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Process of Development: Mobile Gaming Apps

A How-to Guide

It would seem as though there are people out there developing and launching their own mobile gaming applications left and right, and making tons of money doing it. Some of these game apps are so simple that there are websites offering self-design and launch services for such people. The design and animation within such games require very little skill to accomplish, and some folks didn't even have to do any coding to produce their games.

Still, it is a daunting task to figure out what makes a great mobile gaming app, whether or not your own idea stands out enough in the vast sea of newly-launched applications, and how to even begin developing the app itself in terms of how it is supposed to look and function for users.

So, where does someone begin in the process of developing a mobile gaming app?

Phase I: Planning and Ideation

Well, they start at the beginning, of course! The planning or ideation stage of development is the point where you take whatever idea you may have and thoroughly think through all of its parts. This is the part where you take a pen or pencil and some scratch paper, do some research on all the apps that have been successful in the past, and then figure out what makes your idea different from the crowd as well as how it will be successful. This is also the point where most developers figure out how the logo and graphics might look. These don't have to be complicated (unless, of course, the idea calls for it); the main point of this stage of the process is to get your idea down on paper. Some hot tips for planning your idea out include:

  • Creating a mind map of all the design points of the game as well as how it will work.
  • Rewards for beating different levels.
  • How complex you want the game to be.
  • Style of the game itself (Match-3, word search, sudoku, puzzle, trivia, etc.)
  • Checklists for what is required during the development process, the components needed for the game, etc.

In short, the ideation and planning stages allow you to get all that is in your head down on paper and organized into a cohesive plan of attack.

Phase II: Story

This allows you to move on to step two of the process: developing and organizing the story of the game. This is somewhat different from the ideation and planning process in the sense that this part is devoted to whatever story you want your game to have. Again, this doesn't have to be an epic tale that takes your audience to new worlds and defeat evil characters (unless, of course, you want it to); this can be as simple as collecting enough of certain kinds of gems or candies in order to unlock a new level and fix a problem your characters go through in the story. In fact, it is best to keep in mind that for mobile gaming apps typically downloaded onto smartphones and tablets, the simpler, the better.

Phase III: Platforms

Step three involves figuring out what platforms you want your mobile gaming app to be available for download. This is also part of the ideation/planning process, but is given its own category because this is important for monetization purposes as well. Here is where you determine where your game will be available for download. You can limit availability to platforms such as Facebook, make it available for download through app stores such as the Apple App Store or Google Play, or you can even make it stretch across handheld and console gaming (if you want your game to be big enough for it). For most mobile app developers, having their game apps available on social media and popular app stores is enough due to the simplicity of their games, but the choice is yours.

Phase IV: Game Design

The fourth step in mobile game app development is game design. This is basically the meat and potatoes of game app development and allows developers to give their game a unique look. This is also the part where developers also look into hiring on artists to join their team and bring their idea to life. Game design is a culmination of story, platform choice, and all of the initial planning process; it is not to be taken lightly, as this is the more complex part of developing the app.

Some important points to remember for the design process are:

  • Whether or not you want your layouts and characters to be 2D or 3D.
  • What you want the main color scheme to be?
  • How you want the levels of the game to look and feel?
  • Whether or not you want the game to feel cartoony in its style or more realistic.

Phase V: Monetization

Here is where the money is made! This is especially important to consider as developing a game app (no matter how simple) will take up a lot of time and money. Therefore, you need a plan for how to recoup losses as well as make substantial profits.

The first part of this process is making sure your game idea is worthy of profits. There are many games being developed every day that do not make a dime, mostly because the developers don't put much time or effort into their games; instead, they go into development thinking they have a get-rich-quick scheme that will make them tons of money for little to no work. This never works out for the best, and the last thing a true developer needs is a bad reputation in the eyes of their audience for producing shoddy work. Make certain that your app and the reasons you are developing your app are for far more than just making money; otherwise, you have already lost.

The other part of the monetization process boils down to three main strategies:

  • In-app purchases: in-app purchases are where your audience downloads the app for free, but after a certain point in the game will require more of something (supplies, gear, etc) within the story in order to progress the story faster or make it easier to play.
  • Ads within the app: these are ads (usually for other games or services) that pop up and get the audience to download or find more information. These clicks are worth a certain percentage of money, particularly if an ad leads to a download of a game or sign up for a service, that is shared with you from other developers. It is also a two-way street, meaning you can have ads for your game appear on other games as well. This is also combined with in-app purchases to increase income.
  • Premium versions: this is where developers create a free version of their game as well as a full version. The free version acts as a teaser so that audience will want to download the full version of the game. It is worth noting that a combination of all three strategies leads to a stronger income.

Phase VI: Tech Development

This is the part where you, the developer, choose what tech platform you want to develop your game on. This is often determined by the look and layout of the game itself, as certain design platforms are better for certain types of games. This is also determined by what platforms you want your game to be available on. Such design platforms include:

  • Native: Java for Android and Swift for iOS are two examples of native platforms typically used for Apple and Android devices. This sort of platform is great if you want your app to work specifically on those devices, rather than work across multiple platforms.
  • HTML5: This is a popular platform for developers whose ideas are strong enough to work across multiple platforms such as handheld and console.
  • Hybrid: This allows for the greatest flexibility, and allows developers to place their game apps on mobile device platforms as well as handheld and console

It is of great importance to determine what platforms you want your app to be available for download, as this determines which tech platform your app gets developed on.

Phase VII: Get a team of developers!

Developing a mobile game app requires a variety of skill sets, and thus no one should go into the process as a lone wolf. It is imperative to get a team together for the whole process, as multiple perspectives often create a better game. Someone may see something that either needs improvement or is unnecessary that you don't, and that alone may make your game stand out from the crowd. Others will likely have skills that you don't and are thus useful.

And that is the process of mobile gaming app development in a nutshell. If you liked what you read, and found it informative, please consider liking and sharing this post. Also, please check out more works I've posted on Vocal, and if you feel so inclined, please donate to this post and others. Thank you!

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