Mobile Gaming 2003-2006


Altas Mobile

I was contacted by Andy Riedel, an old friend from Creative Insights, for some contract work doing a golf solitaire game modeled after my Par 3 Solitaire deck generator. These are all winnable decks for use on a mobile handheld phone. Players would compete for the fastest time solving the deck,”Solitaire for Prizes“.

Soon thereafter I was contracted again to do a Boulder Dash Maze generator. This was a very large project and they wanted to have preset “modules” that could be placed on the maze grid. I created a full featured Maze editor with auto generating object placements. Likewise, all of the mazes created had to be solvable with at least one path to the exit. Maze size and level of complexity were simple keystrokes. The generator part also wrote finished mazes to a file so that they could have 100’s of mazes available for the cell phones at any time.

Infospace

My next cell phone project was Water Balloon Drop for Infospace. This was my 1st exposure to BREW and its related development programs. I had to install Visual C Net on my computer along with the BREW ARM compiler. I had to make animation strips from the individual cells of animation for the various game characters. Size again became job one. Dealing with the various handset quirks, slow key response, slow blurry screens were a chore and at the same time fun, when I found a solution to each problem.

Infospace then wanted me to do a remake of the Frogger game they had on Verizon Wireless. The game I started with was less than 1/2 done, when compared with the original arcade game. Most of the game elements were never coded. They also wanted to add a deluxe version of Frogger to the existing game. I found an arcade machine emulator online and the original Frogger arcade ROM image. I played the game back in the 80’s in the arcades, so I knew what was missing. The non-scrolling flip screen Frogger was replaced with the full vertical scrolling arcade version. The missing enemies were added. The missing levels were added. I did stumble across the original arcade game bug where you would die if you jumped on the right edge of a log in the river section. The arcade game would change every 5th log into an alligator and you would be safe on the alligator’s nose IF its mouth were shut. However, if the mouth was open as it scrolled off-screen to the right, the image was changed to a log BUT the unsafe area where the mouth was would become unsafe even on a log. I fixed that bug. The stock version was done and the Deluxe version with various frog power-ups were now added to the game.

BREW is a good starting point for coding games for handsets. If you structure your code properly, the conversion into J2ME becomes less of a headache. I learned my lesson from WBD and the J2ME porting of Frogger went smoothly with only a few frame rate hiccups. Turnaround time was around 10 seconds for BREW Frogger assembly and checkout. However, J2ME Frogger took well over a minute to compile the same code. For game development, timing is everything and I like to work fast.

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