[Translation] the Most popular mobile game: how to create a “Snake” for Nokia phones

Taneli of Armando doesn’t like to tell people that changed the world. In fact, I am sure that if you are not a friend of his family, nothing about it heard. Usually he never talks about his greatest achievement, but his children never miss a chance to show it off.

In the end, their dad created the Snake.

In 1995, a software developer from Finland by the name of Armando got a job in a fast-growing company Nokia. He had experience creating games, so he was instructed to develop “some cool games” for the future of the mobile phone Nokia 6110. He took his toys as another way of using the device, not much different from those created by colleagues calendar and calculator.

Today, almost 25 years after his creation called Snake — a game in which the gradually lengthening the snake collect the food, trying not to bite itself — is seen as a turning point in the history of technology and entertainment. Snake is considered the first major mobile game, which originated industry, which today has the potential to $ 100 billion.

Armanto reserved and modest when he tells about his career. “Many are delighted when they learn that I wrote Snake, “he says. “And I think it’s quite normal. Great to know that people liked this game”.

The phone that changed everything

We start in 1995, when Nokia just three years after the comprehensive modernization of the company. Her new mission: to focus on mobile technologies. Although mobile phones have not yet reached worldwide recognition, they quickly became smaller, cheaper and easier to use. After the release in 1993 of the Nokia 2110, the company began work on a Nokia 6110, which was supposed to debut in December 1997.

Nokia wanted the 6110 has become even smaller and faster, with increased battery capacity and talk time. He had to get a new, improved user interfacethat allows people to switch quickly between different functions of the phone. The company needed developers, and its call to respond Armanto.

Nokia 6110 in the blue building.

Armanto: in 1995, Nokia was growing fast. We were in the company of newcomers. It was awesome! We have developed new features for phones and had to carry the newest devices, because they, of course, required testing.

Some of my colleagues from the team of implementation of user interfaces considered that before I created the computer game, but it wasn’t! They have me confused with my cousin. But other developers in my Department said that if I play games, they will write phonebook, calendar, calculator, etc. So I was given the assignment to make a game for a phone than I was very happy because he loved the game. Especially the desktop.

I decided that perfect Tetris, implemented and even tested it. But in the end had to be abandoned. Tetris Company wanted to get a share from each sold device, and Nokia did not want to tie any payments to the exact number of sold products.

I had to take into account the specifications 6110. At first, I thought about restrictions: very small screen, only a few keys to control the game, not so much space in the memory for programming…

Early history of the Snake

Game Snake existed until 1995. It first appeared in 1976 arcade Blockadethat spawned several clones. No matter how they were called Nibbler, Worm or Rattler Race, the basic concept remained the same.

Armanto: someone might think that Nokia was the first manufacturer on the phones which had the game, but it’s not. Just earlier devices have not been sold in so many copies as 6110.

I played a game like Snake on your Apple Macintosh. It was for two players, each of them with the keyboard and managed his own snake.

Kyle MacNeil, Vice,the Declaration of love to the Snake, the best mobile game”: Snake in its simplest, purest form of video games, fun, its gameplay is similar to Pong or Space Invaders. A chain of pixels, nice physics and a sense of a gradual increase in the complexity of the game.”

Armanto: conducting tests and planning, we realized that these snakes are the perfect solution. They are simple enough to fit in the limitations of the phone. There was no sense to use a complex solution if all quite satisfied easy. We tried to find information, to find the “owner” of Snake-like games, as we found the owner of Tetris, but we failed. Therefore, we have to move on.

The creation of the game

Armanto: testing early versions of the game, I noticed that it is very difficult to control the snake next to the field boundary so that it does not crashed, especially at high speed levels. I wanted the highest level was the maximum possible speed that can operate the device; on the other hand, I wanted to play were friendly and helped the player to cope with the level. Otherwise, the level would be boring to play. So I implemented a small delay. A few milliseconds of extra time right before the player hits the wall, and at this point he could still change direction. If he does, the game will continue.

MacNeil: the bigger the snake the harder it is to crawl across the screen, trying not to fall into the circle of death. Add the fact that the player has only one life, so each winding turn becomes a frightening moment, and get real Thriller in the phone.

Armanto: we did so on the snake moved with the maximum attainable speed. Given the refresh rate and the calculation speed of the next position of the snake, on slower levels I had to add a delay between steps was more time. The fastest level, there are no delays, so we can’t make it go any faster. But he would not be so quick if I was causing glitches in the phone, due to memory leaks. So I implemented it so that memory leaks were not.

The Nokia 6110 started to sell in early 1998 and from the beginning Snake was in a standard phone.

MacNeil: today built-in cell phone game is seen as a return to simplicity. No need to download anything, no in-app purchases, no upgrades and spending of mobile traffic. Enough to pick up Nokia and start playing.

Armanto: I myself did not manage to reach the level of champion, though of course, I had a bit of time testing the game. But the best way to win — it’s just practice. Nothing else. Practice and be the champion. I learned that some people have used the pause/continue to reach a very large number of points. But that’s cheating so doesn’t count.

“I never thought that it would become so popular”

Perhaps it was the mass spread of the telephone, the simplicity of the game or the combination of these two factors, but the Snake turned into a phenomenon. People first began a very long time to watch the screens of their phones.

Hanna Korhonen, article, “Evaluating Playability of Mobile Games with the Expert Review Method”, published by the Association for Computing Machinery: the Era of gaming on mobile phones began in 1997, when Nokia released the Nokia 6110, the first mobile game called Snake. This is probably the most played mobile game because it is available at more than 350 million mobile phones worldwide.

Armanto: I myself loved to play it, and my colleagues-“nokiacom” liked to test her, and they talked to me. But I never thought that it would become so popular. I’m sure the marketing Department of the products were also not prepared. We have heard reports that the kids at school play it a lot, maybe even too much. We also heard that the phones sell well. But most likely, it was caused by other functions of the phone. I’m sure of it!

MacNeil: is the perfect mobile game because played it all, and especially people in life are not played any more in one game. It is built in the consciousness of society as well as embedded in the Nokia 6110.

Armanto: in informal conversations, told me how important was my game. But her popularity had other reasons: the user interface is much improved life of the battery, lower prices, and so on. However, Nokia never said to what extent my game helped sales of the phone.

I think there is a policy or practice that causes the “hide” names of developers from different functions and say that all this is just a function or invention of Nokia — at least in official communication. Later, I received a small cash prize. I don’t remember exactly when, but after completing the programs for the phone it’s been quite a long time.

From the press release Nokia 2005, is dedicated to the Nokia N-Gage: Mr. Taneli of Armanto, the Creator of the world’s most popular mobile game Snake received a special recognition from Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) key role in the creation of Snake for series phones, Nokia 6100. Forum MEF announced that the genius and vision of Mr. Armando made a significant contribution to the growth of the mobile entertainment industry. Yesterday Mr. Armanto received the award at the annual event of MEF in London.

Armando worked at Nokia for almost 16 years, then went to the free bread, and later went back to school. Today he works as a systems architect at Ineo Oy.

Armanto: overall, I miss the years spent at Nokia. It was an interesting and inspiring time, even after the release of the Snake. Although the company has grown and she has a problem, as far as I know, the atmosphere in the local departments were still great. In the end, we built a better world.

Taneli Source

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