LG and Videogame Development
Videogame development is all the rage for Smart TVs as we’ve said before. Most are developed independently by third-party game designers on pure speculation of finding a market in the crowded game space. Each developer wants the largest audience possible while Smart TV platforms would like more content to act as a draw. These can be conflicting goals, since most game developers focus on mobile apps and more classic platform or PC games, but if a TV manufacturer makes it worth the game designer’s time and effort, good content can be created to mutual benefit. One of the best benefits that a Smart TV brand can use to lure “private-label” games is promotion of that game in a crowded marketplace. (Sometimes it can have surprising results.) That is what LG gave when it sponsored a contest in 2012-2013. The winner was Selknam Defense.
Selknam Defense is a strategy game from Chilean game company, “Bad Games”, which places the player in the role of Chilean Indian defenders of territory against Spanish invaders. The programmers had previous experience working on consoles and computers and took that experience into building this game.
One of the creators, Sebastian Gana, describes it as follows:
“The game is about defending Selknam territories (indigenous people from Chilean culture) from the european invaders that arrive to attack and colonize. Its mechanic is a mix between the Tower Defense and RTS genres, that is, we control allied units that have to be deployed in a grid in order to defend your territory from the invaders that are trying to reach your base, and that also attack your own troops. It has 4 worlds and 24 stages in total, with forest, mountain, ice and lava settings. It also has an upgrade section for your units, that you must use because as the game advances, so does the difficulty.”
He also had interesting thoughts on the difference between developing a game for a Smart TV and programming a mobile or desktop game.
“It´s important to design a very good software development plan, before you start programming wildly. It´s also important to manage extremely well the memory resources, and to always be aware of the design of the game, since it has to be suitable to be played with a remote control. Also you have to consider that in a giant screen you have to put bigger and heavier textures. In order to achieve that the application worked, we had to cut the textures into pieces and then join them in the game, which allowed us to reach a good graphic quality.”
This difference in styles and thought processes will limit Smart TV game development in the short-term until the game development world gets a better grasp of the methods necessary and its unique challenges that differ from other development methods that they are already used to. There is still a huge gap between the overall quality of Smart TV specific games and other platform games, but as Smart TVs become ubiquitous and demand for games grows, these challenges will be overcome in the long-run.
Since its success on LG, Selknam Defense has become available for desktop play through Steam. The reviews are mixed, seemingly based on which platform it was played on. When played on the Smart TV, it got positive marks, but when played on desktop computers and thus judged against stiffer and more elaborate competition, it didn’t rate as high. That is the reality for the moment as Smart TVs race to build a gaming platform.