How to Get Started With Mobile Game Programming

Some basic tips to get started with mobile game programming and design

What to Know

  • Decide on a type of game and select a programming language. Research device specifications.
  • Develop a storyline and program skeleton. Consult mobile game forums with questions.
  • Test your game on an emulator. Make changes depending on your test results.

This article explains the path a new game developer should take to begin mobile game programming. It also includes tips and recommendations for programming languages and other items needed for the process.

Which Type of Game Will You Make?

Plenty of developers nurture ambitions of becoming a mobile game designer. While it is difficult to develop code for mobile games—let alone cultivate the skills necessary to create a successful game—the rewards are incalculable. This guide covers the basics you need to start making your first mobile game.

First you need to decide on what kind of mobile game you want to develop. There are lots of genres and categories of games—such as action, RPG, and strategy—and each category comes with it a host of expectations and user bases. Certain games are always going to appeal to certain types of people. Once you've decided on a genre or category, you can start looking into the resources that are available to software developers in that field.

Programming Language

You will need to decide on the programming language for your mobile game. J2ME or Brew are two popular languages that suit a range of ambitions and experience levels. J2ME offers many more resources for mobile programming, with game design being one of its strong suits.

You'll need to be conversant in your chosen programming language and understand all its intricacies, functionalities, and supported devices. Try to work with the APIs that the language offers. If you are interested in developing a 3D game, you could try out JSR184. Experimenting is key to success.

Device Specifications

Get to know the device you want to develop your game for. It is essential that you understand all the specifications of the mobile device, such as processor type and speed, screen size, display type and resolution, image format, audio, and video format, and so on. This will determine parameters for your game and how much processing power it will require.

Game Design

The game design is a very important factor in developing a mobile game. You have to first plan out the general architecture, aesthetic, rules, and other aspects that define the essence of the game.

You can consult mobile gaming forums, ask questions, and delve into some of the obstacles other developers have run into in developing their games.

Gaming Knowledge

Read up on mobile game programming from basic coding to advanced design. Read books and take an active part in gaming forums. Talk to experts in the field in order to gain a better understanding of the market.

And be prepared to fail. Know that there are very few game developers that succeed in their first attempt. You will most likely have to rewrite code several times over before you are satisfied with your work​,

Tips for New Game Developers

  • Develop a detailed storyline and play mode for your game as early in the process as possible. This will help you anticipate some of the complicated details that emerge later on.
  • Build a program skeleton with game programming tools such as GameCanvas. This one comes with an efficient base class, which is particularly helpful for 2D game developers using J2ME.
  • Try to use an emulator to test your game before you release it. Of course, you cannot depend on the emulator alone. In such cases, you will need the exact same mobile device model to test the game. You could also outsource the game to a specialist for testing.
  • Despite your best efforts, there will be times when you will want to throw your hands up and quit. Analyze where the coding went wrong and break up the problem into smaller parts. That way it will be easier to handle. Just carry on in tough times and you are sure to succeed eventually.

What You Need

  • J2ME Eclipse
  • BREW C and C++ Visual Studio
  • Python Eclipse plus plugins
  • Flash Lite ActionScript
  • Macromedia Flash
  • Emulator or device to test the game
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