EA Mobile Associate Producer Mike Pagano is a good panel speaker to have right after lunch — he's very loud, very animated and likes to swear a lot.
And he's got lots to be swearing about, having captained many of the major mobile games that have come through EA. From Yahtzee to Spore Origins, Pagano has been there and done that for nearly every iPhone App mishap a developer could have. Here's a sample of what he had to say to anyone wanting to get into the market:
Chant to yourself the words of Tricky Software's Zach Waibel, Pagano's colleague on Spore Origins: "It's an adaptation, not a port."
The benefits of adapting are 1) brand recognition, 2) proven mechanics, 3) existing source package (maybe - some games' source code doesn't get along with the iPhone), 4) fast time to market and — most importantly — they're high in profitability. EA cashed in on them all with stuff like Scrabble and SimCity, even if they botched the mechanics part here and there.
If you can't do that because not everybody can get the rights to Monopoly, at least remember some basic iPhone rules that Apple already discovered for you: don't put text at the bottom of the screen (SimCity fail, Scrabble pass); if it's a button, make sure it looks like a button (Yahtzee fail, Spore Origins pass), don't cram a bunch of options onto one menu, just make a bunch of sub-menus that you can slide between (Yahtzee fail, SimCity pass), always expect that your game will be interrupted, never assume the user wants to sit through a loading or splash screen while waiting to get back into the game (SimCity fail, Spore Origins pass).
Fat fingers are also a huge stumbling block for developers, said Pagano. He didn't really have a solution to the problem other than, you know, solving the American obesity crisis, but he used it as a way to circle back to talking about buttons.
"Feedback, feedback, feedback," he said. "If you take nothing else away from this... Give the user visual and audio feedback."
Almost immediately after this admonishing, he added: ""Keep it simple, keep it sexy... Just, make the game sexy and the rest will follow."
Incidentally, the game that toppled Spore Origins and SimCity from the App Store's number one slot on the download list: iFart Mobile. Oh yeah, so sexy.