Gauntlets of Recursion (+3)

Times, trials, and turbulence.

Monthly Archives: July 2010

Diagnosis: Not enough game development?

I had originally begun scrawling out a very different, far more long-winded entry that dug rather deeply into the nitty gritty details of what I had been up to for the last several months as well as where I am now. However, it struck me that it would likely be much more interesting for everybody if I stuck to the cliff notes version of my tale for the time being.

The short of it is the usual student/hobbyist game developer tale, tempered with woe and time mis-management: “school, co-op, and even a semblance of a social life have been consuming my waking hours, and have been doing a darned good job at it”. That would be the typical, “oh, have pity upon me!” sort of excuse, and it’s not really one that I stand for.

A more fair and accurate depiction of the last several months is: “yes, I have certainly been busy, but the real thing preventing me from working on game development is myself”. What began as, “whew, these courses are tough, let’s put gamedev on hold for a week or two” grew into a month or two, and eventually grew into several more. However, game development being something rather near and dear to my heart, has nevertheless been on my mind this whole time, just something that I had somehow conditioned myself not to bother acting on.

It’s such an odd and disturbing realization when you sit down and think, “golly, I honestly cannot remember the last time I sat down and put an honest few hours into working on a game”. That might not be a big deal to everybody, but after completing several [decent] games over the course of several years, and having been used to almost always spending chunks of free time coding, it’s been really *weird* not having it integrating into my weekly regimen. I want to make more games, darnit!

Into a challenging marketplace.

Presently, I am on my fifth co-op term along my route to graduating from the U of Waterloo’s Computer Science program. I have been working for a small start-up company in Waterloo that specializes in social networking apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Without jumping into too many details — and evading NDA-induced unpleasantness — it’s sufficed to just say that I’ve had a most wonderful opportunity to do a lot of work with Objective-C, iPhone app development, as well as finally learning my way around the Mac OS X operating system.

Given that, I’ll pose the question that I’m sure hundreds of wide-eyed developers have asked themselves since the iPhone’s inception: “gosh, wouldn’t it be well if I wrote a game or two for the iPhone?”. Sounds too perfect, right? I have full access to the Macs at my university, own an iPhone, have two months of experience in working with Objective-C and Xcode, and experienced folks at my place of work who have no qualms with answering any development-related questions I might have. Plus, it’d sure be nice if I could accrue some profit from the ordeal. The App Store is a pretty saturated market though, so I’m not holding my breath on that last point.

Point of entry.

Anyways, some kindly gent during a previous Summer of Code wrote a very good beginning to a port of SDL for the iPhone. It supports 2D and 3D (via OpenGL ES) rendering, accelerometer support, multi-touch support, and does so all within the same interface of SDL that I am rather familiar with. Perfect! That lets me simply work in pure C and use a library I already know, as opposed to getting to heavily immersed in Apple’s development dogma.

Right now, it seems like my best option is to test the waters. I want to get a game or two out there just to gauge how the market reacts. How can I get something out there fairly quickly? Let’s port some of my existing games. That will allow me to evade most of the usual necessary design and graphics work, and simply focus on writing the code and polishing out whatever rough edges were left over the first time through. If I manage to make back my initial investment for the Apple Developer License, that would be perfect.

For simplicity’s sake, I’d really like to get the ball rolling with Gundown, a small, fairly addictive game that takes a bit of a twist on the typical arcade shooter. I really think that it would lend itself nicely to accelerometer controls, and is small enough scope-wise that it shouldn’t take long to port.

Meagre beginnings.

It feels really nice to have something “on the table” again after so long — especially since I get the opportunity to work on an embedded system. More than that, the chance to revisit the original concept and design for Gundown, and being able to tweak and improve gameplay and artwork and polish is a really enticing notion.

Until next time.