Thursday, November 23, 2006

888 Go Mobile

888.com, an Internet casino, appear to believe they are about to sign up with one or more UK operators to take their mobile product, which can already be downloaded. Interesting that they should tell Reuters about this upcoming stuff before the deal is signed without naming a partner, I am certain my mother said something about counting chickens before they are hatched... perhaps they don't know about the notoriously flirtatious nature of operators who will keep you almost 'in there' for a long time without ever offering that final release. Who knows, will be interesting to se the follow up...

Just for fun I looked round their site. The single thing I find most impressive is the handset compatibility list: it does not feature any Series 60 devices but does cover the oldest of Series 40, a reversal of the usual lazy coding practices. That hasn't stopped them using a Series 60 device (6680) to display screenshots etc on almost every page of their site though, including detailed instructions on how to text a shortcode (specific to Series 60) with a broken Next button that drag them out for ages, and a broken link at the end to the Login tutorial (broken on Firefox, anyway). Couldn't test the S40 MIDP1 version sadly, as it wouldn't deploy to our 7210 - their wap site is XHTML only, which means a lot of the handsets they claim to support can't download the content. Doh. The jad/jar are there though - you can easily spoof your way through to them in Firefox.

More impressive is the Sony-Ericsson compatibility list, which includes a lot of handsets - including the entry-level J200 series, which have no Java. Love to know how they pulled that one off. The incredibly tedious DHTML handset selection interface put me off looking any further - what is wrong with standard browser widgets? Why must sites hide information and force the users to use non-standard incredibly slow scrolling controls?

Security is an interesting area of their code - they use some, apparently, supported on 120 leading handsets. Great, but their latest release claims support for 340. Do the clients for the other 220 handsets just not feature security? They aren't telling, which is never a great sign.

The three clients (Roulette, Blackjack, Slots) are pretty basic - can't be bothered to review them, but pros:
  • They don't pack the mages or sounds in the Jar, and use stacks of classes, so if you're inclined to hack it apart it's very easy. Schoolboy.
  • They do use full screen graphcis where available, and nav is generally consistent relying only on two soft keys and arrows on any given screen.
  • Roulette is a very hard UI to do well on mobile, and their implementation is relatively intuitive.
  • Roulette practice mode allows you to place bets without reducing your balance. Nice!
    * actually it does take the money once you spin, but only after you've placed the bets - until then you have to do the subtraction in your head... ah well.
And cons:
  • Uggers. Really, Roulette is not nice to look at, though I've seen far worse of course.
  • Blackjack UI is not very intuitive at all. The whole two soft key thing breaks down when there are more than two options (eg. Hit/Stand/Double), and they haven't dealt with this well.
  • No sign-up in game - you have to go to the web. Surely a crippling feature for a product hoping to be included on an operator deck?
  • "Options" on the main menu takes you to instructions, but no options to change. Uh?
  • They produce versions for older phones, then make it unreachable from the wap site. New to mobile, boys? Doesn't inspire confidence about their QA.
  • The rules for Blackjack, on the D600 at least, are apparently "ArrayIndexOutOfBounds=128" (in a branded window, though, so give them points for style).
To be fair, it's their first crack, and they obviously haveb't done much mobile work before, so presumably they'll get better. Operators should maybe be a bit wary however, especially without in-game signup (assuming the operators will be acting as affiliates following the conventions for casinos, and have some interest in the future gambling of the players they introduced). I am hoping they do get better, because as I've said before I view mobile casinos as a force capable of pushing the J2ME networked app/game world into the mainstream, forcing operators to fix the wap settings issues etc which plague all developers with the age old incentive of serious cashflow. 888 need to fix some basics before they can be a part of the solution not the problem.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Alex said...

Hi there, thought in light of this that you might be interested in Playtech's latest mobile gaming offering, in partnership with Masabi (http://www.masabi.com). It's currently live at http://www.centrebetmobile.com (among others), and there's a fairly impressive list of supported handsets (http://www.centrebetmobile.com/phones.html; unfortunately no J200), all of which include full implementation of their security model. There's a bit more than 3 games there as well, all of them offering practice mode. Unfortunately no in-game signup, but hopefully this should raise the bar a bit.

2:46 pm

 

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