

They stopped making those videos sometime last year.

Here's a compiled list of their featured apps: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cnARmaoMH-ZzAHCmaqkBus3r...

I'd just love to be able to search the respective stores being able to filter out stuff I'd never want.

If I could:

* Filter out any apps or games with microtransactions.

* Filter out any apps or games with ads.

* Filter down to apps with at least x downloads or ratings.

* Choose how the content is sorted.

I feel I could find things that I'm actually interested in. As it is at the moment it feels random whether I'll find something I'd actually want to download.

It's on hiatus right now, but I really recommend the @games_we_care twitter feed for this. The 1,041 recommendations in its archive are pretty great, and if/when it comes back, I'm sure the future will be good too.

There was a site that only listed no-IAP games for a while, but I think they "pivoted" into something less useful. http://www.slant.co/topics/1194/~android-games-without-in-ap... / http://www.slant.co/topics/3480/~ios-games-without-in-app-pu... is what's left.

Are you referring to honestandroidgames?

I was poised to post that site in this thread earlier on, but on googling I found not the site itself but this sadly relevant comment on Reddit from the site's former owner describing their eventual exhaustion in searching for the good stuff and disillusionment with the Android platform in general.


Yes, thanks for reminding me.

Long time lurker, first time poster. I wrote and published a completely original puzzle game for android, got featured on google play a number of times.


Curious how if I search for the exact name of the game on the Play store, I get it all the way on the bottom of the screen...


> I'd subscribe to a newsletter focused on great, non-IAP-driven iOS games.

I guess one would monetize that by soliciting advertisements and featuring particular games?

I really like Ridiculous Fishing.

The guy who made Braid has similar talks, comparing mobile games, arcade games and 90s syndicated sitcoms. They only keep you entertained long enough to insert another coin or make it through a commercial break.

The good mobile games, like you've mentioned, focus on creating a good engaging game without micro-transactions. They earn less. Games with micro-transactions have like a 70% ~ 80% drop rate when you get to the point where you need to pay to make the progress non-painful. That remaining little group is their revenue. Occasionally you get a "whale" that will drop $500 ~ $1000 or more on a game!

I knew game developers who talked about this. It kinda makes me feel sick. Either they have a lot of money, or they're just compulsive. In the later, you're taking advantage of people in the same way casinos take advantage of gamblers. "Whale" is a term used by both industries.

Fuck in-game purchases.

At that point, you don't have fans, you've got addicts.

Known as whales in the industry I believe - they are actively targeted and it is a disgusting strategy :-(

It's a gambling term. Which gives you an idea about the ethos behind it :)

There was an article about the number 1 Clash of Clans player. He took two iPads in clear plastic bags into the shower with him to maintain this position.

He actually sounds like someone you'd meet on HN, he was lonely after moving to SF for a job, that's how be got into the game:


The problem is, in most cases, you either do these kinds of things, or you don't make any money. Mobile users have been trained by the race to the bottom that games and apps should be free, and so they are highly reluctant to pay for stuff.

Game Dev Story is fun and has no micro-purchases. I was hooked for a couple weeks straight.

>This is almost a fluff piece to promote a developer

Clearly you do not know who is Nolan Bushnell


Nolan Kay Bushnell (born February 5, 1943) is an American engineer and entrepreneur who founded both Atari, Inc. and the Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza-Time Theaters chain. Bushnell has been inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame, received the BAFTA Fellowship and the Nations Restaurant News “Innovator of the Year” award, and was named one of Newsweek's "50 Men Who Changed America." Bushnell has started more than twenty companies and is one of the founding fathers of the video game industry.

Clearly you do not know who is Nolan Bushnell

I would argue that he knows who Bushnell is better than you do. What you posted in no way invalidates what you quoted from the parent post. Yes, Bushnell started Atari. Since he sold, he's done...golly, I'd have to go look it up because all I remember is a string of forgettable (duh) games that he put his name on because "founder of Atari".

Yeah, I'm not on the bandwagon either.

Bushnell has started more than twenty companies and is one of the founding fathers of the video game industry.

Okay, sure. How many are still going, and how many didn't completely sink the money of the respective investors?

I get that Bushnell is a smart game guy, but IMO Atari was a lightning strike he's been trying to replicate ever since.

First I think the original parent is spot on about this being an ad spot for Bushnell's newest venture.

On the lighting only striking once though you are certainly off base. Chuck E Cheese was big in it's own right and I'm sure you have heard of at least one of the other companies he started; it's called Pixar.

The link between the Bushnell-founded Kadabrascope, sold to Lucas in 1984 in a fire sale to save Chuck E. Cheese, and the founding of Pixar in 1986 as a spin-off of Lucasfilm's Computer Division (which was founded in 1979) is hazy.

Yes, Bushnell created what probably became a part of Pixar, but calling him a founder is pushing it.

True enough; founder is stretching, but there is definitely a link there that as an outsider is difficult for us to really measure. If I had called it Kadabrascope though; most people wouldn't know what I'm referring to ;-)

No doubt though he is a smart business man with multiple ventures under his belt. I do believe he really has a passion for what he does as well; the fact that he is still doing this in his 70s when he surely has plenty of F-You money says something about his passion for this industry.

I'll give you half a point on CEC, but the founding of CEC was more about getting more Atari units into communities that wouldn't allow arcades.

And, no, Bushnell had nothing to do with Pixar, which had been around for 4-5 years at LucasFilm before CEC sold off Kadabrascope to Lucas in a fire sale. Pixar started with Ray and Catmull.

Atari wasn't even a 'good' company. The original Atari basically invented arcade games and the home console (2600 or VCS) but everything they did afterwards was a complete disaster. Including causing the video game crash, some home computers that never really competed, a bunch more flopped consoles, not to mention they drove incredible talent away that went on to create companies like Activision, and in the process only really created about 10 notable games.

Some of their home computers competed pretty well.

The Atari 8-bit series (400/800) had a significant chunk of market share in the early 80's. Not among the top three, but there were so many incompatible platforms in those days, and Atari 400/800 was one of the more common and well-supported ones for sure. http://arstechnica.com/features/2005/12/total-share/4/

Then, the ST didn't do so hot in the US, but here in Europe it was a well-known platform, nearly as popular as the Amiga. Roughly 75% of sold Atari ST's were sold in Europe.

Most famously, nearly every recording studio you'd care to name would have ST's in the control room well into the 90's and in some cases early 00's, due to their built-in MIDI capabilities.

My first gaming was done on my C64 and my bestie had an Atari 800 which we loved because cartridges meant fast load times, my C64 only had cassette tape. He then got an Atari ST which we also thought was a really good computer. This is in the UK. I was so jealous of that 800 back then, it was an impressive machine.

Edit: hey Ross, if you're out there, it's been 20 years, I still remember the good times!

I've had lunch with the guy. My point still stands - he's not just "some developer".

I envy you.

He tried to bring back cocktail cabinets as a 1v1 casual arcade machine for bars, talking about a celebration of in-person social gaming in an age of faceless online gaming and solo games. I loved the idea. Didn't pan out.

> I could go on and on

Please do!

The problem I've had with mobile games has been discoverability. The app store's recommendations have been useless and the featured/top grossing/most popular games are just the ones that make the most money via in app purchases.

And for some crazy reason, fewer and fewer games have actual screenshots in the screenshot section of their store page. Instead they opt to use that space for simple adverts ("best game ever!", "build 30 kinds of city!") and pictures of cartoon scantily clad women in armour. I'm sure there are many great games that I've just refused to play because of that crap

The frustrating thing is that I'm more than willing to pay $30+ for a game (up front, not in IAP to keep playing), but games that are worth that are rare and other players willing to pay it are rarer.

Some great games I've found (I mostly like RTS): Auralux, Mechcom, God of Light, Castle Raid, Anthill (so good!), Galcon, Plants vs Zombies (1, not 2), Swords and Soldiers, geoDefense.

If you like puzzle games, I personally think Threes is a masterpiece of the touch interface game form. And the original is worth far more than the $3 you'd save playing one of its clones.

You would LOVE Rymdkapsel ( http://rymdkapsel.com/ ) in my opinion.

I could just upvote, but I just liked Rymdkapsel so much I have to second the recommendation.

I also recommend Solarmax2.

I just tried this and it's as awesome as you say. I just bought it for two platforms

I'm becoming a fan of board / card game ports.

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer Neuroshima Hex

Both play really well on small screens and the IAP for expansion packs have been worth it.

Ascension multiplayer can also be played over several days and you can multiple games going. So take a few turns, come back later when your opponent responds.

I believe NS hex is the same but I'm not very good yet and have not tried.

In addition to Threes, which you absolutely have to play, SPL-T is another great stylish puzzler, with a harder to grasp ruleset however.

Orbital, Spelltower and 80 Days are other favorites of mine.

How do you discover quality games? I've found the ability to discover apps outside the top 100 to be virtually non-existent with the current app store configuration.

>How do you discover quality games?

You can't because the discoverability is terrible and the various app stores just care about raw sales, not quality. So that means that devs who want to make quality games never get noticed and that's a major disincentive to produce such games. Mobile gaming doesn't have the tech press, steam-like reviews, etc other gaming has. Its a lot of impulsive buyers feeding a market that delivers crap because crap is good enough for them.

This is like asking where the chess table at a casino is. The casino and the people who go there have no interest in chess. They just want you to toss your money into a skinner box, which is what freemium games are.

Google and Apple could fix this, but prefer to lean towards the 'popular' discoverability than the 'quality' discoverability. I think they're wrong and have turned mobile into a ghetto in so many ways - its not just games, but obviously they prefer this method, which I imagine is more profitable. See the recent reports on how freemium games are powered by 'unicorns' who pay vast sums of money for in-game purchasing, all of which Google and Apple get 20-30% of.

> You can't

jwcooper did

> Mobile gaming doesn't have the tech press, steam-like reviews, etc other gaming has.

I was going to say [citation needed], but then I just literally googled "mobile game reviews" and hit two matches at the very top: http://www.polygon.com/games/mobile/reviewed and http://toucharcade.com/

> This is like asking where the chess table at a casino is.

Ballrooms A through C: http://www.vegaschessfestival.com/schedule/

Exceptions don't disprove the general trend. Its pretty disingenious to find small exceptions and pretend they're the standard.

The reality is that app store discoverability is terrible and p2w and other freemium games dominate sales. These types of sales demotivate devs and publishers from treating the mobile world like consoles or PC, where very good games exist and are easily found. This is a solved problem almost everywhere else? Why is it such a massive problem on mobile? When HN-level people are asking "Geez where are the good games," then you have a problem. If they're struggling then Joe User absolutely is.

Discoverability is terrible, but so was the "chess table in a casino" analogy. You don't look for a chess game by randomly wandering around a casino, and you don't look for quality games by randomly going through the app store.

You're right that there's a problem there, but while it's a problem that ideally needs solving, solutions do exist, and so do quality games.

Those aren't exceptions, though. Those are easily available. You're just too lazy to look for Touch Arcade.

By doing as we always did, reading game reviews by people that work doing only that.

THere's not going to be an exhaustive source, of course, but I've found TouchArcade's reviews to be of some value, as well as their forum.

Their weekly roundup of new releases, including trailers for each, is another avenue for being able to quickly peek through what's out there - any that pique my interest, I'll open in a new tab, and see what further screenshots or user sentiments are to be found.


That website only covers videogames for iOS, do you have any other suggestion?

If you have any interest in PC games you can't get past Rock Paper Shotgun in my opinion. If you were expecting a site focused on Android gaming however, then I'm not of much help unfortunately.

This is the biggest problem for sure. So many of these games just get buried in either app store by the worst type of games and apps.

I've mostly discovered them over time by recommendations from people, or from discussion boards or sites that cover games, or even when they get featured by Apple in the app store.

It's amazing that app discovery is so difficult to solve for the big app stores.

There are so many stores on android, I will be surprised if there isn't any that only accepts games without IAP.

From your friends, just like always.

"These games were all priced probably too low for what they offered in time played."

The marketplace has pushed prices down so low (sub $5), in-game purchases or advertisements are the only way they can make a living.

If Google/Apple cared about their developers, they would force a minimum price. This way, it wasn't a race to the bottom. The end result is either large companies using the games as a loss leader, hobbyists that are releasing games and not getting compensated, or what we see now: games slapped with tons of advertising and in-game purchases. Personally, I would rather just see a higher priced game so I don't have to deal with the spammy tactics used now.

The race bottomed out before Google/Apple were even in the game. Zynga's burn n' churn strategy set precedents for both the gaming audience and game developers alike- pull users into turbo-charged Skinner boxes.

Now these platforms monetize from selling users to developers. Acquisition rates are as shady as they are exacting- you compete for the same users as the top 10 games, who have advertising budgets the size of small countries GDP.

Besides, if they put a minimum price in, they would have to start real curation of the platform. That goes against profiting off developers spending for users, and their percentage for users paying for the game.

Well the ease of entry and the fact developers from areas of the world with much lower costs of living is going to drop the price of any similar market. Similar being wholly digital which eliminates the majority of costs with regards to distribution.

I would not mind seeing a common micro transaction model that all such games could subscribe to so as to remove touch points to a persons credit but also give some assurance of trust and security.

You Must Build a Boat and it's predecessor 10000000 are games I still play forever and a day later even though I've maxed out 10000000 forever and a day ago.

It was a unique game and worth the money, but the replay value is close to nil to me because it's more a game of luck rather than skill.

Is there a way to filter pay-to-win games? I can pay, but I want to have fun and progress with skill/practice instead of by paying.

Last week I spent 20 minutes on the google app store and at the end almost everything was "free" games with p2w

Try puzzles and dragons. It makes all of its money in IAP but so far I've felt no urge to purchase. Game is largely based on skill as far as I can tell. I'm sure there is a lot of grinding to get through at certain points, but I've been playing regularly for a couple of weeks and haven't run into it on the regular dungeons.

I've lost over 100 hours to Crashlands. The mobile app is only $5 with no iAP (and syncs with the PC/Steam save, though that's another $15) and is a very fun, complete game full of humor that's hard to describe. Adventure, action, crafting (with infinite auto-organizing inventory), secrets, and did I mention the humor? Between this, Punch Club, and You Must Build A Boat I've come close to swearing off non-premium gaming on iOS.

As a side note, I actually did throw my phone because of a F2P game. Expensive bad decision.

But how does one goes aboit looking at those? When you look at the top charts of Steam, the only true competitor to App store and Play store, you will mostly find games that are not trying to leech the user.

Of course the founder of Arcade games should remember that most arcade games were designed to take the maximum number of quarters from the users. There is nothing wron with designing around market conditions.

I'd like to take the opportunity to recommend this almost unknown gem for Android: I Am Level. A platformer with a retro spectrum feeling. Got me instantly hooked. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.SmilingBag...

For sure. Most of these have been in the Mobile Humble Bundle. I don't really buy mobile games outside of it.

I'd emphatically recommend Zen Bound and Zen Bound 2.

More than most other mobile games with good touch controls, the Zen Bound games really took advantage of the tactile nature of current mobile devices and their touch interfaces.

Aside from the mechanics, they were also pretty relaxing, while some of the levels managed to be simultaneously challenging while remaining completely passive. A very gentle and non-frustrating form of challenging that not many games manage to achieve.

I don't think Zen Bound gets enough praise as a game that is unique both from a gameplay perspective and how well it relies on the interface of the underlying device.

I think I bought nearly all of the games you mentioned via humble bundle deals, so that may be one way to access curated mobile games.

Don't forget Alto's Adventure. Although it's been somewhat polluted with IAP recently, it's still a gorgeous, well-designed game.

FTL on the iPad works really well, too.

Great post. I'd add Atomas to your short list of undervalued games.

You seem to have a low bar for what constitutes a great game. (EX: Tiny Wings) Which is not a bad thing. I would suggest you look into free flash games, there are some real gems out there.

However, IMO many people are simply have different expectations. Mobile has plenty of processing power, but poor controls which is a real limitation preventing a wide swath of what people think of as video games.

Honestly, the lack of dedicated controls will never allow for mobile gaming to be anything more than a time diversion for most people. A touchscreen just isn't something that's comfortable to use for extended lengths of time, in my opinion at least.

Time diversion versus what?

The lack of dedicated controls is only a negative for games that require precise inputs (like classic arcade games). There are so many fantastic games that don't require that at all. Strategy, turn-based RPGs, puzzles, adventure games, etc. For certain games, a touchscreen can blow dedicated controls out of the water if the interface is designed well.

Yup, especially for strategies. It's much easier to touch the position with your finger then having to drag mouse across the screen.

That only works on a simple boards. Chess is 8x8 and feels cramped on a 4" screen. Go at 19x19 takes scrolling or zoom then click which slows down input. For a more complex board you end up being vague or spending lots of time fighting the UI.

Exactly. Some games are perfect for touchscreen, like Temple Run, Candy Crush and Subway Surfer. I don't think that's the real problem with mobile gaming.

Yes, I'm intrigued how one is going to bring "old-school arcade sensibilities" to a system where the inputs really need to be interpreted as "a user pressed sort of hereish, sort of nowish" and when the user does that, they also have to cover some percentage of the screen to do it. Precision is not available. Not all games require precision, so it's not a fatal problem, merely just another design issue to deal with, but it does sound fatal to a lot of "old school arcade" ideas.

>Not all games require precision, so it's not a fatal problem, merely just another design issue to deal with, but it does sound fatal to a lot of "old school arcade" ideas.

Not sure what the issue is. I've used tons of old-school arcade games in the 80s. They had horrible precision joysticks, guns ("operation wolf"), etc.

Well, speaking at least for the light-gun games, I've almost never enjoyed the arcade versions, especially the ones that don't even show a crosshair on the screen showing your current aim point. I far more enjoyed using the Wiimote to aim, since it was far, far more accurate than anything I've seen in the arcade... and lo, rail shooters turn out to be pretty fun after all!

(With a Wiimote you can actually develop muscle memory... ah, I need to aim here so I put the remote here, blammo. Trudging a massive hunk of plastic bolted to the cabinet, thus having a restricted range of motion, is just nothing like freely moving a Wiimote. Seriously, if you've got a Wii and you've never tried a "light-gun game" (ironically still called that despite the term being decades obsolete now), pick one up sometime. They're cheap.)

So, at least in my case, my experience directly contradicts your claim that accuracy isn't important for that genre. Also would have to say that when the joystick is not really working correctly, I immediately leave, and when they are working correctly, I don't know what you mean by them being imprecise.

The biggest challenge with mobile game design is not so much the precision of controls, it's the premium on screen real estate.

You have to put all the information of your game on the same layer as the controls- meaning your number one concern will be optimizing your interface and controlling the flow of information. It also means that the games you'll be making should be unique to touchscreen- games ported from other platforms are almost always inferior, in part because their design is optimized for a different platform.

I think there's certain games/tasks for which touch screens are miles ahead of the old mouse and keyboard. Card games, for example, lend themselves very well to touch screens.

That's only one example, but I think the issue is that so many games try to adapt touchscreen to old control methods, rather than create new control methods for touchscreens.

> try to adapt touchscreen to old control methods

Touch-screen joysticks are appalling - it's very hard to interact with a game when you've got a good deal of the game obscured by your fingers. That being said, I can't think of a better way to do it - those games probably don't belong on phones as phones are seemingly the wrong tool for the job.

I simply uninstall ad rich games, but controls? I've frequently felt the desire to throw my phone against the wall.

You just need to find ways to utilize it for its strengths. I've been playing Rovio's Retry which has very skillful twitch gameplay, and since it involves touching with one finger it's easy to play on a bus or in a coffee line up, which is vital. Another great game is Brain It On where you draw on the screen to solve puzzles in a simulated physical world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Jo7EXUS1Vk

>Honestly, the lack of dedicated controls will never allow for mobile gaming to be anything more than a time diversion for most people.

Isn't gaming precisely a time diversion?

Isn't gaming precisely a time diversion?

For many people, gaming is much more of a hobby that you explicitly set aside time for. I was using "time diversion" in the sense that you are just bored and looking for something to do. That's when I do most of my gaming on my smartphone. If I'm in the mood to specifically do some gaming (as opposed to just killing some time), my smartphone is literally the last device I would use for that purpose.

Games can be many different things besides a time diversion. An important thing that games can be is an artistic or storytelling medium. Is a novel a "time diversion"? It probably depends on the work.

One of the benefits of games is that the subtitles of the interaction can also be part of the story. A touch screen, unfortunately, offers only a small set of possible interactions, and thus it has a limited toolset for telling interactive stories.

This is important, because we are just learning how to use interaction as a expressive tool. I highly recommend watching Innuendo Studios' "Story Beats"[1]. The first 3 clips are examples, and the last (4th) has the main essay. The thesis is that games offer the storyteller a different set of tools. Video (movies), for example, can generally only access your sympathetic emotions (you feel excited/sad/etc for the character), while interaction allows other emotions to be experience first-hand.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJA_jUddXvY4f8-eoY0mg...

there are people that watch movies because it's an entertaining way to pass the time, and then there're film buffs for whom moviegoing is an important part of their identity. and so on.

The key historical context this article omits is that they're a social time diversion. The arcades are a place facilitated by the games. Focusing on the games is like focusing on the highway in a road trip. It's about being with friends.

Phone games surely have the potential to do that, and probably some of them do, but if you look at Bushnell's other works, the restaurants, the Atarti C-380, he was trying to improve social activities via graphics/gaming.

The Nintendo CEO guy has said the same thing with respect to controller design facilitating other people to see how your hands move.

Single-player games trend towards mere time diversion but multiplayer games can be any number of things such as:

  * Competition
  * Shared experiences
  * Role play
  * A way to socialize
...among other things.

Sid Meier divides game enjoyment up into four categories: Easy Fun, Hard Fun, Relaxing Fun, and Social Fun.

"Relaxing Fun" is basically what the GP post was talking about -- a diversion, something you do to pass the time, which is typically not completely passive but mostly so. A lot of sandbox-type games do this well, where you're mostly just sort of looking at the scenery and derping around and having a good time without being particularly threatened or challenged.

"Hard Fun" is nearly the opposite -- it's competition and challenges and stuff that gets your heart rate up. It's "play to 20, win by 2" and you end up finishing 25-23 in a high-stakes match to improve your global rating [0]. It's beating a level in a single life when it used to take you 5 or 10 lives. It's shaving 3 seconds off of your speedrun by perfecting a tricky maneuver.

"Easy Fun" is things like shiny in-game treasure, achievements, even satisfying sounds like the Mario coin pickup sound. It's stuff that makes you smile just for playing and making ordinary progress.

"Social fun" is, of course, anything that connects you with other people -- playing cooperatively or competitively, or even talking about the game outside of the game itself. (I met my wife on a video game BBS 18 years ago.)

[0] A Descent match between two of my friends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mq6hyfFAo4&index=2&list=PLo...

I totally agreed with your point. Lack of precise control and having no physical feedback and limitations on touchscreen controls led game developers to compromise the quality of games to make them ready for touch controls. In addition, fingers are hiding a big chunk of the screen for them to use on-screen controls which again compromises both quality of control and game design. Although there are controllers in the market you can attach the phone to top of the controller but all are bulky and not good for a mobile user. We made http://www.flitch.io , a mobile and smart-toy controller in the form of a phone case. It has two intuitive Josyticks and two trigger buttons and all works with no battery! Buttons are pressure sensitive which means if you press harder you punch harder! check it out and share your thoughts. Thanks

This is something I've been thinking about recently. Nintendo really should move into that gap since they can't seem to directly compete with XBox or Playstation. They should engineer a control system of some sort that works for iOS and Android, then write content that is compatible. It wouldn't be something you could just use while waiting in line or waiting for your food at a restaurant, but if the content was excellent, that wouldn't matter. People would find time to play, just as they find time to play gaming systems now.

For you and I maybe. Touchscreens are very natural for people who have grown up using them. My 3 year old cousin (once removed) can destroy most people I know at touchscreen games because she has grown up using touchscreens.

My cousin's mother gave her a glossy magazine to read a while back, and she tried swiping the pages to turn them.

its like saying your cousin is great at special Olympics, same goes for console FPS/RTS.

First of all, I assume you mean the Paraolympics. The Special Olympics is for people with mental disabilities, the Paraolympics are for individuals with physical disabilities.

Second of all, that metaphor is not true at all. Great works are often improved by working within the limitations of their medium. To claim otherwise is utterly absurd.

Are you claiming a gamer fluent with a traditional controller would always beat (handily) a gamer fluent with a touchscreen?

In a game which required precision, timing, broad visual awareness and/or offered benefit to having more controls than can be provided on the touchscreen without obscuring the view, yes.

Just like for classes of games where fast but also precise motions are required, a mouse will beat a controller thumbstick.

Pretty straightforward matters of bandwidth, latency.

I also feel like that, but the game download numbers tell otherwise :(

(My favorite kind of mobile games are the ones where the game stops until you complete your input: Stickman Golf, Score Hero)

Agreed. I wish Nintendo would release a quality game pad to go with their upcoming games. I can imagine if it's done right, would be awesome.

The Apple TV also suffers from the requirement that you have to be able to use the remote to play the game.

why not just use a single finger on the touchscreen, or tilt the device? I think the flaw is expecting the phone to behave like an elaborate 8-button hardware controller.

Single finger on touchscreen works - but tilting I think largely doesn't work. Device tilt was the dominant mode of input for earlier iOS games back when the App Store was new - in part because of the Wii's popularity at the time - but didn't stick.

Part of it's because despite Apple's pretty spectacular accelerometer, detecting fine motion is very difficult, and so the amount of "resolution" available to you as a dev is pretty limited. Variation in fine motor control between players also means that you can't necessarily rely on players being able to affect small, precise movements. Motion controls ultimately ended up being low resolution and relied on substantial/large movements of the device.

This is worse on Android, where the quality of the accelerometer varies widely depending on hardware, and getting consistent experiences across a range of devices is nearly impossible.

Add to environmental factors (say, playing the game on a bus, train, or airplane) massively screwing with your accelerometer readings, and the propensity for mobile games to be played in those exact places, and the situation gets worse.

In any case, this leads to fatigue. Turns out holding your phone up and tilting it every which way is a bit tiring.

tl;dr: Because of individual biological variation, hardware limitations, and environmental noise, fine motion control for mobile games didn't work out, at all.

I understand your point if you're talking about racing games / first person shooters, but for RPGs I think touch screens work really well. I just finished playing Final Fantasy VI on the iPhone, and it was much easier than playing on the SNES, specifically because of the touch screen.

To me a good game is an experience to immerse myself in, and for some reason I have never managed to do so on portable devices such as mobile phones.

I played my first videogames on an Atari 2600. I remember Defender, Space Invaders, Night Driver, Pac Man, Adventure and River Raid. Then Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Battle City, and a multitude of titles on those '1000 games' Japanese cartridges with physical switches on NES and later SNES, many of these in [black and white][1]!

The SNES was my last console. My parents gave me a 386 PC-XT where I played a [version of Space War][2], Sopwith, Rogue, Falcon 1.0, Double Dragon 2, Sim City 2000 and Doom. On later computers I played Daggerfall, XCOM, TIE Fighter, System Shock, Thief, Subspace, Grand Theft Auto, Jagged Alliance, Far Cry 2.

Presently I'm enjoying Elite: Dangerous and Metal Gear Solid V on a Macbook Pro.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PAL-M

[2]: http://hypertexthero.com/logbook/2006/06/spacewar/

(Edited for formatting.)

MUST-WATCH in this context: South Park S18 E6, it's about Freemium, Mobile, Addiction, Dopamine in very educative AND funny way

Here full episode in HD (you can switch to English): http://www.southpark.de/alle-episoden/s18e06-freemium-gibts-...

"Freemium"...that's the real problem with mobile gaming. These games are purposely made annoying so people will pay to win the game.

Thank you, that was fantastic! :) Classic South Park. Direct but with lots of truth in there.

Game Dev CTO here, having worked with Spil already I'm curious with what he will come up. I totally agree that we need a change in mobile game design. I love the tech behind the games, designing backends which quickly have to serve millions of players. But I'm hardly actually playing mobile games, because they are repetitive, always the same pattern, hence boring. I love disruptive games which bring in new tech like Supercell's Clash Royale, which took real-time gaming on mobile to a new and never seen before level.

On a funny side note, Nolan has eagerly started to follow mobile game devs on Twitter. The day he started following me I just wrote "I can quit now, my life is complete" :) Now I know what he's up to.

> I love disruptive games which bring in new tech

Agreed! This is why I love the GearVR, pushing mobile gaming to new bounds.

Yes, I preordered the PS4 VR, that's going to be awesome.

>> Before Atari, software engineering was considered a highly professional career which meant coders wore a tie and a sensible haircut. “Atari was able to change that corporate culture a great deal,” says Bushnell. “When Steve Jobs – who worked for me – left, he took that ethos to Apple. Everybody else who worked in Silicon Valley back then looked at these two fastest growing companies, and started to think maybe our culture was important. So they started copying it, and now, today, anybody in technology can go to work looking like shit. That’s one legacy.”

And for that legacy, I for one, am grateful.

The problem with mobile games is GOOGLE PLAY STORE and the APP STORE, that only show you 1% of what's out there. This "flat ui" stage of design has removed all functionality of applications that need them. Let me search apps by categories, or filter by price, product, company, developer, date added, date updated, and so on...

They're trying to get the more profitable ones in front of consumers. So a flat search is not in their interest.

When the whole mobile/app thing began with Java ME, I thought their prices would be within $10-$25 because programmers would not have to sell physical copies anymore and along came Apple selling mobile software more at $0.99-$5 and even at $5 people think software is too expensive compared to the $40+ they were paying for console games or other programs.

This aggressive dilution of the monetary value of software is what I think contributed the most to the loss of gameplay quality and the near-criminal, constantly-nagging-for-payments-and-ad-views behavior of app publishers today.

Mobile software should have been sold more like shareware used to be sold - free demos with limited functionality -$5 onwards for complete versions.

But now it is too late, the dilution of value of mobile software has only benefited app store owners.

Same thing on the desktop.

Software development outside of the desktop and enterprise space is only sustainable via services/books/consulting, because no one is paying for software if they can get it for free.

Our customers are annoyed by the concept of spending $1-2k/person on licenses but have no problem with $150-200/hour billing rates, half the time of which is spent showing them how to do things for the nth time. People are funny like that. Not the worst deal from a business perspective but frustrating from an idealistic tech progress one.

TL;DR: person preparing a product to sell finds existing competing products lacking.

Bushnell has created a lucrative post-Atari career out of coasting on his Atari successes, duping a string of companies into bringing him on as some kind of golden prophet to give the startup some credibility.

He's had his own streak of noncompelling products over the last 4 decades. Sente. Catalyst. Aristo. uWink. I wouldn't expect anything different.

But that's just my opinion.

I love video games and became a developer because of them. I've always wanted to make a game and mobile is supposed to be the renaissance of indy game development.

But I just can't do it. I hate the touch screen. It is a horrible input device for gaming. It makes every game as frustrating as typing a sms full of auto-corrects. I can't imagine any game I would make would be fun.

That's probably because you're thinking too much about traditional controls.

I agree. Most mobile games I've downloaded prioritize ads views/in app purchases over making a 'hardcore' game. There are a few exceptions, such as Vainglory, but the vast majority are the equivalent of the super ball vending machine at the grocery store.

Ugh. I had a friend who played an incremental clicker game. He urged me to download it on my tablet. It didn't offer anything interesting over any other incremental clicker game, but every so often, a giant ad would display in the middle of the screen.

You'd be surprised at how many touch events you can register before your device has the ability to switch to your browser. After I closed all 10 or so tabs, I uninstalled it immediately.

The state of mobile games is pretty sad, to be honest. There are obviously some great gems out there that focus on touch interface. But so many try to shoehorn classic-style games onto the platform with virtual joysticks on the screen and the like. That sucks so much. And that's not even considering microtransations and all that crap.

He obviously hasn't played Neko Atsume

I think lack of having good controls and all the touchscreen limitations and low price games led game developers to compromise the quality. Touchscreen controls are not precise, you always lose the control and fingers are hiding a big chunk of a small screen!! But Smartphone could be more than. It is with us everywhere we want mobile gaming has to more fun that it is. I believe http://www.flitch.io (we are the creator) can solve these issues, what do you think?

I played Clash Royale for several days and the insistence on payments to progress was really off putting. The gameplay itself was quite addicting so I presume they're trying to avoid players burning out from binging. But the fact you either had to pay money or wait three hours to do anything of value was just too much to bear. The entire game design is genius in how it funneled you toward purchases.

My friends and I play Clash Royal, Clash of Clans and Boom Beach. Out of the three it's Clash Royal that has made us come this close to smashing our tablets in rage.

But it's not the IAP that's the cause. It's the skewed matchmaking and the mysterious loosing streaks that occur very frequently. You'd be playing and winning some and loosing some and then all of a sudden you hit a losing streak of 6-12 losses or more.

One thing for sure is my friends and I are not spending a penny on this game because of that regular frustration. We've spent a little on the other two games to get past a point of tedium but that gave us something concrete.

In Clash Royal spending money just gives you a chance to get the cards you need. No thank you. If the game mechanic wasn't so addictive we'd have stopped playing it long ago.

It's the cheesy cards that make me rage. I'm looking at you balloon and ice potion. I've wanted to break my phone in half more times than I can count.

Also, good luck if you want to switch decks, or decide one of your cards is worthless; or if they nerf your favorite card.

I'm 99% sure most mobile games are designed to psychologically drive players to spend as much money on microtransactions as possible. That, and now they are specifically targeting whales, so there's less "a little goes a long way" on IAP and now you really have to shell out to get anywhere. I know that I've personally spent more on in-app purchases that I care to admit just to get an edge on other players in some of those games. T_T

Clash of Clans had a revenue of 1 BILLION dollars in 2015 alone. That's insane. I'm sure they measure every single metric that can be measured in that game and make sure it's as engaging as possible by optimizing their interfaces and looking at the psychology of players.

Some odd non-specific trends I've noticed across various games:

* There are usually 3 currencies. Usually a "f2p" currency, a "p2p" currency and a "social" currency.

* There are at least 3 distinct ways to progress a unit, for example "level", "stars/quality", "gear/items" and each way requires a different activity or minigame to progress.

* Playing the game requires "energy" or something similar which recharges slowly over time but can be refilled by paying p2p currency

* There are "ratings" on your performance which usually are measured as 1, 2, or 3 stars.

* The number three comes up a LOT in the game design. Like 3 stages per level, 3 abilities per character, 3 milestones per achievement, etc.

* Bring the player to the store as often as possible to pick up little freebies and force them to look at the paid offerings

It's like every big mobile game studio is designing off the same playbook.

> It's like every big mobile game studio is designing off the same playbook

They, in fact, are. Every one of those trends serve a specific purpose or were highly studied to provided the "best" outcome.

I.E - Energy forbids you to explore the whole game in a couple of days (unless you pay) and plays with your min-maxing head to return to the game several times a day (you energy usually takes 4 to 6 hours to fully replenish)

They've probably read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Mobile-Social-Game-Design-Monetization...

I did, but I try to do games that I like to play, trying to minimize obstacles for the players.

This doesn't mean that the book should be burned; it has some great articles on how to improve usability or minimize friction.

Clash Royale would be so much more engaging if you could:

  Queue up chests to unlock

  Earn "keys" when you win and your chest slots are full: Silver chests take 10 keys, etc. Still enables whales to spend their money, but makes it feel like you can earn *something* by playing.
I think even with this it would still be decently monetized, while increasing the feeling of player agency and engagement.

There are companies whose sole purpose is to encourage addictive design and IAP - see http://vungle.com/

Ugh, in-app purchases are the worst thing to ever happen to the game industry. Unfortunately there are two types of IAPs:

1. Extra content (eg extra decks in Agricola, more levels, etc)

2. Pay-to-win purchases.

And there's really no way to distinguish between (1) and (2). I loathe (2) but (1) is where all the money is. The market has (sadly) spoken on this one. :(

Ya know, it just occurred to me that paying to win has precedent. The old arcade machines used to let you keep playing by inserting more money. Or some of them did anyway. This is analogous.

I've stopped even looking at new games. I just keep playing Bejeweled HD (Diamond Mine).

Some game apps are truly frustrating, specially those with plenty of ads. It seems that market has devoted to 'candy-crush' or 'dress your pony' games. But then you can stumble upon games like 'Monument Valley' or simply '2048'.

I create html5 puzzles and I am truly interested in what kind of games people are interested (in puzzle genre). When it comes to monetization, I'm trying with rewarded-donation with patreon, but it seems there is no good solution, even with free to play games!

I wish the Google Store just had the option to hide everything with IAP.

> I have been so pissed off with some mobile games I’ve wanted to throw my phone, even if I’m only going to hurt my phone there, and not the game."

> some mobile games

Cutting a sentence in half is pretty silly.

His actual point is there are a lot of Games with poor game design. This is probably related to the barrier of entry of Mobile games. It costs very little to put together a App and launch it on Google Play or Apple's Store. Compared with building actual arcade machines (or paying someone else to build them) and shipping them to Arcades.

In all fairness to Bushnell, the clickbait headline is drawn from the considerably more measured "I have been so pissed off with some mobile games I’ve wanted to throw my phone".

Actual quote: "I have been so pissed off with some mobile games I’ve wanted to throw my phone."

Clickbait title: "mobile games make me want to throw my phone."

I'd love to know what Nolan Bushnell thinks of flappy bird. Aside from all the silliness, I think it's genuinely a good little game, and it fulfils many of the criteria of those classic arcade games we fondly remember: simple graphics, spot-on gameplay balance, an obvious gameplay mechanism, highly replayable (based a lot on strong highscore focus).

Slide-to-Play, Pocket Tactics blog and Touch Arcade (including their forums) are three sites I rely on for reviews of mobile games.

Remember the App Store like, 5 years ago? Lots of innovative mechanics and experimentation? People even making money on paid apps?

Atari 2600 games are more playable, fun, immersive, and inspirational than any games for IOS and most modern console games.

If you have a few pixels to animate and want to build something fun, you think about what makes a game fun.. When you have HD video, textures, etc., you think about implementation details.

I dunno... I'm a huge Atari 2600 fan - I have my prized heavy sixer, and have even made my own "game" (https://github.com/mrspeaker/plops) in 6502 assembler... but if I'm honest, 95% of Atari 2600 games are terrible. Unplayable. Because no one really knew what a "video game" was or could be, they tried EVERYTHING to see what would stick. Some things stuck, and formed the basis of good game design fundamentals today. Most things did not stick.

The games that remain truly fun to this day (for me) are two-players-at-once games, where the challenge is beating your friend.

Tell that to E.T.

Actually E.T. was all right, after you read the manual and fixed the few release bugs [http://www.neocomputer.org/projects/et/]

E.T. isn't really a bad game. Confusing and strange, but not nearly as bad as people like to claim it is.

Having actually played E.T. it's arguably better than 'Tiny Wings' which is often thought of as a 'great' mobile game.

I mean really, you can play Tiny Wings with one finger and your eyes closed.

Just republish gameboy, game gear, lynx, neogeo titles, and you'll have a great mobile gaming ecosystem.

No. Having a lack of buttons means controls for games designed with buttons in mind would be terrible.

Look to those games for inspiration, but the games made need to first and foremost embrace the touchscreen, rather than attempt to emulate traditional controls.

plus a good controller

It's a question of looking through heaps of shite to find a gem. There are decently designed mobile games out there, they're just rare when compared to the amount optimised for ad revenue.

Hoplite springs to mind, and some of the ones pushed in the Humble Mobile bundles (some anyway).

You goddamned kids! Get off my lawn!!!

Wait... is this the same person that also green-lit/signed-off on the Atari E.T. video game?

I've stopped playing games on mobile. I don't want to support back neck posture.

He obviously hasn't played Lara Croft Go. That game is a single-player treasure.

This thread is so freaking depressing. So many great mobile games and great developers buried in a mountain of shit. I love iOS and mobile gaming but the current state of the app store is downright depressing.

I sometimes like games that make we want to throw my phone: http://blackboxpuzzles.com

One word, indians, asians just looking for gold, easier way to make games in the most crappy way. I'm actually one and have seen how they work. Scammers

If you haven't played it, Pixel Dungeon is great.

Pixel Dungeon is life.

Good game no one plays: Land Air Sea Warfare (it's basically old school Red Alert ported to iOS!)

Shit game everyone plays: clash of clans.

Basically, there's more non gamers than gamers, and more mkney in skinner box candy crush than good old school games. So the game makers sold out.

It's like how people think dark souls or Bloodborne is "too hard" to be fun. It's exactly fun because you have to try and not just do endless todo list quests!

If you have an iOS device and like Advance Wars, check out WarBits. Single purchase, no microtransactions.

Gratuitous but relevant I feel:

If you're into startups and Pay Once and Play games then Hipster CEO is probably up your alley:


This thread has been great for finding good non-IAP-driven games!

Most mobile games are dogshit, good ones are rare.

And what happened to Atari?

every game is like a physics game that gets boring after 5 mins.

some said throwing phone? http://binarka.pl/skateable :D :D

Sweet memories

If they can get games to be fun again, where you want to play, rather than just kill time, that would be awesome.

I still play games on the old 8 and 16 bit consoles, where gameplay always shone. No matter how many times you complete R-Type, you still come back for more.

>> rather than just kill time

Yeah, that's something I find really odd about most mobile games. They seem designed as a way to basically put the brain into a low energy state or something, rather than actually being interesting.

My personal experience of games like Candy Crush is that people play them on the subway or whatever when there's nothing else to do. If they had a book with them they'd read that, if someone handed them a Nintendo DS with zero effort they'd probably do that (if they could get over the ego thing).

I can't really imagine anyone setting themselves up for a marathon casual gaming session. They seem marketed to be one level above 'watching paint dry' and used in circumstances where that's the only alternative.

I probably have a similar sensibility in regard to games, but Candy Crush is quite the opposite of "watching paint dry" in a lot of respects. It's full of novel/weird animations, cute characters, satisfying sound effects. I compare it to a casino slot machine room - a lot of people just like to be mesmerized by pretty sights/sounds without that much of a challenge. I don't exactly respect it as a gamer, but it speaks to a weird/interesting human need.

It was a tired cliche for describing games even before smartphones existed, but the model for typical mobile game design truly is the Skinner Box. You press a button to get some shiny reward designed to make your brain feel like it accomplished something.

It's a remarkably elaborate ruse to disguise the fact that there really is no "game" underneath all the chrome.

More pointedly, it's a way to monetize the dopamine reward. Most modern mobile games, after all, try to induce "fun pain" to get you to buy more turns/levels/clicks etc. There doesn't have to be a "game" -- just the "fun pain", and then a way to settle back into the dopamine bath via paying RL currency. I know I'm preaching to the choir a bit here, but it's important to note that not only is there no "game", but that they know that there's no "game" and that low-energy-with-periodic-bursts-of-reward state is the _point_.

They are engineered to be a placeholder for ads and environment for micro transactions while feeding the brain novelty. Everything else is secondary or non existing.

But hey the governments love the mindless entertained drones and if someone desires to be one, it has the human right. But let's call it like it is.

> If they had a book with them they'd read that

You can fit lots of books on a phone!

Smartphones are actually a terrific medium for casual reading [1].

[1]: http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2014/02/_thats...

As were some Palm OS devices before them - those with 480x320 screens, at least. (They weren't good for much else!)

> If they can get games to be fun again

They are still fun! But the bar for creating games has been lowered. On net, that's a good thing -- we get more games to choose from overall. But one bad consequence has been that people have created lots of games that aren't fun, and especially lots of pay-for-play games that exploit people's weaknesses.

It is incredibly hard to dig through the mountains of garbage to find the occasional good game. I'm not so sure it is a net good thing, I think fewer good games are succeeding now because they are being buried in crap.

i will happily trade away your effort unto the end of time if it means I get a broader selection.

Just because you are happy with it, doesn't mean it is an overall good.

There are some game developers striving to do that on the mobile platform, but they are mostly indie and not very well known.

On a related note: Here's a shameless plug for the Trese brothers. They make mobile games with no ads, and minimal in-app purchases. For what it's worth, I have no affiliation with them other than backing their Star Traders 2 kickstarter.

the underlying premise to the marketing campaign driving this article is that there is a "right" way to entertain. I reject that premise outright, even though it's practically tailor-made for old men, but from reading these comments, it's a smart market segment to chase.

but what games did he play ?

From someone who grew up using a Commodore 64: he's right. We've forgotten how to design great games. I don't claim to understand why, but we did.

This is more visible on consoles, where the overall gaming experience is simply terrible, but mobile isn't that much better.

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