Game Developers Ask Fans for Android Tablet Advice
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition improves on the 1998 original.
"Baldur's Gate" might not have the same mainstream pop culture cachet as a series like "Halo" or "Call of Duty," but the words are like honey to core gamers with a penchant for role-playing games (RPGs). Developer Beamdog released an enhanced version of the 1998 title for PCs in 2012, with iOS and Mac ports coming along a little later.
The team is now hard at work on an Android version of "Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition," but they've run into a fairly major snag. Unlike iOS tablets, which basically only include iPads and iPad Minis, Android powers a veritable cornucopia of handheld computers. To figure out how to test and debug its port, Beamdog has reached out to poll its fans on their preferred platforms.
"Mainly it's a list of the devices we will acquire and be physically testing on," said Cameron Tofer, a co-founder at Beamdog to the Penny Arcade Report. "The rest should hopefully work but we can't guarantee it." Tofer and his crew set up a poll on Beamdog's official forums to gauge interest in individual devices.
The poll includes a variety of 7- and 10-inch tablets, ranging from the affordable Kindle Fire HD to the underpowered Motorola Xoom. Currently, the ultra-popular Nexus 7 holds the top spot with 43 percent of the vote, followed distantly by its larger cousin, the Nexus 10, with 13 percent.
While these measures may seem unnecessarily convoluted, developing Android games is no mean feat, especially compared to their iOS counterparts. Developing games for iOS is not easy by any means, but at any given time, there are only a handful of systems that can run a game. Optimizing a game for a fourth-generation iPad and an iPad Mini is hard enough; there are five times that many tablets in Beamdog's poll, each with very different specifications. "[A] major challenge is the number of different resolutions and aspect ratios," said Trent Oster, the game's creative director.
Variety is not Android's only stumbling block, as its open platform has proved to be a double-edged sword. Android's multiple app markets and tolerance of third-party apps combined with an older, tech-savvier user base mean that piracy is a constant bugaboo. [See also: 10 Tips to Keep Your Android Phone Safe]
The Android platform stands at something of a perilous crossroads in regard to its game market. On the one hand, the Android platform is the most widely used smartphone operating system in the world. On the other hand, its plethora of different devices makes standardized apps difficult, especially ones as demanding as core video games. "Our biggest issue was the APK file structure and how the original Infinity Engine read files," said Oster, referring to the unique construction of Android files and their challenges in dealing with the code from the unenhanced "Baldur's Gate."
"Baldur's Gate" itself debuted in 1998, revitalizing the market for video games based on the "Dungeons & Dragons" license. The critically acclaimed title follows the journey of a player-created avatar who gathers a party of adventurers and seeks his or her destiny in the titular city of intrigue. Critics praised the game for its attractive isometric graphics, engaging writing and polished production values. Due to its complex interface, the game made a very smooth transition from PC to iPad, but will not come to any phones.
Given that "Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition" has a storied history, an active community and a strong install base among PC, Mac and iOS users, Beamdog has the luxury of conducting this poll. Not every Android developer will be so lucky.