Interview

Devs on BB10: BlackBerry is finally back in the game, reckons coolpowers

Devs on BB10: BlackBerry is finally back in the game, reckons coolpowers
Can BlackBerry 10 take down iOS and Android. Indeed, should it even try?

In the wake of the new platform's unveiling by the rebranded BlackBerry, we decided to get in contact with some of its keenest backers – some who've been there before, and some newcomers – for their take on what BB10 brings to the table.

First up, we spoke to Simon Windmill of coolpowers – the studio behind Breakeroids and Pin Fall – who, Alicia Keys aside, thinks there's a lot to love about BlackBerry's new direction.

Pocket Gamer: Generally speaking, what did you make of the BlackBerry 10 unveiling?

Simon Windmill: Not very focused.

There's still the feeling of "BlackBerry is for business" and that was reflected in a lot of men in suits talking about meetings, but then they bring out Alicia Keys as 'global creative director'. What exactly is their target demographic here?

Are you working on the platform, and if so, why?

Yes, because I do think the platform is promising, and it's foolish for the small or solo devs to put all their eggs in one basket.

It's getting harder and harder to get noticed on iOS, for example - I'd rather be a small fish in a smaller pond than a minnow in the ocean.

How do you think it compares to the likes of iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 from a consumer perspective?

We're lucky to have some real competition now, it can only benefit consumers.

No matter your platform preferences, you can get good hardware, a good OS, and most of the games and apps you want and need.

I will say that I love the gesture-based interface for BB10 - I've been jumping between four different mobile OSes in the last few months, and BB10 is the only one that doesn't give me a moment's pause as my brain switches navigation gears.

BlackBerry made much of the 70,000 apps it has ready to go from day one, though many it showcased appeared to be ports from iOS. Why would consumers want to switch formats to play with apps they already have on their existing handset?

I'm actually interested in finding out how many of those 70,000 apps are actually Android apps that have just been re-submitted to BlackBerry World rather than native BB10 ports - I think it's both a pro and a con that you can run many Android apps on BB10 and PlayBook.

Really though, I can only think of it as a good thing that people can jump between platforms without having to give up the games you know and love. I'm not a fan of artificial platform exclusivity.

What's BB10 like to develop for? Has BlackBerry been easy to work with?

It's great - I had my game up and running on BB10 hardware within hours of receiving it, largely because of the work Laurence Muller had already done porting openFrameworks to BB10 and PlayBook - he also ported Super Hexagon to Android for Terry Cavanagh.

Most any popular library already works fine and dandy on BB10 - Box2D, OpenAL, etc - and you don't have to drop to another language to talk to the OS like you do with Android and iOS, or entirely switch languages like Windows Phone 7 required.

BlackBerry itself has been super supportive.

From reaching out to a relative unknown developer like me, to providing pre-release hardware, porting a lot of libraries themselves and contributing the changes back to the community, and actually giving developers a roadmap so we know what's coming.

With Apple, developers can't take anything for granted until Tim Cook is up on stage.

BlackBerry is also the only platform other than iOS that provides first-party integrated leaderboards and achievements for all game developers - Xbox Live is restricted to partners on WP unless something has changed there, and Game Circle is only on Kindle Fire.

For a lot of devs burnt by the OpenFeint closing, knowing that ScoreLoop isn't going anywhere on BlackBerry is reassuring.

Many see 2013 as playing home to a race for third place between BB10 and WP8. Who will come out on top?

It's going to come to developer support, ultimately.

A lot of small game devs were turned off by Windows Phone 7 because it meant completely changing their toolset and rewriting code, something that has improved with Windows Phone 8.

And seeing has half my Twitter timeline has either switched to Unity or is planning to, the fact that it will soon be able to deploy to Windows Phone 8 - and not BB10 at this exact moment - could be a big factor.

For me though, it's always felt like small game devs are second-class citizens on Windows Phone, with no access to Xbox Live that the Microsoft Partners get. With BlackBerry, it feels like it's trying to help everyone.
Thanks to Simon for his time.

Editor

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. As PocketGamer.biz editor, he has the pleasure of monitoring the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.

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