Even die-hard Android fans have to admit that the iPhone and iPod Touch blow it out of the water when it comes to gaming. During a podcast with the Motorola’s Developer blog, the folks at Bendroid had some interesting things to say about the challenges of creating complex games for Android, as well as the potential for Google’s mobile platform.
Bendroid makes a series of games called Mystique and these are atmospheric mystery games. I downloaded the latest version (the trailer is embedded below) and was a bit surprised at how good it looked. I don’t do a ton of gaming on my Droid beyond my SNES emulator, but Mystique Chapter 3 was delivering PlayStation-like graphics at a smooth clip.
Vadim Melnov, Bendroid’s lead developer, said the problem with most Android games is that publishers just try and quickly port over a Web or iPhone game to get some additional money or recognition. The Mystique series was specifically crafted for Google’s platform, and it was built entirely with Java and the Android software development kit. This makes the graphics even more impressive because it doesn’t utilize the native development kit.
The Mystique games are becoming increasingly complex, Melnov said. The first game took about a week to build, the second took a month, and the latest chapter took about two months. Mystique 3 was originally about 15 MB but Melnov said this was shaved down to 7 MB in order to be more palatable for devices like the G1.
As Android grows in popularity with handset makers, developers will increasingly face fragmentation. Melnov described overcoming this as “painful” and that it’s “not unsolvable, but it’s hard.” The various developer forums were helpful and he was effusive in his praise for DeviceAnywhere, which provides app testing on a wide variety of handsets. Melnov also said Google offers multiple resources to help developers properly utilize OpenGL ES for 3D graphics.
While it is still way too early to consider Android a viable gaming alternative to the iPhone, it’s good to see that some competition is looming. The Game Developer Conference is coming up in a few weeks and I’ll be on the lookout for interesting Android games. The three Mystique games are available on the Android Market now, and range from free to $2.99.