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Rapid iPhone Game Development using GameSalad

By Matthew David

Did you hear that game development for the iPhone is a big thing? Developing games with native Objective C is not easy. GameSalad, however, is a tool you can use to rapidly and easily create games for the iPhone. In this article I will show you how you can create games for the iPhone without writing a single line of code.

The problem of application development for the iPhone
Do you have a great idea for a game but do not have the foggiest idea what Objective C is? Heck, does the thought of development give you the heebie-jeebies? A company that hears your pain has come to your rescue. GameSalad is a tool that non-developers can use to rapidly build games for the iPhone. Now, you must not confuse rapid development with poor feature development, one look at the many sample apps and online training videos will show you that GameSalad packs a punch. You can check out GameSalad for free at www.gamesalad.com 

GameSalad is built in two parts: the first part is the main game development studio. You must be a Mac user to run the GameSalad studio as the software only runs on Mac OS X. The second part to GameSalad is its Web site. The role of the site is run a cloud based service that converts your GameSalad file into an iPhone app. All you have to do is submit your new game to Apple. Does it get any easier than that? No, it does not.


Developing your first iPhone Application with GameSalad
The soul of GameSalad is point and click development of games. In all honesty, you do not develop games, more of configure settings. Now, you might think that this is restrictive. The reality is that it is not at all.
Game development with GameSalad is completed using two object types: Actors and Scenes. Anyone remember developing for Macromedia's Director? The structure feels very much the same.

The first step in creating a game is to set up the scenes. Essentially a scene is the visual space displayed on the iPhone. Your scenes can be either fixed to the screen resolution of the iPhone (480x360 pixels) or you can allow your game characters to move through a scene that is larger than the iPhone screen such as character in a platform game.
The objects in your scenes are called Actors. An Actor can be a block, a space ship or a platform. Pretty much anything that needs interaction is an Actor. Drag and drop behaviors can be added to your Actors enabling them to interact with their environment. Important game elements such as collision detection, physics and mathematics are built into the core GameSalad tool.

Compiling your game and submitting to Apple
After you have completed your game you are ready for the big time. You will need a $99 license to create a game that will port to the iPhone, but, frankly, the time you save on the first game will compensate the $99 investment. There is a premium Pro level that is $1,999 that gives you a couple of extra features, but don't worry about that level unless you are using GameSalad to run your game development business.
GameSalad allows you to publish your completed game directly to their servers. The services in the cloud will convert the game to an iPhone app that you can submit to the iTunes App Store. Please make sure you read the Apple submission guidelines. The submission process is slow and gets frustrating when you receive rejection letters informing you that you submitted your artwork in the wrong image format.
What makes GameSalad intriguing is that the tool is system agnostic. Today you can submit your apps for deployment to the iPhone and to Web sites (but you will need a plugin and have to view the site using Safari). Future releases of GameSalad will enable you to publish your apps for deployment to the Google Android Market Place and any other App delivery service.

Niggling about the details
GameSalad is a solid beta product. It is, however, missing some key features. Some of these can be resolved easily and others will take more time. A striking feature that is currently missing is a leaderboard tool. A solution to this is to support the OpenFeint or Plus+ social networking and community leaderboard tools. Two other key missing features are native support for Video and 3D. Video should be relatively easy to resolve but 3D may be more challenging. A potential solution would be to partner with a company such as Unity and their 3D tool for iPhone App development.

Having developed using native Objective C in Apple's Xcode development environment, I am able to reproduce game solutions in GameSalad in a fraction of the time it took before. To try the software is free. What you will find is that you will want to pay the $99 so you can publish your own iPhone App.


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Matthew has written four Flash books, contributed to a dozen Web books, and has published over 400 articles. He is passionate about exposing Internet's potential for all of us. Matthew works directly with many companies as a business strategist coaching IT architects and business leaders to work tightly with each other towards common goals.
Related Keywords:game development, iPhone game developers, gaming, mobile game design

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