November 13, 2011 3:00 PM | Eric Caoili
"PC and Mac gaming is actually in a very good state, and it's perfect for indie developers." This sentiment from Amanita Design's founder and game designer, Jakub Dvorsky, is one that appears to be widely held among the indie game development community.
Another common sentiment is that the introduction of the iPhone and iPad has led to great, new avenues for developers. And so in September, Amanita Design brought Machinarium to iPad 2.
Amanita's delightful adventure game originally came out in 2009 on PC and Mac, and follows the journey of a little robot who's been thrown (literally) out of the city. Players help him find his way back in and discover a plot from the Black Cap Brotherhood to blow up the city's tower.
"We've been interested in tablets since the first iPad appeared. I love the idea of tablets as a gaming device -- it's similar to books or magazines," said Dvorsky in an interview with Gamasutra contributor Caleb Bridge. "You can play anywhere and especially in relaxed conditions."
Machinarium's slower pacing undoubtedly fits the description of a game that can be played in relaxed conditions, but the "play anywhere" part of that equation led Amanita Design into some technical difficulties, resulting in the tablet version of the game being an iPad 2 exclusive.
The biggest reason for this was the original iPad's 256MB of memory, particularly given only half of that could be put towards the actual game after system memory was taken into account.
"It would probably be possible to make the game work on iPad 1 if we re-do it again from scratch, which is still a possibility. We've been rewriting the game for some time already to bring it to PS3, so we hope we'll be able to tailor that version for other devices."
Other changes to bring Machinarium to iPad 2 included converting the game's vector animations (such as smoke, flowing water etc.) to bitmap sequences -- something Dvorsky couldn't shed more detail on, not being a programmer himself.
And most click-able areas and buttons from the PC version were enlarged to make the process of interacting with your finger easier. Machinarium's built-in walkthrough, which requires the player to play a mini-game in order to view, has also been shortened for easier access.
One of the many positive elements of Machinarium on PC/Mac, was that it offered a fantastic gaming experience for a very reasonable price (currently $9.99). This carries over to the iPad version of the game, which you can find for $4.99 on the App Store.
"It seems there's a sweet spot for every game on each platform and we only hope we hit it," said Dvorsky. "Yes, it's cheaper than the PC version, but it's mostly because the iPad has a smaller screen," claiming people tend to pay less if the portable experience appears to be "smaller" than their PC or console counterparts.
Despite Machinarium's reasonable price on PC, the game was still victim to piracy. Gamasutra reported last August that only 5-15 percent of people who downloaded Machinarium actually bought it legitimately.
When asked if releasing the game on other platforms was a response to that, Dvorsky said "Well, that 5-15 percent was just a rough estimate, but we are not worried by it. We want to bring our games to other platforms not because of piracy, but to provide a different kind of experience. On tablets you can enjoy the game on the move, and the PS3 version is great because you can play it on a big TV while sitting in a comfy couch."
With the PS3 version due later this year, Dvorsky and Amanita said they have no strategic order of releases, going with the "when it's done" approach.
"We developed the game for PC and Mac and released it when it was ready," he said. "Then we started thinking about a tablet version, and at the same time we started working on the PS3 version, which is the most complicated so is taking the longest to finish. So we are releasing immediately when the game is ready."
The PS3 version, according to Dvorsky, will be "the best Machinarium experience ever."
Despite the recent release of the improved iPhone 4S, Amanita still is not considering porting Machinarium to smartphones, citing that "the screen is just too small, and without zoom functionality it would be unplayable. However we'd like to bring our next game to smart phones."
Amanita Design recently announced its next game, Botanicula, which it hopes to release on PC/Mac, iOS, and Android platforms in 2012.