Why port games? The answer is clear — this is a great way to draw attention to a game again and profit from it further. In fact, many game makers do this. For example, GTA V built hype around the game’s release on consoles, but the game was ported to the PC long after the buzz faded. Thus, the product retook the leading position.
Porting games is a laborious process requiring specific knowledge and skills, but certainly worth it if you go into the process with the right mindset and resources. In this article, you’ll learn more about these things, exploring cases like how to port Unity games to Android and other platforms.
Moreover, you’ll learn to choose an external provider of game porting services to speed up the process and not exceed the budget.
Porting in gaming is a process of converting a game in order to make a product suitable for another format. For example, gamers that have a PC can’t play games launched exclusively for consoles. So when you have a PC game and want the same game for other platforms, some technical features should be changed to make it meet requirements. In fact, this process takes many stages to pass through, and the main ones are below.
1. Planning and analyzing
Games are often ported not by the original development team, but outsourcing specialists who don’t know the product’s architecture. Therefore, the first thing to do is to gather data about a game and analyze it. It’s necessary to determine which functions should be updated for the new format of use, as well as what should be added and removed from a game.
The porting process requires direct developer intervention, and it usually takes a long time to import the source code, make the necessary changes, and transfer the game experience to a new platform.
Fortunately, porting can be done faster if a product was developed in a game engine such as Unity or Unreal Engine. This is because games created with big engines are designed to work on multiple platforms with equal efficiency. Besides, engines usually contain all the necessary tools for porting to different platforms.
Also, one of the most important tasks facing a porting specialist is to adapt game assets since different platforms have special requirements for the quality and size of models. For example, karge models cannot be ported to platforms the capacity of which cannot withstand the amount of data that contains high-quality assets.
Ported games often contain a lot of bugs, mainly if the original development team didn’t thoroughly test the original. The point is, it’s easy to miss mistakes in a product that other people made, considering that you may not know how it works. Therefore, it’s indispensable to carry out tests that can show both old and new errors. That’s why many companies outsource game testing services to save resources on game porting.
In any case, everything needs to be fixed, even if some bugs were spawned by other specialists. In addition, great attention should be paid to compatibility and performance tests. If a game doesn’t meet the parameters of a new platform or the level of performance has decreased, the team of specialists definitely needs to work on it.
Game-Ace had the unusual task of porting this game similar to Fruit Ninja from VR (Magic Leap) to mobile (iOS, Android). We successfully adapted the VR controls to mobile gestures and even improved the game functionality in several meaningful ways, along with optimizing its performance.
Each device and gaming platform has its own characteristics, which are pretty different from each other. Let’s take a look at the features to consider when porting a game to PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.
Many legendary games were released exclusively on consoles, so gamers who only have PCs couldn’t get this wonderful experience. Therefore, many game makers decided to expand access to their games for computer users, so PlayStation games ported to PC are getting bigger every year. For example, such a popular game as Half-Life was ported even more than once.
Besides updating the game mechanism to new technical requirements, porting games from consoles to a PC has many peculiarities. Console games are designed to be controlled with gamepads, whereas computer players use a keyboard and computer mouse. In addition, it’s necessary to update access settings, as console games are used only through consoles’ accounts.
Porting games designed for consoles and PCs to Switch has already become a kind of trend, especially considering that the Nintendo Switch performs almost the same functions as PS and Xbox, but it costs much less. There are lots of popular games ported on Switch: Doom, Alien, Diablo, etc. So when porting a game, devs should pay special attention to access settings, controls, and user interface features.
Resolution settings usually become a particular challenge for porting, as Switch can be used in its original form, as well as connected to screens and monitors to use it as a console. Accordingly, the image resolution should be of high quality both on a small screen and on a large one while maintaining a balance of visuals and performance in each case.
Porting games to Android and iOS-based mobile devices usually requires the most work on modifying game features. First of all, the code written in a specific programming language should be adapted for other languages, given that it’s different for each operating system. Also, modern smartphones don’t provide any buttons, so the controls must be adapted to sensor-touch movements. As an example, all this work was done for porting an Alien game to mobile platforms.
In addition, smartphones have the smallest screens and the lowest capacity compared to all other devices. Therefore, the graphics should be made simpler in order to reduce the weight of an application and adjust the image resolution to the optimal one.
There are some challenges of porting games, but some can be avoided by following the main principles of game porting.
Create sustainable code
It’s crucial to think ahead before porting a game, such as situations that your converted game may require updates or upgrades in the future. This is why you should make the initial porting process streamlined. For example, use multifunctional game engines, which provide many valuable tools and include porting features to different platforms.
Modernize game controls
Many specialists try to strictly preserve features used on the hardware for which a game was released initially. Unfortunately, often the desire to maintain the game’s identity in this way leads to the fact that the user experience becomes worse. Therefore, the best solution would be to adapt the controls for the new device and keep the game peculiarities through gameplay and design.
Pay attention to performance
Optimizing performance is one of the key tasks of porting games. Therefore, if you want to improve this aspect, it would be best to plan for it from the start. Otherwise, the fixes can cost additional time and money. Depending on the platforms from which a game had been ported, make sure you can find a balance between quality and load.
Run multiple tests
Sometimes porting a game can take longer than desired. In any case, don’t try to reduce the speed of the project by giving up quality assurance. Be sure to run as many tests as possible to make sure a game is bug-free so that you can release a quality product that won’t disappoint users.
Update an engine to the latest version of the SDK
Sometimes, outdated software causes confusion among specialists — why the process is not going as well as it should, why errors occur. Finding out the cause of difficulties often takes too long, so you could already complete the project instead. Therefore, it’s better to save your nerves and update the SDK to the latest version first.
As you may have noticed, porting games to different platforms requires specific skills, knowledge, and experience. Otherwise, the porting process can take too long to figure out how to do it right, and it can also cost too much to fix your own mistakes.
But let’s look at the bright side: you can always find help. Game-Ace studio is a team of experts in game development with a strong focus on excellent results.
We not only develop mobile, desktop, PC, and VR games, but also provide teams of specialists for outsourcing, as well as carry out those stages of a project for which you don’t have the necessary resources.
Feel free to contact us for any kind of development help you need. We will be happy to consult you, as well as put the needed work in.