Adaptive Game Design Image 300x215 In 2011, the global video game industry was valued at US$65 billion. This number is made up of games across many different platforms: consoles; hand-held devices; desktops; web browsers and mobile. For those interested in game creation, there is a wide plethora opportunities to develop on, but at the obvious cost of needing to develop on many stand-alone devices.

Taking the lessons we learned from Responsive Design, game creators are discussing the viability of adaptive game design, or a future of games and a gamer’s experience that exist across multiple devices, adapting based on how your interact with the game’s content.

Build platforms, not games

This discussion is best framed with a quote from Build New Games:

“We can shift around the problem entirely by providing an entirely new class of entertainment to our end user. What I propose is a progressively enhanced, responsively designed approach to web gaming that encompasses all devices, everywhere, by providing engagement across all levels. This involves breaking away from the idea of building a game, and instead, building a lasting, engaging experience.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean building the same game across all devices, but as the quote says, building engagement across all devices. This can be exemplified with games like BioWare’s Mass Effect franchise:Mass Effect 3 Image 400x225

  • Console Engagement: Main Mass Effect games on mainstream consoles and desktops
  • Mobile Engagement: iPad and Android game (Mass Effect: Infiltrator) where achieving in-game objectives affect the console game’s ending
  • BioWare’s forums

What’s missing is the web browser that could have been paired with a responsive design so that there could be simultaneous engagement on desktop or mobile browsers.

Another great example would be Gearbox’s Borderlands 2:

Borderlands 2 Screenshot 400x225

  • Console Engagement: Main Borderlands 2 games on mainstream consoles and desktops
  • Browser engagement:

Developing for the Adaptive Game

Clearly, it’s no easy task to create unique experiences that speak to the gamer across multiple devices. Creating one good game is arduous enough, much less two or more. However, there are some points that came be taken into consideration.

Building for different contexts and different needs

We use consoles different from how we use desktops and laptops. We use web and mobile browsers differently than how we use an app. For example, a gamer will only be able to experience the main portion of the game by portioning time in front of a screen to play, but that gamer might have 5 minutes to check on his in-game stats through his smartphone while queueing up for lunch. The experience to be created should be done in-line with how the device is normally used.

Keep devices ‘talking’ to each other

For example, building off a desktop client in HTML 5 allows the developer to take advantage of modern browsers’ graphics processing hardware through WebGL or Canvas, and allows developers to test browser capabilities and provide a lesser experience to less-capable browsers. It also allows the building of a mobile-specific interface and use one of the many HTML5-to-native-app frameworks available (or build a native app and connect through the common WebSockets interface.)

The future of gaming

People consider a virtual reality to be the holy grail of gaming, where a gamer ‘lives out’ the experience of his or her game through all their senses of touch, sight, sound, smell, taste. However, in between here and the future, there is this amazing opportunity for game creators to create wonderful experiences for their users across multiple devices, all the while being part of a game’s world whether online or offline.

This post is part of “Harnessing HTML5″, a series that explores new browser technologies in partnership with Modern.IE