In the eyes of Alex Seropian, the mobile space provides developers with an unprecedented level of both freedom and challenges — each of which are birthed from the autonomy to price your work as you see fit, along with the lack of a standardized business model. And with all of the excitement and creative autonomy swirling around the platform, why not strive to deliver an experience with more depth than the average mobile title? That was the question at the heart of Seropian’s talk, “Go Mobile or Stay Home.”
“The industry has cycled a lot but the mobile revolution is all about accessibility,” stated Seropian, whose past work includes co-founding Bungie and co-creating Halo. His most recent project is Industrial Toys, a mobile developer looking to infuse the platform with depth. There’s no denying that the smartphone boom has made gaming more accessible than it’s ever been, and Seropian (rightfully) feels that this has spawned a lot of creativity in content creators. But as anyone who’s downloaded or purchased a game and regretted it can vouch for, there are still plenty of problems with how some approach developing games for iOS and Android.
Seropian cited a lack of reward for the player as one of the primary problems. He mentioned a 10:1 ratio of how many times people play certain games, and how often they amass some type of virtual reward or feeling of progression. With his background in the PC and console market, it’s easy to see why he views the mobile market in such a way. After all, with a narrative so frequently in place, nearly every session in a console/PC game will leave you feeling as though you’ve accomplished something.
A dearth of rewards isn’t the only thing Seropian sees wrong with mobile gaming, though.
If an iOS or Android game features virtual joysticks, I typically find myself wishing I was playing said game with a physical controller. It doesn’t play to the strengths of the platform, and casts aside what makes a touch screen or motion interface so compelling. As such, it was music to my ears when Seropian mentioned that he felt “virtual joysticks must die.” Ultimately, he feels this is a mistake far too many former console developers make when they migrate to mobile.
“Taking that control scheme back [from consoles] to the direct input device like a touchscreen device is a little silly,” said Seropian. I was actively nodding my head at this point in the talk, though I couldn’t help but think that there are plenty of strictly mobile developers who have made the same mistake.
Moving forward to a more optimistic subject, Seropian expressed his interest in bridging the gap between casual and hardcore. More specifically, finding the point in which accessibility and depth meet. He labeled this the “Peggle-Portal gap,” the point where mobile games deliver the speedy, intrinsic rewards they’re best known for, but contextualized to a point that provides meaning in the way you so frequently see in the console and PC sectors.
“Mobile is gaming’s gateway drug, and it’s our responsibility to bring high quality games to that audience,” offered Seropian. While we’ve yet to see the fruits of his and Industrial Toys’ labor yet, something tells me they have just the right pedigree and mindset to make hardcore players out of casual ones.