Guide: iPhone Engines

Guide: iPhone Engines

By Ed Fear

February 3rd 2010 at 8:30AM

A look at some options for developing on iPhone

A little over a year ago, it seemed like the future was iPhone. A truly open development ecosystem, low barriers to entry, and a handful of wild success stories had everyone dreaming of giving up the daily grind and paying off their mortgages within a month or two.

Sadly, the reality is always slightly less rosy than the ideal. The low cost SDK meant that the market was flooded with detritus, making it difficult for the quality titles to stand out. Apple proved less of the ideal development partner than everyone hoped, with a clogged approvals process and occasionally arbitrary decision making. And the lack of tactile controls meant that certain genres of games were quickly realised as unfeasible prospects.

Still, there’s no doubting that for those who reach the coveted number one spot, there’s big money to be made, and many smaller studios are existing solely on iPhone profits. But the key is to minimise risk by spending as little time and money as possible, so that failure to get ‘Featured App’ status doesn’t mean financial ruin – and
using middleware is a great way of reducing that risk.

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Shiva

Developer: Stonetrip
Clients: Antek Studios, Controlled Chaos Media
Platforms: iPhone, PC, Mac, browser, mobile, XBLA, PS3, Wii
Price: Free learning edition, E169 – E1024
Contact: Via website

While not as well known as Torque or Unity, Shiva’s polished editor and high-end features are certainly punching above their weight. Like Torque and Unity it’s actually geared towards a lot more than just iPhone, but interestingly the editor is Windows only (it’s claimed to work on a Mac via Parallels, but some have claimed it to be a bit flaky) – meaning you don’t have to have a Mac to make iPhone games. That does mean you won’t get low-level Xcode access, though, making it slightly black box.
www.stonetrip.com

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Torque 2D

Developer: GarageGames
Clients: BioWare, GarageGames, Big Blue Bubble
Platforms: PC, Mac, browser, iPhone, XBLA, PS3, Wii
Price: From $1000
Contact: Via website

GarageGames’ entry into the iPhone market is based around its bigger Torque 2D offering, previously known as Torque Game Builder. You get a comprehensive WYSIWIG drag-and-drop editor plus the same TorqueScript language as its big brother. You also get full source so that you can integrate any other middleware you wish. GarageGames is also readying a version of its Torque 3D engine, expected to be out soon, which can be pre-ordered for a reduced price of $650.
www.garagegames.com

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Unity

Developer: Unity Technologies
Clients: Graveck, Mika Mobile, THQ Mobile, Chillingo
Platforms: iPhone, PC, Mac, browser, Wii
Price: From $399
Contact: sales@unity3d.com

Without a doubt the most popular choice for those looking to buy an iPhone engine, Unity iPhone has been used in over 150 games released on the App Store, including many number ones. The iPhone version mimics its more general sibling’s intuitive interface and workflow, but generates and automatically updates Xcode projects rather than binaries, allowing developers to mix in native Cocoa menus or external APIs such as AdMob or OpenFeint.
www.unity3d.com

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Bork3d

Developer: Bork3D Games
Clients: Bork3D, Bioroid Studios
Platforms: iPhone
Price: From $49
Contact: Via website

If the other options here have been a bit too much for your wallet, you might want to give Bork3D a go. Okay, so it doesn’t have in-game content creation tools or a scripting language, but if you’re after a well-rounded basic engine then Bork is worth a look. You get full source code, Bullet physics, a GUI system, COLLADA tool pipeline, a profiler, unit test framework, audio engine, and even a web-based interface for dynamically editing the game state in real-time as you test.
www.bork3d.com