iPhone and Game

iPhone and Game
Cooking Up Digital Chocolate

Jordan Deam | 15 Sep 2009 12:14
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Flash forward to 2003 - and past Hawkins' ill-fated role as founder of the now-defunct 3DO Company - and Hawkins had taken on a new project: achieving the level of dominance in the mobile space that EA had in the living room. It was a risky proposition in 2003: Mobile carriers each had their own retail channel, and the diversity of phones on the market made it more difficult to develop games that would work correctly on every device. But with that risk came an opportunity that Hawkins couldn't refuse.

"I don't think anyone was surprised," Hawkins says. "Everyone knows how much I love games and how willing I am to be out on the bleeding edge of new media. I think the surprise, to a degree, came later when Digital Chocolate emerged as a leader while hundreds of other mobile companies got chewed up. After 3DO, some industry observers thought I was over the hill and was 'done.' I wasn't."

The Game Has Changed

Hawkins recognized early on that Digital Chocolate wouldn't just be developing games for a different platform - it would be creating games for an entirely new audience, one that Hawkins calls "omni gamers."


"There is an enormous difference between a hardcore game and what we would call an omni game," Hawkins says. "The omni gamer seeks social contact and wants a game to be simple and convenient with short play sessions. The hardcore gamer wants advanced, immersive performance that is a challenging form of escapism." It was a lesson that contradicted decades of accumulated knowledge of AAA game development, but one that Hawkins heartily embraced.

"The irony is that the first rule of omni gaming is that less is more - the player is intimidated by immersive 3-D games and prefers 2-D cartoons like you see on Facebook and on the iPhone," says Hawkins. "Traditional game developers are so accustomed to improving performance that many of them can't stop thinking that way."

Simply choosing to focus on the mobile space in 2003, when the market was still in its infancy and console games were becoming more complex with each successive release, forced Hawkins to reexamine the industry's prevailing attitude about what constitutes a quality release. "Many developers make the mistake of thinking that more advanced technology equals more quality. Some of them even make the mistake of thinking, therefore, that a console is a quality game platform while a mobile phone is not. Big mistake," Hawkins says.

"The real goal is customer satisfaction relative to their expectations on the platform they are using at the moment. If I bought and own any platform, I will have an understanding of what benefits I get out of that platform, and I will look forward to the best games that take advantage of those benefits. If I am playing on the train or in an airplane, it is irrelevant what a console can do differently, because the console isn't there."

Rather than attempt to shoehorn AAA gameplay into mobile devices, Hawkins opted to keep Digital Chocolate's game designs more straightforward. "We chose from the beginning to invent new games that everyone could play with one finger," he says. Take Crazy Penguin Catapult, for instance, one of Digital Chocolate's top-selling titles. In it, you launch a fleet of kamikaze penguins at a pack of polar bears in order to rescue captured members of your colony. A single button press activates the catapult, while another press causes the airborne penguin to plummet downward. It's simple almost to a fault - but it's also stupid fun.

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