Mobile phone applications are very important components for the enhanced functionality of the mobile devices. The applications help in enhancing user friendliness of the device as it ensures enhanced performance. The applications can also in some cases be delivered as web applications using the client-server side processing, the client side processing or the server side processing. Development of software involves computer programming and all the processes which are involved during the production of given software until the final version of the software is produced. It includes the process on software conception all the way to the manifestation of the software. In this paper we are going to take an insight overview of the processes involved in mobile phone games development. This will include a technical description of the application being used, the business model related to the collection of revenues and how the manufacturers will benefit from the production of the software. We are going to lay more emphasis on Asteroids and how it was produced, the modifications that have been done on to it and the way the developers have been able to benefit from the production of the said software. Asteroids is a video game that was first released in 1976 and became one of the most popular and influential games of the olden age of Arcade games. It sold more than 70,000 arcade cabinets. Several versions of the game have been produced and its implementation on mobile telephony has created a fascinating experience with the users.
The concept of the game
Asteroids uses a vector type of display and a two dimensional view that squashes around the two axes of the screen. The controller controls a spaceship in a field that is occasionally crossed over by flying saucers. The goal of this game is that the player needs to score as many points as possible by aiming by shooting and destroying asteroids and saucers while taking note not to collide with the saucer’s counter fire and also avoid being hit by any of the saucers’ counter fire. The player controls a triangular ship that has the capabilities of rotating left and right and then fires as the ship progresses forward. The initial stages starts with few asteroids drifting forward and one advances to the next stage, the number of asteroids increases and the obstacles also become more random and with an increased speed. The user therefore has to work out ways of ensuring that the ship is not hit and that he/she shoots as many obstacles as possible. The game becomes more complicated as the levels advances.
This game was first conceived by Lylie Rains and then the programming and design work of the game was developed by Howard Delman. It became a hit in the US and became one of the best selling games in America after its first conception. The prototype of the game was given to Howard Delman who refined it and then productized it. He also added some additional features to enhance it operability.
This game is a vector game and the graphics are mainly composed of lines which are drawn on a vector monitor. The hardware used for designing the game consists of a primary MOS 6502 CPU which is charged with the responsibility of executing the game program. The game also makes use of the Digital Vector Generator and the vector processing circuit that determines the direction taken by the ship and the asteroids. The 6502 CPU was however too slow to control the game play and the vector hardware. This led to the Digital vector generator being given the task of controlling the vector hardware. For each of the picture frames, the 6502 writes graphic commands for the DVG into a specific area of the vector RAM and then instructs Digital Vector Generator to draw the corresponding vector onto the screen. The Digital Vector Generator then reads the command and later on generates the appropriate signals for the vector monitor. There are some specific Digital Vector Generator commands which are used for positioning the cathode ray used for drawing a specific line to a specific destination. It then calls a subroutine with further commands and the process repeated again depending on the user input. The game also has different sound effects. Each of the sound effects that either depicts a loss, a win, a shot or a hit has its own circuitry. It uses 7 different sound effects which are coded on the circuitry board and then mapped onto the CPU address space. The main asteroids game program makes the use of 6KB of the ROM code and a 2KB of the vector ROM which contains the descriptions of the graphical components used in the game. These components are mapped onto the system through the use of the Digital Vector Generator commands.
This game has been ported to a number of multiple mobile devices. Due its small memory consumption, it can even be implemented onto less sophisticated mobile phones. The keypad is used as the input device for issuing various instructions to the Digital Vector Generator and then the graphics are executed depending on the input received. Several versions of this game has been produced over the years and with each released, more features are added which are aimed at making the game experience appealing to the users and also more user friendly.
Development of the Asteroid game application
This application can be coded in C
or Java depending on the operating system being used. However, the use FlashDevelop has simplified this process and made it easier to design, code and implement most of the functions of the game. Advantages of using the FlashDevelop include; easy coding, reduced crashing rates, easy compilation and it is also cheap since it is free and an open source software.
Versions of the Asteroids
Asteroids Hyper 64 was released in 1999 and features more functionalities of the game. It is an updated version of the 1979 Asteroids. This improved version features the use of 3D environments, more sophisticated weapons; more levels (up to 50 levels with each level having its own complexities).
A new licensed cellular phone version of the game was produced in 2011 by Glu Mobile that includes the original game and an updated game play, more attractive skins and different modes of the game. Asteroid versions for iPhone were released in June 2011 and an android application store for asteroids was released in November 2011.
Software development is a very complex process and involves quite a lot. There are various stages involved in software development and each stage has its specific resource consumption. A lot of efforts are involved in the process with a wealth of technical knowhow implemented. Therefore once the final product has been produced, all the costs incurred in producing the software have to be recovered. It can be recovered using a number of ways among them:
ii. Digital distribution
iii. In game advertising
iv. Subscription model
v. Pay per play
This involves the sale of boxed products at retail outlets. The products can also be sold by online traders like the Amazon.com. When a product is sold on retail basis, an initial purchasing fee is used and the user may be required to update the game later on. A small fee is usually charged for the update. This is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that the designers of the game gets revenue for their products since a person cannot be able to access their products before giving a fee. However, in some cases it has been an avenue for piracy with different vendors selling pirated versions of the game and then selling to the unsuspected public. Asteroids manufacturers have tried to control this by producing a single user key for every game CD bought. This implies that a game can only be installed on one machine and that the provided unique key only operates on a single machine. This model also enhances upgrade initiatives as a person doesn’t need to purchase a new version whenever there is a new release into the market. The user will simply check for the available updates and then update his/her version after paying a small fee to the company.
ii. Digital distribution
This is the process of offering direct downloads to consumers. It involves technically unlocking access to various games functionalities. A trial version can be provided free on the web, and a user will be required to pay some fee in order to access the full version of the game. The trial version of the game usually contains a single level. If a person wants to progress to a new level, he/she will be required to unlock the codes which can only be confirmed upon the completion of payments. This method also provides for a good way of ensuring that the designers of the software gets a pay for their hard work in designing and implementing the game.
iii. In game advertising
This involves the use of branded billboards in the game world or the use of advertisements in the websites used for game downloads. In most cases, the designers get paid for every click onto the advertisement links. The advertisers can also choose to pay the designers a certain amount of fee to be allowed to advertise on the company’s ‘wall.’ This method is however, not very effective as the revenues are usually low while at the same time some of the required procedures to obtain a license can be a major hustle.
iv. Subscription model
This involves paying a given fee periodically in order to use a given product. This process is usually done automatically once the user subscribes and agrees to the terms and conditions of the manufacturer. The manufacturers will clearly ‘kill’ all the characters in the game when the user stops paying. It is not advisable for a non-regular player to subscribe to this monetization method since the deduction will be made from one’s account whether he/she plays or not. It is one of the best methods for the regular players as it ensures that the game is always available.
v. Pay per play
This is commonly used for online players who only play for a single game or for a specified number of lives. Once the lives are over, a person will be required to pay again. Asteroids has raised a lot of revenue from this type as most players prefer playing online so that they can assess their skills and compare them with the skills of the most competent players globally.
Asteroids implement the use of more than 20 business models to generate income from the product. Each of the models is designed for a specific environment targeting different users with different tastes and preferences. Retail model is one of the best methods that ensure that the production cost is recovered. This method takes into consideration the cost of production and then sets the value of the product with an aim of recovering the resources used in production and compensating the designers. It is the most common type of business model in use today and has the following advantages.
This model offers a one time payment for the product acquisition and some forms of subscriptions for subsequent updates. The developers receive a one time payment and then subsequent earnings sent to them on a ration basis. This depends with the amount the company makes from the subscriptions. Using this business model is very effective as it ensures that everyone involved in the design process is compensated adequately.
Advantages of choosing the retail model
Despite the fact that Asteroid makes use of the above business models to collect revenue from the users, the most promising method is the use of the retail business model. Retail model eliminates piracy and fraud as a person will have to literary purchase the software before using it. Once the software has been installed into a system, the software cannot be used on another machine. Each user is given a unique code and a person will have to download it directly into the mobile phone. It is not transferrable and this plays a very important role in ensuring that the designers get a value for their money. I chose this model as the preferred model due to the following functionalities and capabilities:
a. Competitive advantage
This method gives a competitive edge over other players in the field. It also ensures that the production costs are factored into the final cost to the consumers. This helps in recovering the costs involved and compensating the designers.
b. Plan for growth
This model also has a plan for growth as it helps in bringing profits to the organization through building a cash reserve and expansion scheme. The designers can be able to easily adjust the prices depending on the market response hence help them in boosting their sales.
Product development is a complex and a tiresome process. In order to ensure that better products are made, the designers have to be compensated adequately so as to act as a motivation for more hard work. The company also needs to make profits. Therefore when choosing the most appropriate business model, they will have to ensure that the business model chosen takes into consideration the production costs as well as the compensation of the designers while at the same time ensuring that the company makes profits. Most of the other business models are based on mere speculation as a person cannot be sure on the number of subscriptions that they will get or the number of users who will pay to play the game. With the retail business model, the company simply sets a goal for the number of products to be sold and through vigorous campaigns they can easily sell their products hence recovering their costs and ensuring attractive compensation.
1. Chris Kohler (2008). Sets Asteroids Record in 3-Day Marathon". Wired. Conde Nast.
2. Demaria, Russel; Wilson, Johnny I. (2004). High Score! The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2nd ed.).
3. Kit, Borys (July 2, 2009). Asteroids' lands at Universal. Reuters.
4. Owen, David. Invasion OF THE Asteroids. FHM 2 (81): 62.
5. Tom Eberspecher (2007). Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe on Xbox LIVE Arcade
6. Wolf, Mark J.P. (2008). The video game explosion: A history from Pong to Playstation and beyond. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 68. ISBN 0-313-33868-X.