The perfect mobile gaming experience - Some suggestions

Hi Strand Games,

Google Play store says i am somehow now am a beta tester because i bought your app.

So here are my suggestions as beta tester for your android app:

I am an Android user. I search for years now for a good tool to play IF comfortably on my mobile device. The existing options (Son of Hunky Punk, etc) are cool, but are all missing some major features, to make IF playable on mobile. I tried every possible option, even playing on DOS-Emulators on Android. Especially the lack of automapping in the existing IF clients is a huge problem when you are not playing on your desk and can't paint maps. Also it was somehow was strange that the only Clients to play MS games mobile ran on old Palm devices, and not on Android.

All that surprises me somehow, because i think the mobile platform should be the perfect base for playing if games. I think there must be a huge market in the play store for well crafted adventure games for intelligent people which play good.

Then i discovered The Pawn as your first MS adaption in the Google Play store. And was surprised. You seem to be the first developers who could make IF adventure games a really good mobile experience. I think you are only some small steps away from it.

So please keep on developing!

So here are some of my suggestions as beta tester:

  • A Command-shortcut-button-bar - somehow like in SCUMM Games like Maniac mansion etc. The Zcode-App Text fiction uses this. This concept was - as i think - the biggest step to make IF really playable on mobile. Every mobile IF game needs this. Screenshots:

  • Cooler and more colorful App Icon for the Play Store to directly reach the target audience (the app icon and the name is the only thing is see in the play store!) (Maybe colorful 8bit pixel design? Maybe just a well know screenshot from the game?)

  • A Dark Theme! (I read in the Forums that you already have this on your list...)

  • Give me as a new user a usefeul command Cheatsheet in the help menu! Are the MS commands identical to the ZCODE-Commands? Who knows!? Make it like the pflayif-card cheatsheet. Look here, deep linked: (Source:

  • Remove both Intro Screens for the app (why intro screen? Its lost time, I know what i want to play)

  • But keep the short Intro Sound when starting the app (useless but cool)

Also for inspiration: Check out the apps by the rather unknown developer Better.Apps. He transferred some old Amstrad-8bit-Textadventures to mobile. This is mobile IF which is surprisingly good playable: Link:

Thanks for reading,

and keep up the great work! :)


  • Hi Toki, welcome to the Strand forum,

    There's still an active Google beta programme, but the same binary is now released. Of course, there could be more betas later.

    Regarding IF on mobile platforms, i totally agree. It really is the best place to play IF - because it's portable and you can play whilst travelling, on the train or whenever you're waiting. I too am amazed that more IF is not targeted for mobile. We're hoping to redress that problem.


    Here at Strand, we have several mission "strands"; history, technology and games.

    • History
      We are bringing back some old IF classic both for mobile and desktop. Right now we're remastering the 80's games by Magnetic Scrolls. We've done "The Pawn" and are working on "The Guild of Thieves".

      We'd like to re-master other old games too, subject to copyright permission.

    • Technology

      We've developed a new, touch-based UI specifically designed for modern mobile devices (as well as desktops).

      We've separated the front end GUI from the back-end game system. So that it's possible to "plug-in" other engines. See diagram here

      When it's ready, we're going to open source our system so that anyone can use it to make games.

      We're planning an assortment of GUI widgets that can be used for games; sidebars, pictures, map, choice boxes etc. as well as an extensive set of user preferences.

    • Games

      As well as re-mastering historical games, we plan to make new games with a new generation back-end game system.

    Your suggestions

    Thanks for your suggestions, we welcome all feedback and make notes of all ideas suggested.

    Let me cover some of your points;

    • command bar

      Already being worked on! People have requested more text input help, re-editing previous input as well as word suggestions and completion.

      I've been working on a word completion/suggestion bar that will appear (optionally) in the text input area. Hopefully this will be ready for The Guild, but when it is, it will be a standard part of the GUI.

    • App Icon

      Yes, this must change, otherwise all our app icons will be the same!! We have a new icon for iOS, i plan to fit this back to the Android version too, perhaps in the next release.

      Thanks for reminding me.

    • Themes

      Yes indeed. This has only taken longer because i want to add a theme chooser to the app. So not just light & dark, you'll be able to choose your color scheme, including that of text etc.

      Hopefully for The Guild and then all apps.

    • Cheat Sheet

      Great idea! That's going to go in. Added to my list, thanks!

    • Intro Screens

      I would love to remove them! What's actually happening here, is we add a splash screen to disguise the fact that the app startup is performing JIT code compilation.

      I would very much like to improve the start-up time. Apparently, the JIT is meant to cache the output for subsequent starts, but to me it always takes the same time. Something to look into, perhaps the cache isn't working on Android.

      Anyhow, it would be great if the slow start up could be just a one-off.

    • Better Apps

      Thanks for the link, I'll definitely check these out.

    Thanks a lot Toki for your detailed feedback,
    -- hugh.

  • edited August 2017

    Thanks for your cool and detailed answer! Your mission strands are really cool. I am excited to see what the time will bring.

    I will continue the beta-test, watch the progress and maybe give more bits of feedback when i find something! :)

    I think an app start of some seconds is no real problem. My suggestion was based on my false impression that the intro-screens would have no real function.

    Anyway, feel free to contact me via mail if you need some help at some time in the future. I can't code Android-Android-Java. But i am from germany. Maybe i could offer some help with localization stuff - for example store descriptions, etc.

    bye, toki

  • I think more/better assistance with text input is the biggest usability feature that IF on mobile devices needs. Ideally, I'd like to control the game with my thoughts alone.. so can we have a neural interface? B)

    A little more seriously speaking now, speech recognition would be almost as good. I've always dreamed of being able to just relax on the couch or on the bed with an IF game that I can talk to. I imagine that the problem is not as bad as it first sounds, since the number of words to be recognized is very limited compared to usual speech.

  • @Dsinclair That is all good and well, but what if you need to interact with a ho and the spousal unit hears all sorts of lewd suggestions? :smiley:

    But seriously, I also tried to "talk" to those games, and all they did was diddly squat.

    But the technology is here and can be adapted for those games.
  • Things like TTS and voice input are definitely on the list. However, these things are going cloud based (esp voice input), so it would mean having a data connection to play. Nevertheless, something to look into.

    Yesterday, i did a bit of investigation into TTS. At the moment, game text supports markdown, which gets converted to HTML for display. The idea was to translate the markdown into SSML, which is supported my many TTS engines.

    In theory, stress and emphasis in the text could be conveyed in the dialog rather than it being synthesised deadpan, significantly improving the experience.

    A while back, i discovered that SSML only worked for some engines and not others (eg ivona accepts SSML), so it wasn't a proper solution. But yesterday, i discovered that the engines that do not support SSML are (usually) because they are ones that support Microsoft-style TTS XML

    Between the two, it can be made to work, but you have to know engine supports which system.

  • I dont think that voice input/output is the first way to go. Maybe for the future. But:

    • Its not practical. I want to be able to play on the train, bus, outdoor, etc without getting in problems with the police.

    • My android keyboard app "SwiftKey" already has an option for voice input and i never use it.

    • If voice input would be a thing some cool games on Steam would use it.

    Primarily i would put the effort in a consequent touch input GUI.

    So my suggestions would go in a direction like this:

    • I think that 90%+ of all command of the game should be done without text input, but with point and click.

    • Super-easy navigation has to be possible (i think the rose in "The Pawn" is a great approach which works)

    • a practical Maniac-Mansion-Style-Menu-bar at the bottom for the most used commands (like in the Android App "Text Fiction" or the new version of "Son of Hunky Punk")

    • maybe: for all the underlined objects in a room: a interactive "right-click" submenu with some commands for the object (like better.apps has tried it)

  • Hi Toki,

    I think i agree with you on this. People don't always realise that time spent on feature A could be spent on feature B, and sometimes B is nicer.

    One of my pushes it to try to makes game depend less on typing. This is especially relevant to mobile gameplay because the keyboard, when shown, fills the screen (mine does for example).

    There have been suggestions to make drag-and-drop more intelligent, display more information in the sidebar and to allow things to be combined and separated by dragging also.

    I started work on a "wordbar" that will be a context dependent word suggestion feature for the text box. Since people will always want the input option, at least it might make it easier.

    I like your "right-click" idea, however it wouldn't be a right click for touch. maybe a long-tap or perhaps a call-up suggestion box. Say this had a bunch of useful commands, it could save a lot of typing. I might try this out and see how it goes.

    If we can put in gadgets to save typing then that's a definite win on mobiles.

  • When I first installed Return to Zork, I expected something like the original King's Quest - graphical locations with a parser.

    However, the method they used for accepting commands from the player was quite simple, you get a diamond full of icons in the middle of the screen, hovering the mouse over each icon animates them wirh a little text bubble telling you what that specific command do.

    Either that or a drop-down list of possible commands etc that the player can choose from (with a random red herring thrown in for some humour). We don't want to make it too easy now....

    Now I'm wondering how you will do complex commands like "plant the pot plant in the plant pot with the trowel" :smile:

  • edited August 2017

    @hugh said:
    One of my pushes it to try to makes game depend less on typing. This is especially relevant to mobile gameplay because the keyboard, when shown, fills the screen (mine does for example).

    There have been suggestions to make drag-and-drop more intelligent, display more information in the sidebar and to allow things to be combined and separated by dragging also.

    I started work on a "wordbar" that will be a context dependent word suggestion feature for the text box. Since people will always want the input option, at least it might make it easier.

    One thing that comes to my mind is the old Legend Entertainment text adventures, which used a layout like this:

    Though I always found that to be too cluttered for my taste, and since I'm used to typing anyway this is the layout I used when playing those games:

    (In case anyone was wondering, the game I used for screenshots is Frederik Pohl's Gateway.)

  • Thanks for posting these.

    These interfaces look pretty cool, but they would be way too cluttered on mobile. I've been trying our stuff on the iPhone SE and it's just tiny. I'd still like to make it as nice as i can though.

    I've seen a lot of interfaces that are basically variations on a palette of choices or ways to combo words. Although these might work up to a point, i have a gut feeling that we can do something better.

    That's because technology has moved on, and my thoughts are that we can have a more intelligent interface. So, for example, if it's going to suggest things, those things can be only what might work. There's no point in suggesting words or commands that, if selected say, "you can't do that."

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