Interview: How ‘Linelight’ Was Adapted For Mobile

Linelight
By: BT Productions (My Dog Zorro)

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I recently reviewed the near-perfect puzzler, Linelight, and was so blown away by how well it was adapted from PC and consoles to mobile devices and touchscreens, so I decided to pick the developer, Brett Taylor’s, brain a bit about how he made the magic happen.

While it might seem at first glance that the game could have just been shrunken down to fit smaller screens, it actually required many small — and big — changes. Brett said, “A lot went into making it work for mobile! A lot more than I expected. The PC/console version was such a natural fit, I was kind of spoiled by how easy a lot of the game’s design was (e.g. no need for a tutorial, everyone already knows how to play, etc.). The two biggest changes I did for mobile were 1) The virtual joystick, and 2) Rotating and/or redesigning every level to fit portrait so it’d be playable with one hand.”

He even tried to port the game to mobile before, but things didn’t go as planned. “A year before the console release, I tried making a mobile port just as a test, and it didn’t look good,” he said. “It was painful to control, even though it was exactly as it was for PC/console.” So he scrapped that idea and returned to it later, putting a lot more work into it. “For the official mobile port, I thickened all the lines, brightened the screen and foreground, zoomed in more on every level (and made levels more compact), etc.”

And of course, there’s the magic joystick that I went on and on about in my review. “The virtual joystick is its own beast. My goal was for it to read the player’s mind based on miniscule changes in finger movement (which is how it’s natural to play). It’s a robust virtual joystick that does a whole lot of computing to figure out what you’re trying to do.” I don’t know how he pulled it off, but it does indeed feel like it reads my mind.

And if you thought some of the levels were tough to beat, especially the reflex-based ones, you might be surprised to hear that they’re not as fast as on other platforms. Brett said that he “modified a lot of levels, some more than others. For instance, I made every enemy in the mobile version muuuch slower. To make it less about skill (as it’s tougher controlling without a joystick or buttons).”

I, for one, appreciate all the work that went into bringing this fantastic game to my pocket and can’t wait to see what the future brings for Brett. I’ll definitely be watching closely for his next game. And I hope his efforts inspire other developers to truly consider how their games can best fit the platform before porting them over. It can be the difference between an aggravating experience and one that just feels so good, like Linelight on my iPhone.

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