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Game limitations: the developer talked about the problems with creating software for the Apple Watch

Constantine Sakhnov, scientific Director of the programme”Management of online gaming projects”, Higher school of business Informatics of the HSE and former head of mobile projects Mail.Ru Group, told Vc about their experiences creating apps for Apple Watch and gave a few tips on the development connected with peculiarities of “smart” hours.

Recently I had the unique experience of game development for “smart” clock Apple Watch and want to share it with you. You should start with what goals have led us to the decision to make games for hours and why it might be interesting for you.

Unexpected experiment

The portfolio of many gaming companies includes not only those products that are time-tested and fixed by the examination team. Often we try something new, knowing that it can lead to success, and to remain unnoticed.

When we started to develop a game for hours, the market was only watchOS 1 operating system with extremely limited functionality. The next version of the system has gone far from its predecessor. The main thing to understand application hours are not a separate product. They are supplied only as a complement to mobile version and for their operation it is necessary that the game was installed on the phone.

The uniqueness of the gameplay

“Heroes of Utopia” is the clicker. In games of this genre the main mechanics is the continuous development of the characters. The player increases its power exponentially, making the same type of action. The perfect genre for porting on the clock.

Speaking of gameplay, we thought primarily about duplicating the gameplay of the mobile version on the clock. It must be a single game with a single progress, no matter where the player starts: on the computer on Facebook, on your tablet, phone, or hours, — its progress and gameplay are the same everywhere.

The platform’s features

Now, the network has already enough reviews of the Apple Watch, their operating system and development tools. I’m not going to dwell on this. But for those who have not had time to read this topic, to sum up: development for Apple Watch is a game in restrictions. Limitations will lie in wait for game designers everywhere: from the screen size and GUI development tools to productivity and total dependence hours from the phone.

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Will try to give only some practical tips that will allow you to save some time.

A single graphics package

Despite the fact that now there are two versions with different screen size: 38 mm and 42m, is enough to draw one graphics package, which is then scaled to the required resolution of the screen. In our case it was pack to the minimum permissions. Zoom on the clock did not affect the quality of the graphics and speed of the application.

System area

Here, as in Warcraft: “must Always be a Lich King”. The black strip at the top of the screen with time indicator are impossible to remove, but it can adapt to fit your purpose. For example, to display it with the title screen. Similarly with many other system elements, such as indicators of paging: it is impossible to make them a custom background or replace them with your own pictures.

Frame-by-frame animation

A set of tools for creating animations on watchOS 2 is very limited. This time-lapse change of the animation, the primitive motion of the object on the straight line from point A to point b, the scaling and the alpha channel.

A large amount of main application version

Because the version for hours is a kind of addon, sorry for rough comparison, the developer delivers its sewn into the main distribution game. Be ready to see the growing volume of applications that want to fit in the cherished 100 MB. One of the solutions to the problems — uploading content from a server via a mobile application when you first start the game on the clock. It is important to understand that downloading version for hours entirely impossible — it is only the download of its content. Fortunately, it takes the bulk.

Optimizing graphics

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With graphic content on the watch can and should work. For example, in our main clicker app weight fell on the monsters and backdrops. First we shrunk, going from PNG-24 to PNG-8, second — high JPEG compression. You can also save by reducing the image size. Thank you, cap.

The struggle for performance

This is one of the most important points, because loading resources on hours — as when you run the application, and in the process of play — takes considerable time. We solved this issue by reducing the volume of content pre-loading and partial display of animations to the award while downloading next opponent.

Controls and interfaces. No multitache and custom processing management. All that is at your disposal for creating a user-friendly GUI, — two types of interfaces (Page based and Hierarchical) and the ability to show a custom pop-up Windows, saving in unexpected situations.

Sync content

Almost every game releases updates. But even if you once did what you planned, you still have to face the task of synchronizing data on the watch and the phone.

Here it is important to remember three things:

  • When you turn on the game for hours to demand from the phone to save the current progress and pass on the clock for synchronization.
  • Lock the app on your phone to not create conflict while the version running on the clock.
  • Not to forget to unlock the phone when the game clock and send the updated progress.


Test version for hours carefully. Your players will not be able reset it simply by restarting the app on your phone. If the game is on the watch capital stuck, just uninstall it and install again from the tool Watch on mobile.

The gameplay of clicker

The task was as challenging, as interesting, is to transfer the clock to the core gameplay. No, not to make a version for clocks, namely to repeat the same gameplay with the most close feelings on the new platform.

By that time in our cozy clicker has already appeared dialogues, plot bosses, powerful social component and other typical clicker game mechanics. To understand what needs to be ported to watches, we answered the question of what the player spends most of the time, playing clickers.

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Version for hours received three elements of gameplay:

  • Killing monsters. Well, of course. To click on the monsters in the clicker — and why not? It is important to note that on the clock we gave the player to kill monsters. He does not move to progress the plot, doesn’t cause the dialogue and not fighting the boss. These limits are dictated by the speed of a click and the screen size, which is quite uncomfortable to read the text. Playing on your tablet or smartphone players use multiple fingers, and a small clock screen with three fingers to get difficult. About using two hands.
  • Pumping satellites. This item was moved almost completely, except for evolution, which requires killing bosses and lack the ability to read descriptions of the characters and their abilities.
  • Collect offline rewards. And this is very important. To run the game for hours, constantly on hand, a little easier than to climb into his pocket for his phone and wait for the download. Click on the application icon on the clock with the reward obtained quickly and conveniently.
  • Instead of conclusions

    In conclusion, I will give the last piece of advice: if after reading you still decided to make a game on the clock, take care not only about developing but also about informing the player. The setting of the game clock — unusual process that has not yet used even a owners hours. Moreover, the existence of your game versions for the Apple Watch is not something taken for granted.

    Make sure that you learn that can play your game for hours and received clear instructions on installing the game on your gadget.

    As said Ner’zhul and many before him, is not mistaken who does nothing. Go for it.

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