Downloader for Large Games on Mobile link

Platforms like Android and iOS have a limit on the size of an app that can be downloaded from their app stores. To support larger games, Ren'Py supports a downloader, which is a small game that downloads the main game.

Requirements link

To make this work, you'll need a web hosting service that is reasonably capable. Uploader services like mega or game hosting sites like itch.io won't work. The downloader has been tested with a Digital Ocean droplet that runs Nginx, and also with Cloudflare's R2, which is free to host 10GB on.

Specifically, the web server needs to support downloading files, and it will work better if it supports many HTTP Range requests at once.

How it Works link

To use the downloader, you'll need to build two games. The first is the downloader game, which contains the Ren'Py engine and the downloader, and is what the user will get delivered to their phone.

The second is the main game, the visual novel they want to play. This will be downloaded by the downloader game, and will be installed onto the device, if present.

Both need to be built with the same version of Ren'Py - if there is a mismatch, the downloader will update the main game. Other than that, it's up to the main game to update itself, which is possible now that the Ren'Py updater works on mobile platforms.

When the downloader game starts, it checks to see if the main game is installed. If it is, and the versions are right, the main game will start. Otherwise the downloader will run and prompt the player to download the main game.

Building and Uploading the Main Game link

The main change you need to make to your main game is to add the line:

define build.game_only_update = True

to the top of your options.rpy file. That will add a new option that shows up to the launcher's Build Distributions screen, "Game-Only Update for Mobile". Check that, uncheck everything else, and run the build process.

When the game is finished building, you'll have everything you need. You'll want to upload the updates.json, updates.ecdsa, and everything in the rpu directory to your web server. (Make sure that the rpu directory is next to the two update files, and the .rpu files are inside the rpu directory.)

Making a Downloader Game link

The downloader game is a Ren'Py game, but it should stay well under 100MB in size. You can do anything you can in a small game - have an opening scene, play music, etc. You will need to make it separately, and build it for Android or iOS using the usual techniques.

At the same time, it should ask the player if they want to download, mention that this can cost money if they're not on WiFi, and then download the the game.

Here's an example script for a downloader game, using assets from the tutorial game:

# The url to updates.json, on your web server.
define URL = "https://www.domain.com/game-updates/updates.json"

# Disable saving in the downloader game.
define config.save = False

define e = Character("Eileen", image="eileen")

label splashscreen:

    scene bg washington
    show eileen happy at left

    $ downloader = updater.start_game_download(URL)

    e "Welcome to the downloader game."

    e "This will download the main game onto your phone, so you can play it."

    if downloader.download_total:
        $ download_mb = int(round(downloader.download_total / 1024 / 1024, 0))

        e "To play this game, you'll need to download [download_mb] megabytes of data. If you're not on WiFi, you could be charged for it. Tap the screen to proceed."

    else:

        e "To play this game, you'll need to download some data. If you're not on WiFi, you could be charged for it. Tap the screen to proceed."

    $ update.continue_game_download()

This is pretty simple, but there are a few things. The first is that it sets config.save to False. This is important, as it disables saving and loading, including preferences, so the downloader's saves don't influence the main game.

It's also all happening in the splashscreen, to start immediately and to disable entering the game menu.

Early on, the game calls updater.start_game_download(), to gather information about the download. After this, the game kills some time, having Eileen say some things as the game checks to find out the size of the download.

After the player makes multiple clicks, the game may know the size of the download, or it may not, so we use a conditional to check the download size. If the real number is known, it's converted to megabytes and displayed. If not, more general text is displayed. (It would also hard-code an estimate of the download size into the game.)

Finally, updater.continue_game_download() is called, which starts the download process. A screen will show up, and you can't do much - but music will play, and ATL will keep running.

When the download is complete, the main game will automatically start. If it fails, the downloader will restart, and the player will be able to try again

Downloader Screen link

The downloader is a screen that shows the progress of the download. A default screen is in renpy/common/00updater.rpy, and can be customized by creating a copy in your game directory.

Here's the default:

screen downloader(u):

    style_prefix "downloader"

    frame:

        has vbox

        if u.state == u.CHECKING or u.state == u.PREPARING:
            text _("Preparing to download the game data.")
        elif u.state == u.DOWNLOADING or u.state == u.UNPACKING:
            text _("Downloading the game data.")
        elif u.state == u.FINISHING or u.state == u.DONE:
            text _("The game data has been downloaded.")
        else: # An error or unknown state.
            text _("An error occured when trying to download game data:")

            if u.message is not None:
                text "[u.message!q]"

            text _("This game cannot be run until the game data has been downloaded.")

        if u.progress is not None:
            null height gui._scale(10)
            bar value (u.progress or 0.0) range 1.0

        if u.can_proceed:
            textbutton _("Retry") action u.proceed

style downloader_frame:
    xalign 0.5
    xsize 0.5
    xpadding gui._scale(20)

    ypos .25
    ypadding gui._scale(20)

style downloader_vbox:
    xfill True
    spacing gui._scale(10)

style downloader_text:
    xalign 0.5
    text_align 0.5
    layout "subtitle"

style downloader_label:
    xalign 0.5

style downloader_button:
    xalign 0.5

Downloader Functions link

updater.continue_game_download(screen='downloader') link

Continues downloading the game data. This will loop until the download is complete, or the user exits the game.

updater.start_game_download(url, **kwargs) link

Starts downloading the game data from url. This begins the process of determining what needs to be downloaded, and returns an Update object.