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31 Oct 2013

Techniques to Lower Your Mobile Game’s File Size (so People Will Want to Play it)

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the importance of keeping the file size of your mobile indie game as small as possible to ensure that players not only purchase/install your mobile game, but they also keep the game on their mobile device for as long as possible. When players begin uninstalling apps from their mobile device and notice your game takes up a ton of space, the likelihood they will uninstall it rises, yet with games of a smaller size, the chances of this occurring are much less. As a player, the ideal file size for an app that I’ve found with my mobile devices range between fewer than 100MB to 300MB (depending on the size of your mobile device, 500MB may even be tolerable). Yet for others, the difference between 30MB and 80MB is huge. It all depends on the individual, thus there is no clear-cut rule for how large your game should be. So what can you do? Make it a practice to decrease the file size whenever you can without sacrificing the gameplay, presentation, etc. (and if you have to sacrifice the gameplay, presentation, etc., do it only when it makes sense). The following are a few reasons to keep the file size of your game at a minimum that I didn’t cover yesterday (see, you’re glad you came back for part two):

  • ‘Friend-to-friend’ marketing. People usually purchase a game based on what their friends play and which games are installed on their mobile device. If your game is uninstalled due to a large file size, others will naturally not see it being played.
  • Your future revenue. If you have no plans for adding in-app purchases to your game, this isn’t an issue. Yet what if you do later on? If your game is too big and people are not playing it, you’re going to lose a considerable amount of revenue when you introduce new content.
  • Success of your future apps. If players stop playing your game or do not play it in the first place due to a large file size, you are not going to earn as strong of a user base as you would if your game was smaller. Again, if nobody is playing your game because of the file size, they are not going to recommend it to friends, and they are probably going to be unaware of your new games down the road. Keep your file size small for your awesome game, and players will not be hesitant to install it and continue playing your game. And if they enjoy themselves? They are more likely to be interested in your future games.

With that out of the way, how do you decrease the file size of your game? There are a few ways you can achieve this.

Design assets with a low file size in mind

That doesn’t mean your assets need to be of a low quality. Instead, create your assets fully knowing that your game’s file size needs to be small. You need to know what part of your game requires a unique asset, what can be generated, and what does not need to be there in the first place.

For example, if you can use small, repeating textures to replace one large background image while still retaining the look you are going for, do it. If you have a large asset, ask yourself this and every time: “can it be broken up into smaller elements?” If the answer is

question: can it be broken up into smaller elements? If the answer is ever ‘yes,’ seriously consider breaking it up.

And if you can recycle assets while retaining the same quality look? Do it! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, and it will save you an abundance of space.

Bonus tip: can you use sprites in your game? Consider using sprite sheets – it will save you a ton of space in the long run.

Layer your music

Sure, it may sound like a good idea to have a variety of music playing in your game. It makes sense: after all, you don’t want the same music to play repeatedly. Yet, lots of music takes up space, so to ensure your game has a small file size, consider getting creative with using the least amount of music possible while ensuring it is still as varied as if you had various tracks in your game.

Is it possible? Absolutely. Add a few 30 – 60 second bass loops (bass, drums, etc.). From there, allow your game to randomly layer a 15 – 90 second “tune” track (guitar, saxophone – any instrument that provides a melody). Provide a variety of “tune” tracks to be layered, and the player will hear randomly generated songs every time they play. Sure, they will be hearing repeated elements every time, but because each bass and “tune” track is randomly combined together, you will actually trick the player into thinking the music tracks they are hearing are a lot longer than they are.

Thus, your game has a fairly stacked soundtrack thanks to just a handful of audio clips.

Compress your assets

PNG-32 may make your assets look amazing, but if you can obtain the same effect by compressing a part (or perhaps even all) of your game’s assets to PNG-8, do it. As a rule, always try to compress your assets whenever possible. Sure, being able to take advantage of over 16-million colors via the PNG-24 and PNG-32 formats are awesome, but if a certain asset is only using 256 colors or less? What’s the point in using a larger format? Less is more.

Remove that junk code!

Are there certain assets you can remove? Certain features that can be removed in the SDK you are using? Can you simplify anything in the code? Streamline your code as much as possible, and make certain anything that doesn’t need to be there stays away.

The importance of a small file size for your game cannot be overstated – especially since I’ve stressed it enough in yesterday’s post and the beginning of today’s! So I’ll leave it to you devs – what methods do you use to lower your mobile game’s file size? Let us know in the comments below!

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