Mobile Gaming Goes 3D
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 8 (August 2004)

Mobile Gaming Goes 3D

What is the state of the art of mobile gaming graphics?
Currently, 2D sprite-based graphics—reminiscent of the 16-bit and 32-bit games of the late 1980s and early 1990s—are primarily being used in mobile games. But by the end of this year, phone manufacturers will be introducing handsets with 3D graphics that will change the look and feel of mobile gaming.

How will 3D graphics change mobile games?
It will make mobile games technologically current. All home consoles are 3D-based, and have been for years. The first time I saw a game on my cell phone, it was a 2D sprite game. My first thought was, 'Why do I want to play this when I have an Xbox at home?' It's all about perception. And incorporating 3D content will blow this perception out of the water.

Can small-screen mobile games be entertaining by today's standards?
Yes. Good gameplay is scalable. Moreover, the "fun factor" will be judged by a different set of criteria. You can play a console game for hours on your big screen at home. But because mobile games are generally easier to get into and out of, they can be played in short bursts of time, such as on your train ride to work.

Dave Campbell is product marketing manager for animation at Discreet, sponsors of the first International 3D Mobile Gaming Contest (see "Mobile Gaming Prepares for Takeoff," pg. 44).

How can games take advantage of mobile technologies?
Technologies such as Bluetooth, which enable limited-distance wireless connections with other devices, are creating interesting opportunities for gaming, such as allowing head-to-head play between people who are near one another. Also, most handsets are connected to some form of service provider and, therefore, to many other mobile devices. So, we might start seeing client/server games akin to the massively multiplayer games for PCs.

Why hold a mobile gaming contest?
Discreet, Nokia, Orange, Intel, IBM, Infusio, Criterion, Fathammer, Nvidia, Kaolink, Ideaworks3D, and Turbo Squid are co-sponsoring the first International 3D Mobile Gaming Contest to encourage independent mobile gaming artists and traditional game developers alike to produce creative concepts for mobile games. More than 100 projects were submitted from 35 foreign countries, including India, Russia, China, Australia, Argentina, and Hungary. The top 14 finalists have been chosen, and the public will be able to download and play the finalists' games and vote for their favorite game at The winning mobile game will be announced this fall, and the winner will receive a publishing and distribution contract.

What's coming in terms of new technology?
Mobile phone technology is progressing at an incredible pace. We are seeing bigger screens, faster processors, better GPU processing, and faster connections. The evolution is similar to what occurred with computer and video-game consoles, only it is occurring at a much faster rate.

What's your vision of the ultimate mobile game?
It will take advantage of the fact that millions of people can choose to be connected and play, if they wish. And it will be something that never causes them to think, 'Wouldn't this be better on my PlayStation or Xbox?'

Are there other uses for mobile gaming technology?
Games will drive the market, but many other applications will follow. New mobile devices have powerful processors and great graphics, and they are connected to one another through service providers. The framework reminds me of the early days of the Internet, when it was almost impossible to predict the uses that would evolve for it. Only time will tell which applications, besides games, are best suited for mobile devices. The only guarantee is that at least a few of them will break out and redefine the way that we think and live.