Thinking about porting Word War vi to mobile phones…

Someone suggested to me that maybe I should try making games for mobile phones, so this started me down the path of looking into it a bit. My first thought was to port Word War vi. It’s GPL’ed, but, I own the copyright on nearly 100% of the code. There are four or five patches from a few people, but they are all one liners which probably do not count as copyrightable, but even if I am cautious, and considered that they did, they are in areas, like GTK code, and Portaudio code, none of which are present on the mobile phones, so those patches would disappear. Then there’s some code for xbox 360 controllers and decoding ogg files which also would not be needed. So, every bit of the of the code that would need porting is owned solely by me, even under the strictest interpretations. So, if I were to port it to say the iPhone, I could actually sell it (not that the GPL prevents it from being sold, but it means I wouldn’t have to release the source code of the port, which would prevent other iPhone developers from simply recompiling and undercutting the price down to zero — at least not without redoing the port.) Hmm. Interesting. For some reason, the idea of selling software to people for use on phones doesn’t trigger the adverse reaction that the idea of selling software for use on PCs triggers in me.

So, I started looking into it a bit tonight. The iPhone has the fact that it uses Objective-C going for it in as much as Word War vi is written in C, so I expect the porting would be not too bad. However, it needs a Mac to do the development, which I don’t have, and by most accounts I’ve seen, the process of getting something into the iTunes store is, to put it mildly, daunting. And the idea of dealing with the payment system as it is described, with having to send receipts to Belgium for things purchased in England (WTF?) and dealing with currency exchange rates, etc. (Shouldn’t the itunes store be doing this for developers? It makes me think it’s just not worth it.

Looked a bit into Google’s Android. This looks more like something which aims at making a developer’s life easy, rather than hell. I was able to install the Android plugin for eclipse on my linux box, and compile and run a hello world app on the Android emulator after about an hour of messing around and getting all the right things installed. So, unlike Apple’s iphone, I have already compiled and run an Android app — having never done any cell phone apps before in my entire life. In fact, I have never even owned a cell phone. From what I can tell, for the iPhone, I have to buy a Mac, buy the development environment, and wait for weeks for cryptographic certificates, and risk being rejected after doing a port just because they don’t like my app. Hmm.

But, with Android, you are forced to program in friggin’ Java. So I’d have to port to Java, and Java doesn’t have pointers… and I use pointers quite a bit in WWVI — function pointers even — function pointers which I sometimes dynamically reassign, something which cannot easily be emulated by Java’s class methods.

And, just because you can write and run an Android app, that’s not the same as getting it out to people with real phones. So that part of the investigation for Android remains to be done. It may well turn out that the process for getting iphone apps out there is no more onerous than the process for getting apps out there for T-Mobile G1 users, for instance.

And then there’s the issue of performance. Maintaining a frame rate of 30 FPS on a desktop system for WWVI didn’t happen easily, and took some profiling and optimizing, though nothing too extreme (no assembly language, for instance). Wouldn’t it suck to port the thing to Android or the iPhone only to find out I could only manage six frames per second?

And then, on the iPhone at least, there’s the issue that so far as I know, it has no buttons. How would a game like Word War vi even work without buttons? I think it might be unplayable using only some kind of touch screen controls, or the accellerometer, etc. I think the Android using phones at least usually have buttons.

So, this whole idea may be too daunting, and I may just let it drop without pursuing it. On the other hand, it would be kind of cool to make an app that people around the world could run on their phones. It’s tempting to give it a shot. If not a port of Word war vi, then maybe something else… maybe Be The Wumpus. Though, I’d have to get new recordings of people, as the sounds I use in that game probably wouldn’t be cool to use in, say, an iPhone app, due to licensing concerns…. and I think the T-Moble G1 doesn’t have a freakin’ headphone jack so that won’t work at all… Hmm.

~ by scaryreasoner on January 28, 2009.

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