Game Programming for Android Tips

The video games industry is one of the markets that has experienced rapid growth in recent years. In terms of production costs and profits, titles such as GTA V and Watch_Dogs are just as good as Hollywood films. So what could be more natural than to try your luck and become a games producer yourself?

But how to start and develop for which platform and with which tools? This article gives a few tips for the start.

The time when video games ran exclusively on a PC or specially developed consoles is finally over. Games are now ubiquitous on our daily companions – the smartphone or tablet PC. If you look at the downloads in the Play Stores, it quickly becomes clear that developers have long recognized the trend: At the moment, there are unimaginable 1.3 million apps available for download in the Play Store, many of which are games.

The game idea

In this article we would like to deal with the development of two-dimensional Android games. Therefore, it is important to know that two-dimensional games have to meet completely different requirements than the graphic crackers mentioned above. So it plays a much more important role to deliver a convincing game concept than simply to impress with sophisticated 3D graphics. It’s not without reason that idea generation is the most important process in game development. A good example for a successful concept is the game Threes.

Since the developers were very open with the idea from the beginning, the game was copied before the official release date and published under the name 2048. The sad thing about it is that the clone was able to give a lot more attention, and therefore profits, than the original. A simple, concise and above all well guarded idea is the be-all and end-all in the development of a game. So that’s the first point you need to think about. It often helps to be inspired by existing games and to think about what could be done better. Once the idea is found, the choice of development tools continues.

The right tool

You’ve been racking your brains for days, downloading many apps, searching for hours of inspiration and finally finding the ingenious game idea? Great! But now the next question arises: How can you best implement this idea?

There are many so called engines that simplify the game development for Android (and other platforms). Which engine is the right one depends on your game idea and your programming skills. However, there are a few factors that can be used to exclude some engines from the outset. These features include the following points:

Is it an open source solution?
Is there an active community around the Enginge?
Is the documentation detailed enough?
Are there any sample applications, including the source end?

If you can answer “yes” to these questions in advance, you won’t be left alone with problematic or difficult sections. In the following I will introduce you to three engines very briefly and also deal with these points.

PlayN – The new one from Google

With PlayN, Google sends its own engine into the race. Via PlayN it is possible to develop games for different platforms in Java. The biggest advantage is certainly the fact that Google itself is behind it and thus a saturated further development can be expected. The disadvantage is the young technology. Over time, communities form and helpful forum entries emerge. At the moment, however, these are still sparse to find. So if you don’t have many years of experience in the games scene, then PlayN is probably not the ideal solution for getting started.

Unity3D – The professional top dog

This name is certainly one of the best known in the industry: With unity3D you can also develop games for various platforms, also in 3D. However, you don’t need Java knowledge here, but have to “get along” with the more modern C#. unity3D is a commercial platform, so I have rejected the development with this engine. Also out of the question for me was the Unreal Engine. It is just a bit too big for a casual game.

AndEngine – The Open Source Solution

AndEngine is based on Open GL and, unlike its two predecessors, was developed only for the Android platform. Accordingly, programming is done in “Java”. The latest version is the AndEngine GLES2, which is available for free download on Github. Over the past years a broad community has formed around this engine. For example, there is an active forum in which interested parties can exchange information on various topics.

Furthermore, the Github page also provides various examples. This makes the entry especially beginner friendly. And as a icing on the cake, after a short Google search you can also find several tutorials for beginners. That’s why I decided to use the AndEngine quite quickly.

Crash course in AndEngine

As already mentioned, AndEngine is a free game engine based on OpenGL and developed by Nicolas Grämlich. It offers the possibility to develop OpenGL-based games for Android alone with Java knowledge.

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