If you follow tech news at all, you know by now that the big news out of the Apple event in San Francisco on Wednesday was the announcement of the new iPad. Rather than going with iPad 3 or iPad HD, as many observers expected, Apple went with just the plain, simple “iPad,” which is the name the original – since-retired – tablet went by.
The new just-iPad features some beefed-up specs, like a faster processor and wireless connection, as well as better graphics through its “retina display.” I wrote up a quick hands-on for The Globe and Mail and a larger analysis of why these seemingly trivial specifications matter in the grand scheme of things for CBC. I’ll also have more coverage next week, closer to launch.
Alas, there was no iTV – I must admit to being a little disappointed – although there was a new Apple TV, or another iteration of the small $100 box that connects to your flat panel and lets you rent movies and shows from iTunes, as well as stream media from other devices. Is this device a stop-gap until the long-awaited iTV arrives?
As per usual, Apple brought some app developers up on stage to show off the capabilities of its latest iPad. One such developer was Jim Shelton, game design director for Namco Bandai Games America, who demoed Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, a new game coming to the iPad at the end of March. The improved processing power and graphics hold special appeal to game developers, so I had a quick chat with Shelton after the event. Here’s what we talked about:
How does the retina display improve your capability to create games for the iPad?
There are a lot of tricks you do in graphics to try and hide the pixels that are there. We spend a lot of horsepower just trying to hide the fact that there are pixels whenever you try to make something realistic or even stylized. One of the things the retina display allows us to do is, because those pixels are so small, they’re already hidden for us, so we can take that horsepower that is usually used to cover it up and apply it to the gameplay. So when we have this horsepower, we have terrain way off in the distance or small, minute details, all these things would often get lost because you couldn’t see them anyway. If you’ve got details smaller than a pixel on a regular display, it’s lost. Here those extra pixels help make every little thing we shove into the game (noticeable).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of developing for iOS?
The great thing about iOS is that the devices always deliver a nice experience on nice hardware, with power. That’s mainly it. There aren’t really any disadvantages.
Are there any disadvantages in developing for other platforms? It’s often said Android is very fractured with its many versions, so it’s hard to develop for.
Having a platform that has few variations, yeah it can certainly be helpful. We’ve done well in managing a lot of different devices, different hardware specs, so we’re pretty experienced in doing that, but it’s always nice when we can focus on one or two flagship platforms and really make them shine.
Is it hard to develop games for touchscreens?
It just requires a different mindset. You have to understand that you’re not developing for something that has buttons or those kinds of controls. You really have to look at it sort of in a unique way and say, ‘What are the strengths [of the touch screen]?’ and focus on them. The key to dealing with limitations is pushing against them. That’s not to say the touch screen is a limit, but it’s a particular way to access a game so you try to build as much as you can around that. With Air Supremacy, we have the touch screen, accelerometer controls and some casual controls as well. In simulator mode, you have full control of that jet. It’s something you really don’t see in other platforms. You can control pitch and yaw, you can roll your plane. You can really fly with precise controls.
Is there an appeal to developing for the iPad because of its larger install base among tablets?
It doesn’t hurt. I can’t really speak to sales numbers but obviously if you have a lot of people out there using the devices and those devices perform very well, it really helps.