Have you ever wondered how you can play the same game on different devices, such as your PC, console, or smartphone? The answer is porting. Game porting is the process of adapting a video game from one platform or device to another. It involves taking an existing game that was designed for a specific platform, and then modifying it so that it can run on a different platform. This process usually involves rewriting parts of the code and making changes to the game’s graphics, sound, and user interface.
Porting is not a new phenomenon in the gaming industry. It has been around since the early days of arcade games and home consoles. However, porting has become more important and complex over time, as the number of gaming platforms and devices has increased and new technologies have emerged. Porting has also become more beneficial and challenging for video game companies and consumers, as it affects various aspects of the gaming industry, such as economics, quality, diversity, and accessibility.
In this blog post, we will explore how porting works and how it impacts the gaming industry. We will cover the following topics:
- The technical process and tools of porting a game and how they have changed over time.
- The economic and market implications of porting for video game companies and consumers.
- The artistic and creative aspects of porting and how they affect the quality and originality of games.
- The social and cultural aspects of porting and how they influence the diversity and accessibility of games.
The Technical Process and Tools of Porting
Game porting is not a simple or straightforward process. It requires a lot of technical skills and knowledge, as well as careful planning and testing. By the way, it is one of the reasons why game porting services are usually outsourced. Depending on the complexity and differences between the original and target platforms, porting can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months or even years.
The basic steps of porting are:
- Analyzing the original game’s code, graphics, sound, and user interface to identify what needs to be changed or replaced for the target platform.
- Choosing or developing the appropriate tools and frameworks to facilitate the porting process. These can include compilers, libraries, engines, middleware, emulators, debuggers, etc.
- Rewriting or modifying parts of the code to make it compatible with the target platform’s hardware, software, operating system, etc.
- Adjusting or redesigning the graphics, sound, and user interface to fit the target platform’s screen size, resolution, aspect ratio, input methods, etc.
- Testing and debugging the ported game to ensure that it runs smoothly and without errors or glitches on the target platform.
The tools and techniques of porting have evolved over time, as new platforms and technologies have emerged. For example:
- In the early days of game porting, developers had to manually rewrite most of the code for each platform using low-level languages such as assembly or C. This was a tedious and time-consuming process that often resulted in poor performance or quality issues.
- In the 1980s and 1990s, with the rise of PC gaming, developers started to use higher-level languages such as C++ or Java that could be compiled for multiple platforms using cross-platform compilers. This made porting easier and faster but still required some platform-specific adjustments.
- In the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the advent of mobile gaming, developers had to deal with a new challenge: porting games to a wide variety of mobile devices with different specifications and capabilities. Developers had to use specialized tools such as J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) or BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) that could run on limited hardware resources.
- In the 2010s, with the increasing popularity of cross-platform development, developers could create games that could be played on multiple platforms using common engines or frameworks such as Unity or Unreal Engine. These tools allowed developers to write one codebase that could be exported to different platforms with minimal changes.
The Economic and Market Implications of Porting
Porting has significant economic and market implications for both video game companies and consumers. Porting can potentially increase revenue, expand customer base, gain a competitive advantage, make their games more accessible, and preserve the legacy of older games. However, porting can also entail some costs, risks, and trade-offs for both video game companies and consumers. Porting can require a lot of time, money, and resources, as well as technical expertise and quality assurance. Porting can also result in some compromises or losses in terms of performance, functionality, or fidelity of the games. Moreover, porting can create some legal or ethical issues, such as intellectual property rights, licensing agreements, or consumer protection.
Some examples of successful and unsuccessful porting cases are:
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: This critically acclaimed action role-playing game was originally released for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2015. In 2019, it was ported to the Nintendo Switch, a handheld console with much lower specifications than the other platforms. The port was praised for being a technical marvel that managed to run the game on the Switch without sacrificing too much of its quality or content. However, the port also had some drawbacks, such as lower resolution, frame rate, and texture quality, as well as longer loading times and reduced draw distance.
- Cyberpunk 2077: This highly anticipated open-world role-playing game was released for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Stadia in 2020. However, the game was plagued by numerous bugs, glitches, and performance issues on all platforms, especially on the older consoles. The game was criticized for being poorly optimized and tested for the different platforms and for being misleading and deceptive about its quality and features. The game’s developer and publisher faced legal actions, refunds requests, and reputation damage due to the game’s disastrous launch.
The Artistic and Creative Aspects of Porting
Porting is not only a technical or economic process but also an artistic and creative one. Porting can affect the quality and originality of games in various ways. Porting can enhance or diminish the artistic vision and expression of the game developers and designers. Porting can also create new opportunities or challenges for the game developers and designers to adapt their games to different platforms and audiences.
Some of the artistic and creative aspects of porting are:
- Visuals: Porting can affect the graphics quality and style of games. Porting can improve or degrade the resolution, frame rate, lighting effects, shadows, textures, animations, etc. of games. Porting can also require some changes or adjustments to the art direction or aesthetic of games to fit the target platform’s capabilities or preferences.
- Sound: Porting can affect the sound quality and design of games. Porting can improve or degrade the sound effects, music, and voice of games. Porting can improve or degrade the sound quality, volume, clarity, and synchronization of games. Porting can also require some changes or adjustments to the sound direction or mood of games to fit the target platform’s capabilities or preferences.
- Gameplay: Porting can affect the gameplay mechanics and features of games. Porting can improve or degrade the performance, functionality, and stability of games. Porting can also require some changes or adjustments to the gameplay modes, levels, difficulty, controls, etc. of games to fit the target platform’s capabilities or preferences.
Some examples of creative and artistic porting cases are:
- Halo: Combat Evolved: This iconic first-person shooter game was originally released for the Xbox console in 2001. In 2003, it was ported to PC and Mac by a different developer. The port was praised for adding new features and improvements to the game, such as online multiplayer mode, new maps, weapons, vehicles, etc. However, the port also had some drawbacks, such as lower graphics quality, bugs, and compatibility issues.
- Final Fantasy VII: This legendary role-playing game was originally released for the PlayStation console in 1997. In 2015, it was ported to iOS devices by the original developer. The port was criticized for being a lazy and sloppy conversion of the game, as it did not improve or update the graphics, sound, or gameplay of the game. The port also had some issues such as poor controls, glitches, and crashes.
The Social and Cultural Aspects of Porting
Porting is not only a technical or economic or artistic process but also a social and cultural one. Porting can affect the diversity and accessibility of games in various ways. Porting can enhance or diminish the social and cultural relevance and representation of games. Porting can also create new opportunities or challenges for games to reach and appeal to different audiences and markets.
Some of the social and cultural aspects of porting are:
- Localization: Porting can involve localizing games for different regions or languages. Localization can include translating text and voice, changing names and references, adapting cultural norms and values, etc. Localization can make games more accessible and appealing to different audiences and markets. However, localization can also pose some difficulties or controversies, such as accuracy, quality, censorship, etc.
- Diversity: Porting can affect the diversity of games in terms of genres, themes, styles, etc. Porting can introduce new genres or themes to different platforms or audiences that may not have been exposed to them before. Porting can also diversify the styles or expressions of games by adapting them to different platforms or audiences that may have different preferences or expectations. However, porting can also reduce the diversity of games by homogenizing them to fit the dominant or mainstream platforms or audiences that may have more influence or power in the gaming industry.
- Accessibility: Porting can affect the accessibility of games in terms of availability, affordability, and usability of games. Porting can make games more available and affordable to different audiences and markets by bringing them to different platforms and devices. Porting can also make games more usable and enjoyable to different audiences and markets by adapting them to different input methods, screen sizes, accessibility features, etc.
Some examples of social and cultural porting cases are:
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons: This popular life simulation game was released for the Nintendo Switch console in 2020. The game was localized for different regions and languages, including changing the names, appearances, and personalities of some characters, as well as adding cultural references and events. The game was also praised for its accessibility features, such as customizable controls, colorblind mode, text size options, etc.
- PUBG Mobile: This popular battle royale game was originally released for PC and consoles in 2017. In 2018, it was ported to mobile devices by a different developer. The game was adapted to fit the mobile platform’s capabilities and preferences, such as reducing the graphics quality, adding touch controls, auto-aiming, etc. The game was also localized for different regions and languages, including adding region-specific modes, maps, outfits, etc.
Game Porting is a complex and multifaceted process that affects various aspects of the gaming industry. Porting can have positive or negative impacts on the technical, economic, artistic, social, and cultural aspects of games. Porting can also create new opportunities or challenges for video game companies and consumers. Game Porting is not a one-size-fits-all solution but a context-dependent one that requires careful planning and execution.
Porting is not only a way of bringing games to different platforms or devices but also a way of bringing games to different audiences or markets. It can expand the reach and accessibility of games, as well as diversify and enrich the gaming experience. It is not only a technical or economic or artistic process but also a social and cultural one. Porting can reflect and influence the social and cultural values and norms of games. Porting a game can also help to create and foster social and cultural connections and interactions among gamers.