Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Shelly Palmer, Liz McMillan, Ravi Rajamiyer, PagerDuty Blog, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Mobile IoT

Mobile IoT: Article

A Game in the Hand? - WBT talks to Spiffcode and Handmark about mobile-game development

A Game in the Hand? - WBT talks to Spiffcode and Handmark about mobile-game development

Gaming on the move has always been the poor cousin of console and desktop gaming, generally limited to the various incarnations of Solitaire or basic puzzle games. It wasn't until Nintendo's GameBoy that companies started to take handheld games seriously. But even with dedicated hardware, the capabilities were very limited, and taken up only by teenagers and younger, never achieving the lifestyle acceptance that Sony managed to embody with PlayStation.

The inclusion of "Snake" on all Nokia handsets has certainly had an impact on what people expect from a handheld. While very basic in game play, Snake still offers a real-time (as opposed to turn-based) game where reactions are key. But with PDAs rapidly becoming phones, and increases in memory and processors outstripping the ability of most of us to buy them, the device in my pocket now has as much processing power as my desktop had five years ago, and the games are starting to match up.

"Warfare Incorporated," from Handmark, is an example of the new generation of mobile games, resembling the desktop game "Command & Conquer" from Westwood (which in turn draws from the original "Dune" game). Warfare Incorporated is a real-time strategy game involving the gathering of resources that are then used to manufacture buildings and men with which to defend and attack other computer-controlled players. While not alone in this market, it makes a shift in the kind of games available on the move, offering set scenarios and "skirmish" games that can last several hours (albeit played in short bursts). Not to mention, it's quite a lot of fun.

Many aspiring programmers hope to write games one day. It's the more glamorous side of software development, though the reality may be longer hours and less pay than in, say, banking software development. The games industry is littered with failed projects and lost investments, at least partly because of the complexity of development and marketing. Not many people, or companies, are good at both, so the load is often split with a publisher marketing games developed under contract.

This is the situation we find with Warfare Incorporated, developed by Spiffcode in Seattle and marketed by Handmark in Kansas. We took the opportunity to talk to both of them about their relationship, games development, and the problems of product registration...

WBT: Perhaps we can start by talking about the relationship between Handmark and Spiffcode? It's not rare for games developers to be eclipsed by their distributors; is that what we're seeing here?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
We have an excellent relationship with Spiffcode in that we've chosen to work together on this exciting project. Warfare Incorporated marries the strengths of our two companies. The initial development was carried out by Spiffcode, who involved Handmark when they started to get close to release. Handmark worked with them to get the different versions working, and manages the sales of the game.

WBT: There are a lot of misconceptions about how much effort it takes to create a game. What sort of a team does Warfare Incorporated involve, and how long did it take to evolve?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
It took nearly 30 months for Spiffcode to create Warfare Incorporated, with two primary developers working full time. Contractors were used for the artwork and sound, then Handmark assisted with the final quality assurance to prepare the product for commercial release.

WBT: Taking Warfare Incorporated as an example, what sort of steps are involved from conception to launch?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
After development and testing, Handmark developed a launch campaign that involved creation of a brand image, logos, packaging, messaging, and working with our PR team to craft press releases and provide prerelease review copies and supporting marketing material. In addition, we launched a drive-to-Web campaign for our existing registered users and with third-party sites such as Handango and PalmGear. Other efforts include coordination with our device partners and, in the case of Warfare, the coincidental launch of TapWare Zodiac. Worldwide sales are through the Web, but in the U.S. there are also boxes and posters for in-shop display.

WBT: What sort of development environments do you use? I assume most of your development is done in C++, but it would be interesting to know more about the tools you use.
Spiffcode/Handmark:
Warfare Incorporated is written primarily in C++ with a lot of 68K assembly language and a little ARM assembly language used to achieve the performance we wanted for Palm OS devices. The Palm OS version of Warfare is compiled by the (free) GNU (gcc) compiler and PRC tools. The Pocket PC version is compiled by Microsoft's Embedded Visual C++ (also free). People may be surprised to learn that most of our development time is actually spent editing and debugging on PCs within Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET (not free) rather than on devices or in emulators. WI's architecture isolates game code from host platform specifics so once we have it doing what we want on Windows, where the VS.NET coding/debugging environment is quick and powerful, we can build/test the Pocket PC/Palm versions with high confidence they'll run the same way. This has been a tremendous time saver.

In addition to these third-party tools, we wrote several of our own for creating levels and animations and for converting graphics, sounds, and other data into formats suitable for efficient use and storage on handheld devices. These tools are written almost exclusively in C# using Visual Studio .NET. We plan to release the level editor to the public soon so everyone can create new missions for Warfare Incorporated!

WBT: So, given the amount of time and resources invested in a game's development, it's got to be quite a risky business?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
Yes, and no. It was certainly a risk for Spiffcode because they began development long before Handmark agreed to partner in marketing the game. On the other hand, Handmark has experienced great success with brand-name quality titles. In the case of Warfare we were building a new brand for a level of game.

WBT: What kind of sales figures will be needed to make a game like Warfare Incorporated profitable?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
Well, we can't be specific. Handmark is one of the few companies in the industry with the marketing and sales strength to make significant application investments pay off. It requires knowledge of multiple channels through a variety of delivery mechanisms. We invested in Warfare for the long haul; it's going to become an evergreen title for Handmark.

WBT: I very much hope it turns out to be successful; I'm looking forward to seeing more games of this quality. Any planned already?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
There are some exciting new games from Handmark coming in the next few months, but we can't "let the cat out of the bag" and preannounce any titles.

WBT: It seems that just about everyone is trying to cash in on the mobile games market at the moment. Do you really think the market is big enough to support so many mobile platforms?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
Quality products, top brands, and market segmentation are important in an early market. Handmark has an established track record accomplishing all three of these. Handmark today is the number one publisher in the PDA space, but right now all of our focus is on opportunities with wireless devices. PDAs with Wi-Fi, merged devices, and other smart phones represent a market that's an order of magnitude greater than the historical PDA-only opportunity.

WBT: I don't know if you've had a chance to play with an N-Gage yet, but Nokia is betting an awful lot on its success. What's your honest opinion of it?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
It's a very interesting concept and Nokia is likely to own a share of this emerging market for multifunction wireless devices. Nokia has some work to do with the N-Gage, but in the long term Handmark is committed to supporting all handheld mobile devices.

WBT: Of course, Nokia is pushing the network play aspect of the N-Gage as its main feature, and that's the first question people seem to ask about Warfare Incorporated. So will we see a multiplayer version?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
Yes. We have announced that the first version of multiplayer Warfare Incorporated, working over Bluetooth and TCP/IP, will be available soon.

WBT: There was a time when many PC games companies decided that games without network play weren't worth developing. Do you think we'll see the same sort of explosion in network games on handheld devices? This seems particularly important given Nintendo has announced their wireless edition of GameBoy. They obviously think group gaming is going to be very big indeed.
Spiffcode/Handmark:
...and they were not entirely right; there are successful games that are not on the Net. But multiuser play is very exciting and will be a part of the Handmark game strategy in the months ahead.

WBT: I don't mean to be taking advantage of my position, but I registered my copy of Warfare a week ago and have not received my registration yet. Are there problems or you just don't want me to see the rest of the game?
Spiffcode/Handmark:
Sorry about that. We are seeing more and more problems with spam filters blocking our registration e-mails, so that may be what happened to yours as well.

. . .

As it turned out that's just what had happened. The registration had been identified as spam and was filed away. We have now seen the rest of the game, and can happily report that it continues to be fun. We're looking forward to seeing more from Spiffcode. We've seen what mobile gaming can offer and we want more of it.

More Stories By Bill Ray

Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusic will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Fusic Co. provides mocks as virtual IoT devices. You can customize mocks, and get any amount of data at any time in your test. For more information, visit https://fusic.co.jp/english/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Keisoku Research Consultant Co. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Keisoku Research Consultant, Co. offers research and consulting in a wide range of civil engineering-related fields from information construction to preservation of cultural properties. For more information, vi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. B2Cloud specializes in IoT devices for preventive and predictive maintenance in any kind of equipment retrieving data like Energy consumption, working time, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Daiya Industry specializes in orthotic support systems and assistive devices with pneumatic artificial muscles in order to contribute to an extended healthy life expectancy. For more information, please visit https://www.daiyak...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Corporation is a company developing, manufacturing and marketing high quality and wide variety of industrial computers and interface modules such as PCIs and PCI express. For more information, visit http://www.i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Mobile Create USA will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Mobile Create USA Inc. is an MVNO-based business model that uses portable communication devices and cellular-based infrastructure in the development, sales, operation and mobile communications systems incorporating GPS capabi...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Greg Gorman is the Director, IoT Developer Ecosystem, Watson IoT, will provide a short tutorial on Node-RED, a Node.js-based programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services in new and interesting ways. It provides a browser-based editor that makes it easy to wire together flows using a wide range of nodes in the palette that can be deployed to its runtime in a single-click. There is a large library of contributed nodes that help so...
Elon Musk is among the notable industry figures who worries about the power of AI to destroy rather than help society. Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, embraces all that is going on. AI is most powerful when deployed across the vast networks being built for Internets of Things in the manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail, healthcare, government and other sectors. Is AI transforming IoT for the good or the bad? Do we need to worry about its potential destructive power? Or will we...
SYS-CON Events announced today that mruby Forum will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. mruby is the lightweight implementation of the Ruby language. We introduce mruby and the mruby IoT framework that enhances development productivity. For more information, visit http://forum.mruby.org/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Suzuki Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Suzuki Inc. is a semiconductor-related business, including sales of consuming parts, parts repair, and maintenance for semiconductor manufacturing machines, etc. It is also a health care business providing experimental research for...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nihon Micron will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nihon Micron Co., Ltd. strives for technological innovation to establish high-density, high-precision processing technology for providing printed circuit board and metal mount RFID tags used for communication devices. For more inf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, will discuss how data centers of the future will be managed, how th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enroute Lab will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enroute Lab is an industrial design, research and development company of unmanned robotic vehicle system. For more information, please visit http://elab.co.jp/.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...