iPhone Development: A Second Look

11 03 2009

While I haven’t had a chance to say on this blog, I have not been the biggest supporter of the iPhone, mostly due to Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ads giving me a negative opinion of the company (seriously, can you actually advertise your product instead of just saying “well Windows has all these problems if you aren’t doing it right…”?), and also because I don’t really see the ultimate need for a combination phone/PDA that costs somewhere between $200 and $400 (oddly enough the prices I paid for my Nintendo Wii and XBox 360, respectively). Also I’ve had numerous thoughts that the games for the iPhone/iPod Touch would range to be very gimmicky and thus result in a lot of shovelware rather than stuff that’s actually good.

But after listening to Jamie Gotch’s postmortem on Fieldrunners I have decided to take a bit of a closer look at the idea of developing games for the iPhone. More after the jump

The Good

1. Power. John Carmack recently said that the iPhone is more powerful than a DS and a PSP combined. I don’t know if I agree with him on that in different terms but I’m guessing he meant in terms of processing power so there’s a good chance he is right there. Essentially this means someone in theory could make a good powerhouse game for the iPhone. I say in theory, as I’ll point out later.

2. Distribution. The App store is, by all of my understanding anyway, a very streamlined method of distributing titles.

3. Ease of Development. Pretty much anybody can work with the tools given to them to make a game for the iPhone/iPod Touch

The Bad

1. File Size Limitations: AT&T’s network only allows you to transfer 10MB over their 3G network. Anything larger would have to be bought off of iTunes via the computer, which would put a crimp in impulse buys. And nobody is really safe from this limitation, as Jamie pointed out in how the usage of sprites would

2. No Multiplayer: Due to the inherent issues with the 3G network, Multiplayer is almost impossible. More issues get raised with the fact that iPod Touch users are not on that network, which again even points out the major shortcoming of AT&T’s exclusivity with the iPhone, which would only be compounded even if other wireless networks carried them. The lack of multiplayer, to me, really damages the potential of the portable games market on the iPhone, especially since some of my best memories of Gameboy and DS gaming are of playing against other people.

3. Ease of Development: While also a plus, the fact that anybody can seemingly make a game for the iPhone is also a major shortcoming due to the market becoming oversaturated with shovelware, Apple approval process notwithstanding.

4. Controls. Ok maybe this is because I only own a DS but I vastly prefer the touchscreen AND button controls to just touchscreen/tilt controls offered by the iPhone.

5. The “Premiere” Store. Allegedly there’s a plan to have the more professional developers (EA for example) get a special store where titles will cost $20. In a world where most apps cost around $5, is this really a good idea? Furthermore it almost creates a bit of an elitist feel, or it may.


While I was a bit harsh to judge Apple’s attempts to make their latest phone/iPod a gaming system, at the same time I feel that I’d be more comfortable developing something for the DS or even the PSP over the iPhone. Course, DS homebrew might be taking a bit of a hit once the DSi hits shelves but we still have to wait and see on that. I am not saying, however, that I’d be against developing something for the iPhone, I would indeed like the challenge. I’d just also feel that the lack of multiplayer might be a bit of a hindrance.




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