iPhone Game Development Toolkit

Whilst i’m anxiously waiting for Star Fusion to be approved by Apple, I thought i’d write a post about all of the hardware and software that I used to create my iPhone game.

Obviously the software you use will depend on your own requirements and tastes but for me this list represents my iPhone game development toolkit.

(Update: August 2014 – This post is fairly old now but still quite popular. You might also consider these two slightly more up-to-date posts to complement this one)

Hardware

macbook1st Generation Macbook (1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo, 2 GB RAM)
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Cost: From £750 – This is the laptop I use for everyday use. I’ve had it for the past 3 years so i’m probably due an upgrade. It only has a 13.3″ screen but to be honest i’ve found it fine for iPhone development.

Wacom BambooWacom graphics tablet
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Cost: From £40 – This is by no means an essential item but I personally find that it helps enormously when creating and editing graphics. I used it when creating the majority of the graphics for Star Fusion.

Pencil and Paper

Pencil and Paper
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Cost: A few pounds – For me at least, this was the most important tool for my project. I used it when designing the game concept and for the rapid prototyping of the interface. I subsequently used it for creating lists of the remaining tasks that needed to be done.

Software

I’ve split the software into sections to make it easy to identify what the packages were used for.

Development/Programming

xcodeXcode & iPhone SDK
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Cost: Free – You can’t really avoid this one, they’re both required elements for iPhone development. The iPhone SDK contains the framework for developing iPhone applications whilst Xcode is the IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for writing/compiling/debugging/building your code.

cocos2d iphonecocos2d for iPhone
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Cost: Free – cocos2d for iPhone is a framework for building iPhone games. It offers some great methods for handling layers, sprites, and menus. There are other frameworks out there but I found cocos2d to be perfect for my game.

Graphics

inkscapeInkscape
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Cost: Free – This is absolutely key to my development arsenal. All of the Star Fusion graphics were produced with this vector graphics package. It’s open source and Free and I highly recommend it.

adobeAdobe Photoshop Elements
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Cost: £60 – This isn’t necessarily all that important but I personally tweak my graphics in Photoshop Elements once they have been created in Inkscape. It’s also good for resizing/scaling images and saving them in different formats.

pencil animationPencil Animation
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Cost: Free –  Pencil is a free animation package for the Mac. I spent some time searching for a good application and in the end settled on this. It lets you draw vectors frame by frame, also providing a traceable outline of your previous image.

Sound

cfxrCFXR
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Cost: Free – This is a free software package that lets you create simple sound effects and export them. Its and excellent application that will enable you to generate some sound effects in a matter of minutes. I can’t recommend this one enough. You can read my earlier post on this software here.

chill_screenBitnotic Chill
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Cost: $20 (about £15 after taxes) – This one will really depend on your skill as a sound engineer. If you’re good with sound then i’m sure you will find better methods for producing your own music. However, if you are looking for some soothing background music for your game then this software is excellent. It provides computer generated music with a number of tweakable parameters. You can read my earlier post on this software here.

audacityAudacity
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Cost: Free – Audacity is a pretty complex application (for me at least). It lets you edit sound tracks, adding fade, splicing, cutting/pasting etc. If you know what you are doing then you could use this to really enhance the sounds you create. For Star Fusion I used it to combine two music tracks from Bitnotic Chill to create my final background music.

Project Management

OK, time for a bit of honesty here.  I wrote this post some time ago comparing project management software that was appropriate for iPhone game development. Unfortunately, although I had the best intentions, I ended up ditching my project management software in favor of checklists written on several hundred scraps of paper scattered around my apartment. I can tell you from professional experience that this a terrible way to manage a project. For my next game i’ll be switching back to one of these pieces of software.

processProcess 3
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Cost: $39 (about £25) – A nice piece of software that allows you to create checklists of tasks (including nesting). It also lets you gather resources for researching your project, e.g. websites, images, etc.

omnioutlinerOmniOutliner
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Cost: $39 (about £25) – Similar to Process 3 but much more free form. It literally gives you a blank piece of paper and lets you add lists and research items such as images. I’m leaning towards this one for my next game.

Distribution

iphone sdkiPhone Developer Program
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Cost: $99 (about £60) – Nothing you can do about this one. If you want to distribute your game to the App Store then you will need to pay to join the developer program. It does give you access to lots of resources and if your game is good, fingers crossed, you’ll recoup this cost.

Promotion

You shouldn’t overlook this part of your game development. You’ll need a website to promote and support your game.

wordpressWordPress
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Cost: Free – A simple, customisable blogging platform that can be installed on most hosting packages or it can be hosted for you by WordPress (with less flexibility). As well as helping to promote your game, I found that my blog also gave me a way to record the work I had done, almost a basic project management tool.

JingJing
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Cost: Free – This is a simple application that allows you to capture a video cast of what is happening on your computer screen. It then exports the file in flash format for easy hosting on your website. This is really useful for distributing gameplay footage and trailers.

twitterTwitter
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Cost: Free – You knew this would be here right? It’s a pretty indispensable tool for promoting your game. It’s also good for following other iPhone game developers for hints, tips and networking with your peers. You can follow me here.

Optional Extras

Coffee (or your favorite beverage)
Cost: ummm, quite a lot depending on your mileage (£4/day) –  Coffee keeps me going through my development projects and also gives me an excuse to walk to the kitchen. Whilst away from the computer I often have eureka moments.

Music
Cost: Free if you play your existing collection – Most of the time I like to work in silence but sometimes its nice to have some background noise (Although a trip to the local coffee shop is good for this. A change of surroundings can go along way). For me I usually throw The Thrills or some Damien Rice into my sound system.

So there you have it. A complete list of the tools I used to create Star Fusion. I hope you find it useful. Why not add your own suggestions to the comments below.

17 Comments

  1. Nice list, thanks for sharing, some good suggestions.

    Thanks for the link to CFXR, I didn’t know there was a Mac port.

    Good luck with Star Fusion.

  2. Noel says:

    You left out my #1 graphics app: The Gimp! Yes, it’s much maligned, but it cleaned up significantly in the last few years and it’s on par with Photoshop as far as the things that I do. I tried a few other (free and paid) alternatives, but they were all much worse.

    I didn’t know about Inkscape though. That might be a nice complement to The Gimp. Downloading now…

    Thanks for the great writeup!

  3. Donna says:

    This was really useful, thanks! There are so many options out there, it’s good to see what someone else used that worked. I really appreciate that you include the cost of everything, and that so many of the great tools you found were free!

  4. Mario says:

    VERY helpful!
    I never thought that this many things are needed to create a iPhone game, I have some ideas myself and a mac and I could get everything that you used but how do I know when and where to start? How long did it take you to build your game and how much work did you put into it?? It already scares me seeing how many different things were used to create a game, your blog is very helpful but would you be kind to add some more info, e.g. brief development timeline, total spent on this app… THANKS ALLOT!
    Can’t wait till your app is out, I’ve put this as a bookmark.
    Your fan: Mario.X.

  5. Chris says:

    @Mario

    Thanks for the kind comments. Don’t be put off by the amount of software/hardware listed here, much of it is optional and the tools you use are likely to differ based on what you have access to and what you are comfortable with.

    Star Fusion took about 2 months to develop but prior to that I spent around 3 months getting to grips with Xcode and the iPhone SDK.

    The only costs were those mentioned in this post + the development time.

    I’d recommend you take a look at this post if you are looking for a slightly more verbose look at beginning iPhone game development.

    Good luck.

  6. Patrick Peng says:

    Hi there,

    Good information! Here I have one simple question: I am kind of new with iPhone app development, I just want to develope an app to be used by the people in my company to check some work related stuff, but based on the information I have read till now, seems the app can only be submmited to the APPLE store to get published, I don’t want people to get it but just the people in my company, can I myself just load the app to the their iPhone to use it?

    Thanks!
    Patrick

  7. Chris says:

    @Patrick

    You should read up on Ad Hoc distribution. This enables you to distribute an application to other devices without going through the App store.

    If you want to distribute apps within your company (and have no plans to distribute to the App store) then you’re going to need an Enterprise license – see here -> http://developer.apple.com/programs/ios/enterprise/

    Hope that helps

  8. Penny says:

    This is ‘proper’ app creation and it is the king of the jungle. But sometimes you just need mobile functionality for existing material.
    I don’t suppose that Apple offers a wizard for us non-techies? Like Nokia’s basic feed-based app with an ability to take in RSS, YouTube & Twitter feeds? http://oviappwizard.com/web_nokia/signIn.jsp

  9. legokid101 says:

    That’s quite helped me, thanks! One thing though, can you put the programs into sections? As in, Compulsory and Accessory. Because I have WinXP, will it still work?
    Thanx!

  10. Danny says:

    This is very good. It’s a nice check list, but I had never heard of Pencil Animation. I’ll have to check that one out for sure. If you want, I also found this other page that I thought was pretty educational http://www.squidoo.com/makeiphoneapplication

  11. Twiggy says:

    Any hood programs for Windows? I looked all over

  12. Twiggy says:

    I meant “good”

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