The Google Play Store is saturated with many, many games that range from simple, like Flappy Bird, to complex, like Dead Trigger 2. There are even full installations of Grand Theft Auto available to play. There are key components that made these games and others like them very successful (and wealthy). Here are some key things to keep in mind while developing a game. Let’s get started.
Tools of the trade
Before you start developing an app you need to pick some tools. The “standard” tool for Android app development is Android Studio. If you are unfamiliar with Android Studio then you should check out my Android Studio for beginners tutorial. The programming language at the heart of Android Studio is Java. If you need some help with Java then I recommend reading our three part Java tutorial for beginners (part 2 & part 3). We have also written many game tutorials using an array of software from Corona SDK, GameMaker: Studio, Unity for 2D and Stencyl.
Let’s build a simple Android app, part 1
Do not give up!
It is never a good idea to give up, ever. If you put in a lot of time into your app and hit a roadblock, do not give up, figure out a way to overcome the obstacle. When Android Wear was announced I started making watch faces. I ran into a bunch of obstacles and random bugs that took days to overcome, but I never gave up and I’m glad I didn’t, I learned a lot and it is a great feeling to complete a project successfully. Unless there is a need to stop do to the project interfering with work or the like, keep it going and see it through.
Cross platform mobile development
Make something original
While this sounds fairly obvious, there was a flood of Flappy Bird knock offs that entered the Play Store once everyone learned how much money could be made off the idea. What made the game so successful was that it was original, simple and easy to learn but hard (impossible?) to master. There are many examples of original games that have had tremendous success. Rovio, for example, is even getting a movie based off of Angry Birds. No one likes a copycat, and while you might make some money off the game, you will more than likely not become a hit like you would if you just made something original. It is also very satisfying to make something that no one else has and release it into the world to see what happens. It is always better to make an original product than to release a knock off and take credit for something you did not initially make.
Simpler is better
Looking at current trends in the market, the most successful games are some of the most basic concepts you can think of. But what makes them so simple also makes them fun and highly addictive are how simple the concepts are. This also can give an infinite replay value. Some of my favorite games on Android are super simple and offer a great replay value. An overly complicated game is not worth the user’s time to figure out. More complicated games are perfectly acceptable on consoles and PC, but generally, most people do not want to game for more than a few minutes on their phone. There are exceptions of course, like GTA and Dead Trigger being wildly successful while offering a very immersive gaming experience. But as this is a beginner’s guide, keep the game relatively simple and once you learn the basics, make games that are a little more complicated, without being too hard where nobody will play them.
This is arguably the most important step in game development. The developer will always have a bias when it comes to software testing because if they overlook the bug once, there is a good chance they will always overlook it. Always go to a third party, like a friend, family member, etc to test your app. You can also develop test cases within the app itself to test the most common use cases of the application. This can be done by hardcoding “paths” that the application will follow to make sure everything runs smoothly. This is a little more complicated for a basic game but will be very beneficial for larger scale products. In this case, just getting someone to use your app for a while and having them test common things will be very beneficial. Do not release a broken product if you can help it, this will tarnish the name of your product and it will be hard to recover from it. Make sure the app is a perfect as possible before release.
Armed with this advice, jump into the world of game development! It takes practice and a lot of research to truly make a great game, but what makes a game great is it’s simplicity and originality. Be sure to beta test before release as well, it will be hard to recover from a broken game at release. Have someone test your app to the best of their ability. Let us know in the comments how you develop games!