The benefits of multi-platform games are well-known to the gamer audience, but seldom discussed in the development community. However, cross-platform gaming is currently booming. More and more games are becoming like this, including Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Street Fighter.
So, why is it essential to make a game cross-platform? With multi-platform games, players don’t have to decide which device to run the game on, and they can play with friends without worrying about whether they’re in the player base.
Multi-platform games are beneficial for game developers as well. The user base is no longer divided into different platforms. Instead, developers can organize one large pool of players and create a richer multiplayer experience with more complete game sessions. This sounds straightforward, but is it?
In this article, we will find out more about the basic approach to the game porting process, its main benefits for your business, and the challenges you may encounter.
Game porting is a process of converting a video game so that a version suitable for one platform becomes suitable for another. After porting, the game should run on different platforms and use their technological capabilities accordingly.
There are two main types of porting:
Note that the quality of ported video games can vary: some ported games run worse than the originals one due to poor optimization, while others are considered better than the originals due to various factors, such as new improvements. Usually, a small team can complete the process of porting a game in just a few months. In some cases, this process may take a year or more.
Porting is important because, for instance, PC gamers cannot play games released only for consoles. Therefore, if you have created a game for PC and want to publish it on other platforms, you should change some technical specifications to make it compliant. In fact, the core game porting process involves many steps, which are the same in most cases. Let’s find out more about the benefits of porting video games and the steps in the game porting process.
Before jumping into the game porting process, let’s take a closer look at the main reasons for creating a cross-platform game. Because this process can take a lot of time and effort, the benefits should be worth the resources expended.
There are some challenges associated with porting games, but some can be avoided by following the main principles of game porting. Porting a game and properly optimizing it for each console requires a lot of knowledge, skill, and experience. If you have little or no experience, the best solution is to choose a game porting company that’s well suited to your project.
A game’s code base is usually optimized for a specific platform. For example, for small indie development teams, the target platform is often the PC.
However, if indie developers want to port their project to a console, they should make additional efforts. The code will be optimized and partially rewritten so that it will work with the target hardware’s processes and processors. The rendering pipeline, memory usage, graphics processors, and more should be taken into account.
Creating your own game engine has many advantages: you can individually optimize the gameplay, ensure high platform performance, and make the maintenance process more convenient.
However, it is important to keep in mind that transferring custom game engines to a platform for which they were not originally created is quite tricky. Unless it was designed with portability in mind, some parts will probably have to be rewritten. In some cases, engines will need to be built completely from scratch.
One of the most crucial aspects of the game porting process is performance optimization. The greater the difference in hardware between the platforms, the more challenging this process is.
If the target platform hardware is less capable, you can, for example, reduce the graphics quality of your game. If the target platform is more capable than the original platform, you will probably have to upgrade your graphics to provide users with a better experience. This is a more difficult task.
If you plan to release a game on a specific platform, its primary target audience will be the users of that platform. As such, you should seek out and collaborate with popular bloggers, network with the player community, and create individual promotional materials for each platform.
For example, a team of 20 people might have three people involved in promotion who only work on publishing, marketing, and sales. For small studios, publishing multi-platform games can be a pain point, as such studios likely do not have enough people to promote them.
The differences in controls across each platform should also be considered. This issue is most significant when porting to or from PCs and mobile devices. PC games are controlled with a mouse and keyboard, which have a higher level of accuracy than gamepads. At the same time, the controls on touchscreens should be designed so as not to disturb the gameplay.
Mapping keyboard keys to controller inputs is not always a good idea. Therefore, it takes longer to find a good solution.
Console SDKs have many handy features that might be difficult to port to the PC. For example, they can provide access to hardware timers or good audio API. These functions are usually not available on PC. Therefore, you will need to use other methods to achieve these things.
Publishing in every game store is a challenging part of the video game porting process: you should ensure that your game meets all the requirements of each store. Game stores often require that your game be officially certified for the country in which you plan to distribute it, and insurance is often required in case of possible licensing problems.
Seasoned developers can help you understand the pitfalls and specifics of platforms you most likely aren’t familiar with. They will also explain how to enhance the process of porting your game.
Note that your team should be well versed in porting to each of the platforms on which you plan to run your game, as they have their own specifics. If you want to increase your audience reach, finding such experienced developers will be challenging.
In this section, we’ll take a look at the basic steps of the game porting process, which are common across all devices.
When transferring a game from one platform to another, you should first adapt its source code. The complexity of this process depends significantly on the architecture of each platform and the game engine used in the development process. If you are using multi-platform engines such as Unity or Unreal Engine, this step of the game porting process can be rapid and smooth. If you’re using your own platform-optimized engine, however, this can be one of the most difficult, time-consuming, and resource-consuming parts of the process.
Game visuals, such as an engaging visual story or innovative and unique gameplay, are one of the first things that attract players’ attention. Therefore, the success of a project is highly dependent on the implementation of its visual components.
By adapting the graphics, you can be sure that your game meets performance requirements and provides the best possible user experience.
Middleware tools perform very specific tasks, preserving the creative intent of the creators and thereby improving the player experience. These tools involve software that helps reduce delay in multiplayer tournaments, and specific tools can be used to create complex visual elements and physical simulations.
Game developers usually search for the most convenient middleware solution to keep their games running smoothly. It is sometimes necessary to seek out an alternative solution, completely rewrite part of the game, or even create your own middleware. This problem is often caused by the porting of the game’s sound effects. Therefore, we recommend that you pay particular attention to this component of your project.
Note that PC gaming isn’t as simple as console gaming. Instead of “plug and play,” it’s more like “plug and pray” that your games run smoothly.
That’s why a GPU is a crucial component of a gaming system. In some cases, it’s even more important than the CPU. If you’re not familiar with this term, in a nutshell, a GPU is a single-chip processor that’s chiefly used to manage and enhance video and graphics performance.
To improve CPU and GPU performance, you should first determine the cause of the issue; only then should you take any action. If you address a performance issue before you understand its cause, you could be wasting your time or making the issue even worse.
You should improve your game so that resource use is optimal. The game should run smoothly, and the quality of the visual design should be high enough to use all hardware resources.
Implementing additional platform-specific features can make a game more suitable for the target platform.
Let’s say your game was developed for the PC. Some of its gameplay elements will definitely show it. For example, they may require use and precise control of a mouse. These elements should be adapted to improve user experience on different platforms.
At this stage of the game porting process, it is essential to ensure that all players have an equally smooth and satisfying experience.
This step is especially challenging when it comes to porting a game to or from a mobile platform since touchscreen controls are very specific. It should provide all the necessary functions, have a user-friendly UI, and not disturb gameplay.
Don’t try to reduce the time a project takes by giving up quality assurance. Testing is one of the most essential steps in the game porting process; the transferred game may differ from the original, which can lead to unexpected interactions, bugs, and lags. Be sure to run as many tests as possible to ensure that your game is bug-free so that you can release a quality product that won’t disappoint users.
Before submitting your game to the marketplace, you should find out more about the approval requirements your game must meet on your target platform’s official website.
Below, you will discover the top 5 hottest multi-platform games on the market.
Platforms supported: Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.
Fortnite is a popular battle royale game developed by Epic Games and released in 2017. It is available in three distinct game mode versions that otherwise share the same general gameplay and game engine: Fortnite Battle Royale, Fortnite: Save the World, and Fortnite Creative.
Platforms supported: PC, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a compilation of first-person shooter video games in the Halo series, originally released in November 2014 for the Xbox One and later on Microsoft Windows in 2019 and 2020. An enhanced version was released for the Xbox Series X/S in November 2020.
Platforms supported: Android, iOS, PC, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation.
Dead by Daylight is an asymmetric survival horror online multiplayer game developed by Behaviour Interactive. It’s a one-versus-four game in which one player plays as a cruel murderer and the other four play as survivors. The game was first released for Microsoft Windows in June 2016, followed by additional ports for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in June 2017, Nintendo Switch in September 2019, iOS and Android in April 2020, Stadia in October 2020, and PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S in November 2020.
Platforms supported: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo.
Rocket League, developed and published by Psyonix, is a video game in the car soccer genre. The game is described as “soccer, but on rocket cars.” Up to eight players play on two teams, using rocket-powered cars to score against their opponents and score points during the match.
The game was first released for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4 in 2015, with later ports for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Physical retail versions of the game for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were launched in 2016. macOS and Linux versions were also released in 2016, but support for their online services was discontinued in 2020.
Platforms supported: PC, PS4, PS5, Wii, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.
Minecraft is a popular multi-platform games that any gamer will enjoy: players can explore the environment, build buildings, play with friends, and even fight zombies and other monsters.
Officially released in 2011, the sandbox game quickly became popular. In 2014, Microsoft bought its developer, Mojang Studios, for $2.5 billion. Minecraft doesn’t have flashy visuals or large-scale action sequences. But even today, it remains a titan of the gaming industry, having sold more than 200 million copies across all platforms.
When porting a game, it is crucial to maintain all the features of the original version, including its textures, sound effects, and polygon formats. These things should be ported correctly to ensure that players cannot differentiate between the ported game and the original one.
Of course, providing seamless functionality is tricky and requires significant effort. However, porting your game is worth it—it could make your game more popular worldwide and bring you many benefits.
At VironIT, we offer game porting from PC to console, from mobile devices to PC, and from PC to mobile devices. We have well-established processes and seasoned teams to quickly and seamlessly port your video game. In addition, our team can assist in all stages of porting, including the following:
If you encounter any issues and would like help overcoming them, feel free to contact us.