GDC Online 11: Android's piracy and compatibility issues mean it's not a viable platform for us says Appy's Sargent

#gdc_online Piracy rate was 70:1 compared to 3:1 on iOS

GDC Online 11: Android's piracy and compatibility issues mean it's not a viable platform for us says Appy's Sargent
Android is the rising mobile gaming platform, but that doesn't mean that developers enjoy making games for the device.

One such detailed, if depressing, example came from Steven Sargent, executive producer of Appy Entertainment, who spoke about taking its FaceFighter Gold game from iPhone to Android at the Smartphone & Tablet Gaming Summit.

"We're a very Apple friendly company. We hadn't even seen an Android phone before we started the porting process," Sargent said, as a precursor to his talk.

The process was started on 21 September 2010, using an external company - Flying Wisdom - for the core port. Submission was planned for 26 October, but it wasn't submitted until 5am on 22 December.

"Prior to development, we were moderately concerned about compatibility," Sargent explained, straight-faced.

Pain, no gain

It took a week just to get the code working, with initial changes included UI tweak due to screen resolutions, installation options (SD or device), and some database changes.

More serious were issues around memory and compression.

"We had around half the memory compared to iOS, but we didn't know there wasn't unified compression across Android devices," Sargent explained.

"We had to brute force textures to 25 percent just to get the game to run, although this wasn't an option for the final release."

Other tweaks made included dumping the UI screen from RAM, loading one opponent's face at a time, and hack the process of getting a photo from the device camera into the game, as this could crash the game on certain devices. 

Audio was also a massive problem.

"The audio was very buggy, and we couldn't work out how to fix it, so we didn't," Sargent said.

And just as the company was getting to grips with the process; "Android 2.3 came out and broke everything".

Broken, stolen

When the game was finally released, the first compatibility complaint was submitted a couple of hours later, with most issues involving the camera and texture compression. Appy has updated the game several times since.

"There are too many devices for a company of our size to deal with the compatibility on Android," Sargent said. "Compatibility was a real nightmare."

Still, when it works, the game's core performance is as good or better than iOS

Yet, the biggest issue was the lack of commercial success for the paid title.

"The piracy rate on Android was 70:1 compared to 3:1 on iOS," Sargent revealed. "That's crippling."

The end result is Appy hasn't since released another game for Android, although noting that the development process is now easier in some areas, while piracy wouldn't be such an issue if you were releasing a free or freemium games.
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.