So, as predicted, Apple’s big announcement yesterday was the introduction of their new tablet computer – the iPad. Like most developers, I feel the desire to share my thoughts on the device and how it will impact my direction as a games developer. One caveat to bear in mind is that all of this is just conjecture at the moment since I haven’t actually used the device.
What makes the iPad good for games development
1) A 9.7 inch screen. It may just be a larger screen but this will make a huge difference when developing games. More screen real estate means more room for virtual controls, more possibilities for multiplayer (on the same device), and more room for advanced gestures.
2) Speed. Early reports are suggesting that the device is blisteringly fast. Applications open quickly, pages render quickly in the browser, and the interface is highly responsive. Ultimately this suggests that as games developers we will have more processing power to give a smoother playing experience (Although this is countered somewhat by the higher resolution and therefore the requirement for higher quality resources).
3) Low cost. This means that the device will end up in the hands of more people. One of the best things about the iPhone as a games development platform is the huge audience. It looks like the iPad will be no different.
4) Higher priced Apps. Its way too early to tell for sure but I do think that with the introduction of a bigger screen users may be prepared to pay more for Apps. There has to be some psychology in that somewhere.
5) Drawing Apps. I think the Brushes demo illustrated that the iPad could be great for sketching out ideas for games. I use a Wacom tablet at the moment but nothing can beat the feel of drawing directly onto a device.
What’s not so great about the iPad
1) No camera. I don’t understand this one bit. Surely a camera is a no brainer these days. Everything comes with a built-in camera, even my socks (ok maybe not my socks). A camera opens up lots of possibilities for games. Here’s hoping that it will be released as a plug-in accessory.
2) No Multi-tasking. I felt I had to mention this just because it would be nice to be able to have more than one App open. It would of course pose some quite serious issues with memory management though and if the iPad is really as fast as people are saying then hopefully we won’t miss it too much.
3) Existing iPhone Apps will be immediately available on the iPad. Not everyone will agree with this but I really don’t think iPhone Apps should be available on the iPad. The iPad will display iPhone Apps in a small window in the center of the screen and allow the user to expand the App to fill the screen. Lots of Apps are going to look really ugly with this feature, case in point – my own Rocket Santa game. It’s graphics are isometric pixel art and I suspect they will look hideous when scaled up.
How will it impact my direction as a games developer
For my own part, I plan on pre-ordering the iPad as soon as possible. However, I don’t plan on developing any games for the iPad yet, at least not until I own and have spent significant time using the device. The potential for building games specifically for the iPad is really exciting and something i’ll definitely be pursuing once it launches (who knows, maybe i’ll return to my IF game after all).
I’ll continue developing my latest game for the iPhone and if, once I have the iPad, I think it will convert well then i’ll port it over with a new interface.
Thats not to say I won’t begin investigating the iPad’s features now. Apple have already made the iPad SDK available to iPhone developers (under a non-disclosure agreement) and I already have it installed on my MacBook Pro. Exciting stuff indeed.