6 August 2010

Interlude - Hardware Handshake

Another week and another guest writer! Games Developer Leigh White muses on a few points regarding the iPad, Games & handshakes.
Hardware Handshake: Some thoughts on iPad Game Development

A blue tinged eyeball bounces quickly around the screen. It collides suddenly with another eyeball sending it spinning off to explode in blood like a bunny in a blender. A few finger presses later and hundreds more eyeballs appear all jostling, spinning and fighting for their little piece of screen real estate.

No, it's not the script for the latest Saw movie. I'm a programmer and this is one of the many tests I've been playing around with for a game I'm developing for the iPad. In this case the tests relate to the physics of the game. I need to put the physics programming through its paces to see if it'll hold up under stress. Testing game physics is pretty much like testing stockings. You just keep shoving things in until it breaks.

So why develop a game on the iPad? I guess a little background first...

I've been working in the games industry for about 8 years now. Three of those years were spent at EA in the UK and the latest two down under in sunny Melbourne, Australia. So it's fair to say I know a thing or two about making games.

I spent a fair amount of spare time developing an iPhone game based around trains which I never got around to finishing. I had the cunning idea of ..er.. being artistically inspired by Flight Control but magically replacing the planes with trains. And before you could say number 1 on the App Store, I'd be rich and on my way to a down-payment on a mansion in Florida, right? Of course, I didn't bank on four-hundred-and-thirty-two-thousand other people having exactly the same idea as me. And they had better coffee. The combined efforts of which meant their me-too games arrived on the App Store way ahead of mine. It seemed I was too late.

With a heavy heart, I shelved the project, drove to a hilltop, threw my fist into the air and silhouetted against the sunset, swore I would continue whence a new idea appeared. An original one this time.

Apparently, the iPad is just an iPhone with a bigger screen. If you're reading this you've probably heard this argument before. It usually makes me want to illustrate that a bitchslap is just a handshake with a bigger swing. Whilst true, each has its own uses.

Gaming with a larger touchscreen hasn't really been done before on this scale. At least not in the mass-market sense. Certainly not where I could come up with an idea and get it to a few million people in a few weeks. Coffee permitting. The screen's large size and multi-touch capabilities point the way to rich veins of ideas ready to be mined. A larger screen may allow people to solve puzzles together. It could allow two completely different games to be played on each half of the screen. Maybe even by a single player. It's coming up with the best ways to use it that I find pretty fun.

Now If I can just find the time to complete my eyeball popping masterpiece before someone steals the idea that mansion in Florida will be within my grasp...

*** Leigh White
*** leighwhitemail@gmail.com 

Next: Comics and magazine publishing on the iPad

Small Print

A tip of the hat to Sharon Ritchey, Carl Schenkenberger & Frans-Jozef Rutjes for their invaluable help and encouragement. Without them I'd be wasting my days on a game console or grumbling about 3D software that doesn't work properly. Or eating. Probably the latter.

The content of this blog is my personal opinion, based directly on my personal experiences. Feel free to email me at hairytech@gmail.com if you want to discuss anything on here. Or better still, leave a comment.