A Porting Specialist is a game developer who specializes in bringing existing games to new platforms, to put it simply. Not the straightforward process some may think, game porting requires a team of talented developers, artists, designers, producers, and more, to replicate an existing game on new platforms smoothly and seamlessly.
The Typical Game Porting Process
Isidro says that during the pre-production phase, it’s critical to learn about the proprietary technical tools, APIs, and anything else specific to the target hardware. It’s important to become familiar with the technical differences between the original platform and the target platforms. This helps developers understand what changes need to be made to ensure the game runs smoothly on its new destination platforms.
When porting games, they’re subject to a slew of changes. Depending on the specs of a game’s original platform compared to its target platforms, there can be a lot of work required to adjust its visual fidelity, input design, user interface, and much more. Input design, specifically, is very important, as depending on the original and destination platforms, you may have to adapt the game’s controls for touchscreens, controllers with different button configurations, or mouse and keyboard setups.
When developing game porting projects for consoles, console manufacturers tend to be more strict in their requirements for releasing games on their platforms compared to mobile and PC. It’s not unusual to find that when your port is completed, it can be rejected at first with a list of changes required and issues that need to be resolved. Isidro says, however, that these issues can be mitigated by working with an experienced porting team who is aware of platform-specific requirements, like Starloop Studios.
Challenges of Game Porting
Isidro mentions that optimization, in his opinion, can be the most difficult aspect of the game porting process because it’s so dependent on the specs of a game’s original platform and its new platforms. Depending on the platforms involved, it could require completely redoing or overhauling some parts of the code to be suitable for new platforms. Isidro gave the example of porting a game to PlayStation 3 from earlier in his extensive game development experience and having to completely reimplement code for a game’s AI due to the RAM and CPU limitations of the PS3.
Game engines can pose an issue when porting games too. A game originally could have been developed using an older version of a game engine and it could prove to be challenging in adapting it for development in the newest version. The software development kits (SDKs) used for console game development are paired with specific versions of game engines, so updates are often required. Adapting a game for development in newer game engine versions requires thorough work and the use of the SDK’s debugging tools to ensure it’ll be usable in the new game version. This can be further complicated by some games built with modified game engines.
Succeeding in Game Porting
Isidro considers multiple distinct areas of expertize to be vital to successful game porting. First and foremost, it’s critical for game developers working on game porting projects to understand the technical specifications of the original platform and its new platforms inside and out. This includes its limitations and APIs, as APIs are often proprietary and can only be used on select platforms, such as PlayStation Shader Language (PSSL) for PS4 and PS5.
Optimization and adapting games for new platforms in the core areas of visuals, input design, and user interface are critical, but Isidro says it’s important to be aware of not-strictly gameplay-related modifications that could be needed. For instance, porting a game to another platform might require a change in business model, from free-to-play to single purchase, or any other combination of financial models in use in the gaming industry.
Game porting is a highly sought-after specialty in the gaming industry, and Starloop Studios is highly experienced in delivering high-quality game ports for all platforms. As part of Magic Media, we offer a comprehensive range of dozens of services for gaming, entertainment, and tech projects, including full-cycle game development, real-time VFX, and more. Get in contact today, and let’s create magic.