Can Android do hardcore gaming?

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.

[Via Motorola Developer podcast]

  • chris

    cause no android phones use the TEGRA…

  • Daniel Perez

    This is a topic that’s very near and dear to me. Seeing how popular games have become in the past couple of years on the iPhone platform, I’m hopeful these companies also take the Android market serious.

    When games were first introduced to the iPhone, I was impressed with what could be done, but by all means, I didn’t take the platform serious. For one, I’ve never experienced a game on a phone that would be worth my time. Within the last two years, iPhone games finally started taking advantage of the platform, which is why iPod Touch sales have been sky rocketing. If people can’t get an iPhone due to not being able to switch providers, or simply because they hate AT&T, then at least they can experience the various apps and games the App Store has to offer.

    The Android market right now is similar to how the iPhone App Store was in the beginning. A couple of gems here and there, but the majority of the apps & games are shovel-ware. Many of the games available right now don’t take full advantage of the Android OS, and I’m assuming that’s due to the complexity of their game being able to support multiple handsets’ specs. The iPhone pretty much comes in 3 flavors: iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS. That’s much easier to support than the hundreds of handsets the Android OS is currently running on, and I think that might be what is stunting the growth of gaming on Android.

  • Joseph Halder

    Its entirely possible to support multiple resolutions, on screen controls (if necessary for things like MT3G/N1/Hero) and support for rendering in multiple resolutions is far from impossible. look at things like Raging Thunder, kwaak3 (quake3) port, the quake 2 port… the phones are VERY capable of running decent 3d games.

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