Michael Quin Heavener

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Content for book on Mobile Art

How does UIEvolution's mobile middleware (or porting solution, if you call it something else) deal with art for different platforms?

With UIEvolution's UIEngineTM, graphics for wireless games are created once and incorporated into applications that talk to each specific device as necessary through a device-specific application player. Content can quickly be pulled to each of more than 1000 devices on more than 20 device platforms.

The development environment allows developers, including graphic artists, to create one set of illustrations scaled to the needs of each device. Although the illustration set must take into account the variety of screen dimensions and file types in the mobile market, individual content graphics can all be created at the same time using the same tools.

 

Is this something that can be automated, or is it down to artists to rescale their work for different handsets?

Game artists have longed for the ability to see how the technical specifications of each device will affect the layout and display of their graphics. An artist will try creating a set of graphics to be used across as many devices resolutions as possible. Until now, there have been issues finding common ground.

"It's not so much a per-device issue but, rather an issue with groups of devices sharing common characteristics, screen size, memory, file type, etc." said Cris Cook, lead designer for UIEvolution. "With the UIEngineTM, we can easily switch between devices and screen sizes to determine if the art is working across all of our target devices."

 

How does it make artists' lives easier?

While the initial design phase must plan for all the targeted devices, once the graphics are ready, no additional input is needed from designers. They are free to move on to other projects. Only if a new device of sufficient distinction comes to market would the designer return to the project. And then, he or she would merely update the application with graphics matching the new device's specs.

"Once an application's graphics and interactivity are defined, we can create all of the final production art for the application in a day and move on to another project. We do this knowing that the sets of graphics we create will cover all possible devices we intend to ship on," said Cris Cook, lead designer on the UIEvolution team. "We really try to avoid the inventory nightmare of creating artwork specifically for each and every device."

 

How is the technology of mobile phones advancing?

Mobile device technology is constantly advancing. Manufacturers and network providers race to meet the needs of user bases that are becoming increasingly fragmented. As each device's community of users narrows and more devices come to market, developers and designers are increasing pushed to meet the challenges of new technology. With the UIEngineTM, content creation efforts need not stretch out over the entire lifespan of the project. Using a one-application/many devices approach, the design process can be completed quickly for the entire range of devices and user communities.

UIEvolution's President Chris Ruff said, "Instead of tediously creating an application for every device, a process that can take months -- if it's possible to ever stay ahead of the device curve -- one application is able to address players on all devices. The players themselves take only minutes to create and deploy."

 

Is it a quick or slow process?

The UIEvolution approach to application creation shortens the development process to days instead of months. The graphic designer is an integral participant of the team, and his or her contribution to the process determines the speed of development. The designer uses conventional illustration tools, with this difference: the ready availability of specifications and schema for each mobile device are scripted into the process. The scripts are easy to edit and can be updated or modified quickly when new devices come to market.

According to Lead Designer Cris Cook, "any designer can do this using common graphic design tools. We give them the ability to push the design to more devices faster. It takes less work when all the phone schemas are built into the development tools."

 

How is software, be it game or porting applications, pushing to make this happen?

A realistic look at the mobile gaming market suggests there are ways to reduce the cost of delivering an application or game to reach the widest spectrum of users. Travis Beaven, senior product manager, said "Developers must think differently about mobile content. Instead of seeing the game as a single standalone application for a platform, UIEvolution's vision makes the game an extension where the device is one of many targets. Delivered content is merely scaled to match the device."

 

What do you think artists need the most, in order to be able to create mobile art for multiple handsets with ease?

Game developers and content providers desperately want a way to reach their audience in a true device-independent manner. If developers were offered a truly cost-effective, cross-platform solution, tapping into a company's multimedia content could easily be turned into a profitable service. Content could be delivered to users whether they surf the Internet from their PC or their mobile phone.

"It makes sense to do all the graphics at once," said Lead Designer Cris Cook. "We can see the differences side by side -- and use the UIEngineTM tools to see what the end user is going to see. There's no more guesswork."

 

Are the technological hindrances eventually going to subside?

Developers today focus on creating a handful of games and applications for each platform, but see missed opportunities in not being able to reach all devices. Porting across devices becomes a steadily increasing expense, reducing revenue and adding frustration. While consumers are increasingly connected, the technologies used on all of their devices are not.

President Chris Ruff said, "Our approach enables device specifics, such as screen size, bit depth, menu structure, handset controls, and type of platform, to be completely scriptable. With this approach, one base code can talk to hundreds of devices."

 

How does UIEvolution view the future of mobile, specific to gaming?

There is a huge opportunity for games that connect users across multiple platforms and games that reach beyond the core "gamer" audience.

Games should be able to use the brief time periods mobile consumers may have to play between classes, meetings, or waiting in line. If they can do this in new and exciting ways that have not been fully realized yet, they will tap a potentially huge market that barely exists now. Whether a game world lives on while someone is not playing -- alerting the gamer when something needs attention or a quick decision -- or the application provides something as simple as constant game persistence or faster startup time, getting the user into the action should be the goal.

"Consumers come out winners when game developers are able to match the pace of human thought," said President Chris Ruff. The pace of releasing and marketing new games, indeed any type of content, can keep up with the immediacy of blogs and mass media. 'That next new thing,' the game that everyone wants, can be rapidly developed and deployed in just two steps rather than many.

"The future of mobile games will begin to consider the actual mobile experience and factor it into the games that are created. Instead of cloning games and gaming experiences from other platforms and devices, games will begin to address the way people interact with their device, the time people spend using a mobile game, the frequency of use and, the connected nature of mobile that allows people to collaborate and compete," said Lead Designer Cris Cook.

 

About UIEvolution

UIEvolution® is a leading provider of software solutions for interactive content, empowering content and service providers to deliver a rich, interactive mobile and broadband content experience to their subscribers worldwide. UIEvolution's software technology, applications, and development tools bring high quality games, ringtones, and other interactive content to smart phones, wireless devices, and wireless networks across multiple platforms and standards.

Our vision extends much further than solutions for mobile phones. Our dream is to touch any device so that you can access the content that matters to you -- whether it is a phone, TV or even a refrigerator -- anytime that you need it.

 

Published as part of book on Mobile Art by RotoVision SA, Sheridan House, Hove, East Sussex BN3 1DD, England;
Edited by Brandon Sheffield, Editor, insert credit, Fort Washington, Maryland 20744

 

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