Mobile apps are gold and programmers who want to develop another revenue stream would do well to turn their hand to developing them. If you know how to write and debug code and have experience with smartphones and tablets, you’ve got a leg up on others hoping to get into the app and mobile game development market.
Where to get started
Spend time thinking about what type of mobile application you’d like to make and what type of platform you plan to make it for. While you can make a breakout karaoke app for the iPhone and expand to iPad and Droid, trying to target all three at once sets you up for more than you can handle. Use your gaming knowledge to develop a fully fleshed-out idea that is original enough to be intriguing. Sticking too close to the formula someone else developed risks marginalizing your mobile app.
Once you know what kind of app you’d like to create, think about the development environment and commit to it. Developing for iPhone generally means purchasing a Mac so you can download and run Mac development tools. A range of other mobile development tools exist as well, from graphics optimization to peer-to-peer sharing utilities, that can help you create the app of your dreams.
The learning curve
Don’t expect to know everything going into the development of your first game. Scores of free tutorials grant you access to learning coding languages like Python, graphics programs like Illustrator and other gaming development tools.
Development kits come with a range of standard templates that provide the code for a basic framework, such as a jumping game. These help you skip the tedious base coding and allow you to skip ahead to character development, scenery, bonuses and levels. You’ll still need to know how to work with programming languages, SDKs and APIs, but you don’t have to start from ground zero.
If you want to make a simple utility application, you can likely handle things on your own. However, if you’re secretly planning the next Angry Birds, finding others to collaborate with makes the workload more manageable. Think about organizing a well-rounded team. Not everyone needs to be a coding whiz; if you’re short on graphics skills and don’t know the first thing about creating hype, a graphics designer and marketing maven could round out your team.
Eyes on the prize
Finishing game development requires lots of dedication and hard work. Once you have a beta version, invest time in testing it before you release. It can be tempting to release in hopes of earning big and making a name for yourself as a game developer, but beware. Releasing a game that is full of bugs or plays slowly won’t earn you fans. It will earn you frustrated users who aren’t going to give you a second chance. Test, fix and re-test your game before launch.
The only way to really learn mobile app programming is to dive in. Once you develop your first game, you’ll have a better understanding of the development cycle and can work faster on getting new games out there and earning income.