My Time at Portia, the massive RPG-slash-simulation game, is finally landing on mobile devices – and the porting process is not at all devoid of TLC. The hit title lets players craft, harvest, battle beasts, ride flying pigs, and get married – and not necessarily in that order, because anything is possible.
We sat down with two of Pathea Games’s brilliant minds behind the worldwide hit, Aaron Deng (VP at Pathea Games) & Cheng Wang (My Time at Portia Mobile port team lead) to talk about the ups and downs of the development process and the challenges of mobile porting. How do you optimize buttons on smaller screens? Is it important to lift up items like you’re Superman? And exactly how crucial is grass when it comes to the aesthetics of the world around you?
First off, how many people were involved with bringing My Time at Portia to mobile?
Cheng: The porting team is small, consisting of four programmers, one designer, and two artists (one for UI and one for modelling). Fortunately our PC team had done a lot of prep work already so our main areas included UI design for mobile as well as model design.
Aaron: The team as a whole is a big team; the biggest in our company. The whole My Time series team has over 70-80 people, we also have a QA team of around 50 people…and marketing, customer service, so I would say roughly 100.
Portia is such a content-heavy game, what challenges were there getting it onto mobile?
Cheng: It’s a huge game…if you look at the games on the market these days, they can process either one scene at a time, which at most is maybe a few hundred square meters compared to ours which is 4 square kilometers. And because our goal was to ensure that the town of Portia is visible no matter where players are on the map, this made rendering a big hurdle.
Aaron: Also we had to make sure NPCs retained their unique AI, there are 50+ NPCs in the game. That means, every time the player is doing something, the NPC AI is still running.
Cheng: Another big challenge was the QA part of this. If we change one function or item, the impact chain is very long. Our QA teams will need to check the entire length of the game (over 100 hours) and sometimes over a week for one change.
For visual effects, what were the main considerations going into migrating this PC experience to mobile?
Cheng: We didn’t want to compromise on the draw distance especially. Reducing it offers an easier way of improving performance but we wanted the player to feel that they can see the town no matter where they stand, even if it’s far away on the map, they’ll always know where their home is.
Also the Switch version did not have “grass”, we added this in because not only it looks better but it also is an important signifier for season changes.
When choosing functions that would fit a smaller screen, what important changes/designs did you make?
Aaron: So on PC one big thing is you don’t need to hold every item when carrying it like you’re “superman”! On PC that was a thing. The goal was to make changes that would enhance the mobile gameplay experience to take advantage of scattered play time.
Cheng: In terms of UI, we did multiple rounds of testing before deciding what to keep and what to reduce. For instance, for button size we did a few rounds to get the optimal size since finger sizes obviously vary.
The introduction of the autosave function is truly a godsend for an on-the-go gamer. How do you feel this affects the level of difficulty of the game, if any?
Aaron: Actually during the PC version, a lot of players asked for an auto/manual save function, but because on PC the structure was fixed we really couldn’t start from scratch. For the mobile version we decided to fix this immediately.
Cheng: I actually don’t think it changes the difficulty level of the game. It does feel more casual, but what you achieve in the amount of time you’re playing won’t be any different.
Aaron: Well, I think in some scenarios, like if you’re struggling to beat a boss, you can put down the game and try again later after you’ve cooled down. Being able to save the game whenever you want also means you won’t need to arrange a full day of activities in Portia.
Were there any lessons picked up from the PC and console versions?
Aaron: Plenty! We had a lot of issues before which we learned from when developing the mobile version. For example, loading time is a big problem, especially on console, so we made sure that loading time is very short on mobile. I believe it’s 10-20 seconds?
Cheng: Less than 10 seconds.
Aaron: The other big part of having mobile as the last platform to release on is that it includes all of the PC content updates. So our porting team had to deal with more content than the console version.
For players who’ve never played My Time at Portia, what would you like to say to them regarding the game?
Aaron: What I want to say is that we really put a lot of effort into the mobile port of this game. Although we did get very high recognition for it on other platforms, we still hope that we can bring this title to more players on mobile and give them a chance to experience something new. We promise to not let you down!