Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

September 29, 2011 • Editorials, Gaming

Android Fragmentation: Some Perspective from the Developers of ‘Magic Defenders’

The other day I wrote about my frustration about the state of fragmentation in the Android ecosystem, citing my inability to buy the game Magic Defenders for my Acer Iconia A100 7″ Honeycomb-based tablet. I have been fortunate in the two of the developers from Clueless Ideas, the company making the game, have reached out to me – and one even commented on my post! His reply was thoughtful and insightful – and I thought it warranted being highlighted.

When I saw in my email that someone from the developing company was commenting, my initial concern was that they didn’t like being singled out and having their game be the focus of my rant. Fortunately that wasn’t their response at all! They understood that my using their game came from me actually wanting to BUY it, but once again being unable to do so because of the various issues with supporting the myriad
Android devices.

In truth, I really think I would love Magic Defenders as noted, and was ready to click ‘buy’ … if I could. Here again is the description of Magic Defenders HD:

Ready for magic circles, spells and an endless army of orcs?
Be the hero and defend your village from the evil orcs in three different invasion episodes. You will fight in the forest, near the walls and inside the town to defend the town’s last resort, the castle. Compete with people around the world for the highest score in an endless battle to defend everyone in an arcade style gameplay.

As I said, Manuel Costa of Clueless Ideas took the time to write up a great reply, and I wanted to just present it – because it expresses so well exactly what I am trying to say.

Hi, I’m one of the developers of the game Magic Defenders you used as an example. Our game is made for all “big” tablets running honeycomb. It should run on your Acer Iconia (well, if you’re talking about the Acer Iconia A500). [Note: I clarified that I have the 7″ A100]

About the fragmentation, I completely agree with you. I’m an Apple products user and when looking at the Android world it really scares me how confusing, messy and not at all standardized the whole thing is.

From a developer’s perspective it is even worse! To develop for such a different array of devices, all with different capabilities and screen sizes/resolutions, if we want to make a game that is compatible with all of them we have to include in the package around 3 or 4 sets of assets (images, sounds, videos…). Then the whole code has to be a lot more complicated to be able to deal with using different assets depending on each device capabilities, screen size and such (checking device, loading correct assets, placing them correctly on screen, etc). The game becomes slower to account for all that extra processing and the game package becomes way bigger than it needs to be. Besides that, it obviously takes a lot of time to get those different optimized assets.

After all that comes the testing! We have to test on like a dozen devices to be sure it runs everywhere correctly. Then one of them doesn’t, you try to fix it there and end up messing the game on another device. It’s a pain overall!

We are currently working hard on having a magic defenders version out that runs on most devices. We’re targeting devices on android 2.2 and above, with a decent CPU (armv7 600Mhz+), and resolutions of 480×320 and above.

We released the tablet version first because it was our first focus device. We chose these devices for the game first because it is undoubtedly where it looks best.

At the same time I was also in contact with Ricardo Graca, who had uncovered the issue resulting in my A100 being incompatible, and they are working to create an updated version to support yet another non-standard configuration.

The combination of all that Manuel said, along with having to do yet another re-optimization because the Iconia has a different configuration than the Samsung Galaxy Tab and also from the HTC Flyer … just boggles the mind!

It is never my intent to criticize the developers when writing about Android fragmentation – because I understand that it is the myriad of hardware and software targets that cause this stuff, and the developers have a much harder job supporting a wide range of Android devices than the extremely controller iOS platform or even the more controlled Windows Phone 7 devices.

So thanks to the folks at Clueless Ideas for all of the support and insight, and if you have a Honeycomb tablet definitely check out Magic Defenders HD – and I’ll have a review once they have finished up a new version supporting the Iconia!

One Response to " Android Fragmentation: Some Perspective from the Developers of ‘Magic Defenders’ "

  1. Anonymous says:

    Android devs actually have it kind of lucky in that they still only have to support a limited set of devices…I have no idea how the Linux Kernel devs or Microsoft developers do it in PC land with literally millions of devices that all need support in order to work.  This goes to show you the poor abstraction layer that most mobile devices have.  If the kernel and core OS supports the device, the developers shouldn’t have to do much to get their stuff to work.  It’s obvious that in mobile land that isn’t as well defined….even on iOS (hence the need for iPad specific programs…).

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