Game Design: Does the world really need mobile Diablo Clones?

In recent evenings I’ve gone through the app store role playing category.  There are about 800 games to wade through and I’ve been trying the ones that interest me.  After playing several, I’m struck by a consistent thought: Seriously, do we need Diablo clones on a mobile device?!

First, a quick history of where I’m coming from on this: I’ve been designing mobile applications for around 8 years.  One of the keys to our success is how we embrace “think mobile” in every aspect of our software development process.

The same question must to be asked in the mobile game space as in the enterprise app space: what thinking must I jettison, and what thinking must I embrace to succeed on the platform?  From what I’ve seen, many developers are simply taking PC or console concepts and squashing them down to the mobile form factor.

The most blatant example of this tunnel vision is the virtual d-pad.  Put aside how terrible most virtual d-pads perform, the fact that a game requires virtualized controls that don’t exist should be a signal they’re walking down the wrong path!  Mirthwerx will never design a game that requires a virtual d-pad, and if we did you shouldn’t buy it!  (I find it hilarious that a company is now making a physical d-pad you can attach to your ipod/ipad for better control in these games).

So if the d-pad is an example of what should be jettisoned, what kind of thinking should be embraced?  A big one is play style.  When I play on my PC I’m in a comfortable chair, I expect to play for more than 10 minutes without interruption (or I can control the interruptions), and I have very accurate control devices (mouse,keyboard).  Conversely, when I play on my iPhone/iPad I could be sitting, standing, or walking (on a treadmill or outdoors).  My play sessions can end at any moment: an incoming phone call, the bus reaching my stop, or my wife protesting I’m not listening to her (it’s true, I’m not).  10 minutes might be the upper limit of my session time, therefore the levels, the number of enemies, the amount of information presented and i’m expected to remember in one go, must all be taken into consideration.  My fun must be bite sized for a bite sized device.

Diablo is a fantastic PC game.  But when I play on-the-go, I’m not looking for the same experience on my mobile device.  I can’t: I’m not in the frame of mind or environment to be able to.  What I’m looking for is an experience that feels like Diablo but isn’t a copy.  I don’t have time for a meal, I’m looking for a snack!

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2 Comments

  1. Tom Sweeney
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink | Reply

    This always happens with a technology revolution. The first automobiles were literally designed as carriages without the horses. The first movies were simply plays performed in a theatre with a video camera in the front row. Only later did the technology break out of the old paradigms and truly come into their own (e.g. filming on location).

    • Posted September 24, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Well it’s been 5 years, isn’t that an eternity in mobile?!

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