Interview

WWDC 2010: 2XL Game's Rick Baltman on why iOS4 will reduce device fragmentation

WWDC 2010: 2XL Game's Rick Baltman on why iOS4 will reduce device fragmentation
Perhaps there weren't many surprises during Steve Jobs' WWDC 2010 keynote, but there's certainly a lot to think about, and some features will have significant implications.

So as developers are starting to digest the news about iPhone, as well as the forthcoming release of iOS 4, we've been catching up with key studios to get their views.

Our final interview is with Rick Baltman, president of 2XL Games, the studio between titles such as ATV Offroad and TrophyLite Rally.

What do you think will be the impact of iPhone 4?

Rick Baltman: The announcement that generated the biggest reaction here at 2XL was that the older iPhones would no longer be sold and that iOS 4 was going to be free. This will allow all developers to start phasing out support for the slower devices and SDKs and start focusing exclusively on OpenGL 2.0 and the iOS 4 capabilities.

Up to now, we've had to make several versions of each game optimised for each device. When the iPad was released, we also had to add two different sets of artwork, one that limited CPU time for the iPhone and one that reduced GPU time for the iPad.

Now that the CPU won't be the bottleneck on any device, we can go back to a single version of the game and art that will run beautifully on the 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPad.

Are you worried about fragmentation in terms of screen resolution or the gyroscope?

Not at all. The new screen resolution makes fillrate the bottleneck, but fillrate is more of a concern on the iPad. If we optimise the game for the iPad, it will run well on the iPhone 4 and 3GS. By not having to support the older devices our production pipeline actually gets simpler.

If someone want to develop an app to take advantage of the gyros, it will obviously only run on the iPhone 4 for now. But it will only be a matter of time until everyone moves up to the new phone.

What new sorts of games will iPhone 4 enable?

We've had some ideas about using the orientation of the iPhone for a while now, but had to wait for the accuracy that the new rate gyros will provide. Now that we know the heading, pitch and roll of the phone, we can create several augmented reality apps that can provide guidance and information in very intuitive and user friendly ways.

We also have several game concepts that take advantage of this. You can now use the phone as a window into a virtual world, where you physically have to look up, down left and right to view the game world you are inside.

Once we can get our hands on the new hardware, we'll play around with gesture recognition to see what we can do with it.

What do you think will be the impact of iOS 4?

The biggest impact of iOS 4 is that it will be free. I also think Apple has solved multi-tasking the right way. As a game developer, we need every clock cycle the CPU can give us. By only allowing certain functions to run in the background, Apple has solved both problems.

My only frustration playing games on the iPhone was quitting in the middle of a game when an important phone call came in. Fast app switching solves that problem too and it will make the gaming experience on the iPhone that much more enjoyable.

Are you planning to use iAd?

Yes. Apple's business model is very attractive and clicking on the ads is completely optional so they won't intrude on the gameplay experience.

Were you surprised there was no mention of Game Center?

Game Center was announced at the first iOS 4 press conference and my guess is that there simply wasn't anything new to announce. We will be integrating Game Center into our forthcoming games.

Do you think FaceTime will have any impact in terms of gaming?

I'm sure there are developers thinking about cool games and toys that can take advantage of it right now... Trash talking is alive and well.

Thanks to Rick for his time.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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