Today is Tax Day for Americans, and many of us need to recap what has happened to us financially in the last year in order to fill out the necessary forms to send in to the government in order to find out if we owe more or are due a refund. For iOS and Android developers, if you’re properly reporting it (and you should), we can see how profitable (or not) we have been with our releases to the App Store and App Markets. And, like New Year’s Day and other moments of reflection, we can also see whether or not we could have done better or have been going in the right direction for the past 12 months.
One year ago, I was a die-hard GameSalad fan, and they had just released beta version 0.8.5 of their game creation tool for iOS. The iPad just came out a few weeks before, and just in time: I was able to release my first iPad game using GameSalad, Archangel: Vengeance of the Makuzi Ascendancy. Things were looking up, but I knew I already hit a ceiling with what I could do with GameSalad.
Archangel: VMA was an arcade version of my previous game, Archangel: Fate of the Galactic Commonwealth, which was made with iTorque 2D from GarageGames in the summer of 2009. With the lack of support for arrays, along with other specific programming concepts I required, I couldn’t make anything more than a simple shooter. Personally, I believed my game deserved more than that.
Going back even further, iTorque 2D, in my personal opinion, was so difficult to work with, that I was honestly barely able to get my binary to compile and run successfully. From being thrown into the fire with the poor and incomplete documentation and sample apps, to a creator/editor that looks and feels like a wall that was painted over a dozen times, to discombobulated Xcode flags that needed to be set which had to correspond to another set of discombobulated flags set inside my TorqueScript code, to the frustrating slowness, crashes and lockups of my game on the device, I felt I was just trying to complete the game just to get my then-$750 investment back (it’s $99 now, ouch!). I couldn’t even fathom trying to go back and perform updates and tweaks without pulling my hair out again. That, plus the fact that the iTorque engine was basically abandoned for several months until the company regrouped themselves and very recently started to update the engine and started to get some decent documentation going. For me, my iTorque 2D license is a permanent one, so if I have some free time, I’ll download it and see what it can do. But, until they really clean up their code (hell, the app is still labled “Torque Game Builder” and TorqueScript is notoriously slow enough that they recommend using C++ instead), it may be too little, too late.
Which brings me back to GameSalad and Archangel: VMA again. Ever since they quietly gave me the pinkslip from being a Sous-Chef (I logged into the forum one day to do my share of the basic forum cleanup, to which I found all my admin privileges gone), and haven’t been contacted via email or Skype regarding betas or pre-public announcements, I believe I’m no longer under the restriction of their NDA. While I was never going to be a jerk and spill my guts out, I can say that almost everything I know is already public on their forums, especially with a recently revealed corporate roadmap for everyone to see. What took them so long, I still have no damn idea. But, now that the CEO of GameSalad just rang my virtual doorbell, I hope he can finally shed some light inside that company that I’ll be able to repeat here in an upcoming blog post, especially why development and communication has been so slow or non-existent over the past year.
The corporate roadmap of GameSalad looks promising, but still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of how much more they’ll offer, and more importantly, how long it will take to get it. Even though they’ve grouped it in seasons or quarters, I’ve read a disclaimer somewhere that the timeframes could slip even further. Three of the most critical features (in my opinion): Game Center, universal binaries, and tables/arrays – are not going to be around until “spring,” “summer,” and “winter,” respectively. Thankfully, they’ve backtracked from the requirement of a GameSalad logo splash screen, but I can’t update Spellcaster because it doesn’t run properly with their latest version. So, if I’m going to have to rewrite the game, then I might as well do it with another engine.
In retrospect, here’s a sample of what they were able to accomplish in the last year:
- 0.9.2: (1 month ago) – bug fixes
- 0.9.1: (2 months ago) – Mac App Store, Pause
- 0.9.0: (4 months ago) – updated GUI, additional fonts, new splash screen, faster loading times
- 0.8.9: (8 months ago) – new blending modes, bug fixes
- 0.8.8: (9 months ago) – Retina Display and “resolution independence,” iAd support (Pro only)
- 0.8.7: (10 months ago) – more touch attributes for iPad, bug fixes
- 0.8.6: (11 months ago) – gravity as a vector, global sound controls, bug fixes
- 0.8.5: (1 year ago) – preview player updates and various fixes
That’s really not a lot of progress in a competitive world like this is, but we were on the playing field during that time, so it was probably hard for us GameSalad developers to see the big picture. That whole “GameSalad Direct” fiasco didn’t help either. Keep in mind that I’ve already paid my annual $99 “early adopter” Pro subscription a while back, but that will likely expire and go up to $499 before I get to see the features that I will really appreciate.
On the flipside, Ansca Mobile’s Corona SDK just released their latest update three days ago to the public, even though paid subscribers like myself have been toying with the daily builds up until that point. In the past year, they’ve merged Corona Game Edition into the full package, split up the annual subscription prices for iOS, Android and both ($199, $199, and $349, respectively), not to mention the addition of a Windows-based SDK as well! I’d like to write out a bullet list for Corona SDK’s added features and fixes as well, but frankly, it would be way too long.
I really can’t give enough praise for these guys, since they’ve been churning out updates and bug fixes faster than I can compile my games and apps to utilize them. They’ve had OpenFeint support a while now, but with Game Center in the picture, it just makes any good game even more appealing to buy and play. The only critical thing missing – in my opinion – is support for the Mac App Store. I’m sure they’ll get around to it, but I’m hoping it’ll be sooner than later, and at least throw it into their product roadmap.
So, with the iPhone four years old now and its little big brother (eh?) iPad now a full year old, Apple is definitely on the move (I’m sure Apple TV will have an App Store soon, too – hint-hint, guys!). The move is working for Android as well, though devs are complaining there’s just not enough money to be made there yet. Either way, we’ve got to be on the move with them, too. Just look at the recently posted chart on Flurry Analytics’ blog regarding the growth of mobile games over the past year.
If the last 12 months are any indicator of how things are progressing in the mobile gaming world, you might be able to make an educated guess how the next 12 months are going to play out. Same goes for your middleware or game development kit. GameSalad has had its shakeup and their new roadmap shows some signs of progress. GarageGames had their shakeup as well, and also looks like they’ve resumed course with iTorque 2D (iTorque 3D had fallen victim as a result of their shakeup). But, if you had to compare, Corona SDK is far ahead of the pack already with the most integrated features out of the box. 2011 is already 25% done and it’s going to continue to be a crazy ride.
So, what’s in store for BeyondtheTech over the next 12 months? Ultimately, I want to get out of my full-time job and become a full-time app/game developer. Maybe one or a combination of these games and apps out there and in the pipeline can make that happen. With that in mind, I plan to rewrite all my existing games and apps with Corona SDK.
- Archangel: Fate of the Galactic Commonwealth will be a completely redesigned tactical combat simulator game. Now that Corona SDK allows me to use the CAF (compressed audio files) format instead of the bulky WAV format, I also plan to add a lot more dialogue and multiple language support, as well as video cutscenes. Multiplayer could even be a possibility thanks to PubNub’s implementation.
- Raphael Salgado’s Spellcaster will also be a completely redesigned arcade game with gesture control using a gesture recognition library implementation.
- Archangel: Vengeance of the Makuzi Ascendancy will either be a completely redesigned arcade version of Archangel: FGC or a sequel to the original story.
- Sci-Fi Prop will be reimagined and have even more interactive functionality.
- Tipster will be rewritten to use the new Corona UI module.
That’s it for now. Sorry for the long read, and I hope you can share some of your dev stories as well on what’s to come.