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I'm trying to design a game that can be considered versatile enough to be adapted to different platforms and control schemes without too much difficulty. I asked this question to try to get a handle on what to expect as far as what technologies to try and plan for, but it was closed (justifiably, I agree) for basically asking others to predict what the future technologies were.

So my question now is, instead of trying to plan a game to suit specific technologies and control methods, what should I consider in my planning if i want to design a game that can easily adapt to new platform environments?

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Personally I think even this question is too broad to really give a useful answer. It seems you should go the other direction: plan what platforms you want to be on, and ensure that your game mechanics can be designed with all of those platforms in mind. – Tetrad Mar 8 '12 at 23:56
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'm not sure game design should be forward looking.

Take a look at games designed 20 or 30 years ago. From topscrollers to platformers to racing to dungeon-crawl, they are still just as fun to play and the genres are as alive today as they were back then. Bolting Kinect controls or 3D vision or touch screens onto Galaga or Mario doesn't necessarily make them better.

I guess the corollary is that games that take advantage of unique features of a particular platform probably don't carry over to different platforms with different features. For instance, Scribblenauts would be cumbersome on a Kinect.

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Excellent points, but I still think it's a good idea to think outside the box. – ktodisco Mar 9 '12 at 0:14
Well, I agree with you that thinking outside the box is good for A) coming up with ideas for new platforms and B) pushing the boundary of current platforms, but I'm not sure it makes your designs any more future proof. – Jimmy Mar 9 '12 at 0:16

You're right, it is difficult to predict what the future gaming technologies will be. In fact, unless you're working for the companies developing the new technologies, you will probably not have access to SDKs until a while after the technology comes around.

Bearing this in mind, I would suggest designing your game in order to push the boundaries of what we consider viable input schemes or platforms for games, rather than designing for what might be or what already is. The great part of designing games is that you get to put the full power of your imagination to work.

When it comes to implementation, it's very hard if not impossible to have your code structure easily portable between two different platforms. This is why console ports of games require a full team to create. As Tetrad said, just make sure that you will be able to implement all your mechanics on all of your target platforms.

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Porting to current platforms is already hard enough - making it easy to port to platforms that don't even exist yet seems like asking for too much.

To take a specific example. Almost nobody could have predicted the rise of consumer 3D acceleration back in 1996 or thereabouts. Sure, it could have been predicted to have existed by then (it already did), but going mainstream? There were however a number of relatively coincidental occurrances - falling memory prices pushing them into consumer price-ranges, a killer app (Quake) to suddenly make them highly desirable and the evolution of not one but two widely supported 3D APIs (not to mention a third that had extremely high coverage) all at the same time - that suddenly opened the floodgates.

With that all the old rules went out the window. Highly tuned software renderers started becoming marginal, practices that worked well with software didn't necesarily work well with hardware, and things you could do before were suddenly no longer possible (and the converse). Everybody who knew everything about writing a software renderer had to more or less begin learning from scratch all over again. (Where's Ken Silverman now? He was very very good but didn't make the transition.)

Will we see a similar paradigm shift again in our lifetimes? Don't know, nobody knows, but it doesn't even have to be on the same scale. Something that breaks apart the now familiar GPU/CPU model is enough to sufficiently upset things. New storage technology, new comms technology, new input technology, new sound technology - these are all short/medium term feasible and if we get two or more happening at the same time it may be enough to trigger a year-zero reset.

So no - you're not going to be able to achieve this goal. Better to focus on what you can achieve now, and do the best you can with what we've currently got. Don't worry too much about whether it will be obsoleted in 3/4/5 years time, worry about what you're doing now.

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Don't design around hardware abilities or even hardware concepts that can't be supported cross platform. Or inversely, design around concepts that aren't device specific. If you have an idea, mentally cycle through a list of current platforms, and ask yourself how you'd implement it on each. If you can't think of how, toss or modify the idea.

Multitouch is pretty neat, but not supportable for a user with just a mouse. If you utilize a keyboard because of its large number of potential inputs, you may find your game very difficult to port to a console controller (fewer inputs). Screen size and screen resolution is another. If you design a game that requires a large amount of information on the screen, you'll have problems on a small tablet.

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