Posts tagged game developer

How iPad Multitasking Might Work

There has been much complaining on the web about how iPad doesn’t support multitasking, and little analysis of why Apple doesn’t allow it. Adam C. Engst wrote up a great analysis of the types of benefits that multitasking can provide and what technology is required to achieve those benefits.

I’d like to approach the question of multitasking from the user’s perspective and not from a technology standpoint. How would allowing third-party background processes impact the user experience?

Games Don’t Want Multitasking

Gaming is a largest category of the applications for the iPhone. I come from a video game background, so lets compare how game consoles approach multitasking to the iPhone.

Game consoles don’t allow third-party background processes, period. Even first-party background processes are limited. Xbox 360’s dashboard and PS3’s XMB is the interface to access system functionalities while playing a game. Both systems also reserve a small amount of memory and CPU to run system functionalities.

PS3 XrossMediaBar

The reason why consoles take such extremes to limit multi-tasking is to give games consistent hardware performance. Games typically pushes the performance of the system to the limit. When a game updates at 60 frames per second, a small decrease in performance will drop the frame rate to 30, which is immediately noticeable by the player.

Now imagine a game developer writing games for the iPad. It would be impossible to squeeze every ounce of performance out of it if at any point a random third-party application can wreck your performance and turns your game from running smoothly to slowing to a crawl.

For this reason alone, I don’t think any iPad application should expect to be running in the background at all times.

Multitasking on iPad

Believe it or not, there exists an API that manages multitasking on the iPhone. It is called Audio Sessions. An application can claim exclusive access to hardware audio codecs and stop the iPod application from running in the background by setting the appropriate audio session category.

I think this could be a glimpse into how Apple will implement multitasking on the iPad. Apple can define a set of categories for multitasking and each application will set it’s category to the most appropriate one.

Here are some categories which I think might be usedful:

  • Multitask Session Default – allow other application to run in the background with the current application. Quit the current application when the home screen is brought up.
  • Multitask Session Background – allow other applications to run in the background and also wants to keep running when another application starts, maybe quit if an exclusive application starts.
  • Multitask Session Background Resume – Same as background, except restart the application in the background when possible, i.e. after an exclusive application stops.
  • Multitask Session Exclusive – Do not allow other applications to run in the background. Quit the current application when home screen is brought up.

By defining the multitasking behavior through the API, Apple will still have complete control over the user experience, without exposing the complicity of managing processes to the users.

The Apple Way

I am just conjecturing how Apple might add multitasking to the iPad. I don’t have any sources inside Apple. However I believe that Apple will provide the best possible user experience when using the iPad. If they determine that multitasking will decrease the overall user experience then they will not add it.

Like the Cut-and-Paste complaints of a few years ago, Apple will wait until it finds the best possible way of introducing a functionality before adding it. That is the Apple way.

Game Developers Are From Mercury and Marketing Is From Neptune

One of the big bogeymen in stories that developers tell each other is the “Marketing Department.” The story always ends up the same way, “and then we had to change the game … for the worse.” If you read any developer’s blogs, it is clear that most don’t hold marketing in high esteem. They are the enemy, an agent of “The Man,” suits sent to crush the creativity of us geniuses. I wasn’t particularly kind to them either in my previous posts.

Why is there such acrimony between these two groups? This is actually by design, if you look at it from the publisher’s perspective. More >

Cast of Characters pt 2 : the Broken

If you want to work in the games industry, know that it is filled with geeky guys. Be prepared to put up with a certain amount of ‘eccentricities.’ In this series, I offer up a sampling of the types of people you might meet in your journey.

Last time I talked about the ‘Burnout’, this time I’ll be talking about a close cousin to the ‘Burnout’ I like to call the ‘Broken.’

The inspiration for the name comes from something that Dan, a fellow gameplay programmer on BioShock, told me. After I was hired at Irrational, I learned that there was long search to fill the position I was hired for. When I asked Dan why it took so long, he explained that it was hard finding experienced people that still had the passion to make great games, and the person they interviewed right before me was ‘broken and bitter.’
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Make Better Games by Reducing Interactivity

Most people believe that interactivity is what separates games from other kinds of media, so how can you make games better by taking away that advantage?

Back when we were creating the interface on BioShock, Ken was the one who always pushed for a simpler interface. The main method we used was to remove options from the main in-game menu and placing them into the UI of machines you interacted with instead.
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Cast of Characters pt 1 : the Burnout

If you want to work in the games industry, know that it is filled with geeky guys. Be prepared to put up with a certain amount of ‘eccentricities.’ In this series, I offer up a sampling of the types of people you might meet in your journey.

The first personality I’d like to talk about is the “Burnout”, which technically you won’t meet in the games industry since he has already left it. A Burnout is someone who has worked as a developer for many years and then leaves the industry entirely.

Working in as a game developer can be an unforgiving and thankless job, so some turn over is to be expected, but one group in particular seems to be susceptible to becoming a Burnout, the programmers.

Burning Man by Aaron Logan
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The Publisher/Game Studio Relationship

Since the blog is called “Inside the Game Developer Studio,” I should talk a little bit about what a game studio is.

A game studio is where the eternal dance between the money, the monkey, and marketroids takes place (that would be publisher, developer and marketing in layman’s terms). Given those things and add an extra ingredient of Chemical X to the concoction and you will have a hit game on your hands.
studio-equation.jpg
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Welcome to Inside the Game Developer Studio

This blog is my attempt to open the door and shed light on the game making process, from the point of the view of a game developer.

Blogs about games tend to fall into two categories, “Enthusiast” and “Insider.” Enthusiast blogs are all about the games, what’s the latest and newest, and written for gamers looking for their fix of information. The insider blogs are written by people making games and contain interesting details for those working in the same field, but too arcane for other readers.

The idea for this blog was inspired by JC Barnett’s “Japanmanship” blog, which is a great introduction to working in the games industry in Japan. As I was reading that blog, I wondered if is there a blog about what’s it like to work in the games industry in the US? Well, this blog is my stab at it. Unfortunately, I am not an artist nor possessing the dry British wit of JC Barnett, but hopefully you’ll enjoy my blog anyway.

I am not an artist, but I was a programmer in the games industry for the last five years. I was in two great studios, Volition and Irrational, and worked on three titles I am proud of: The Punisher, Saint’s Row and BioShock. I am currently taking some time off to work on my own thing, and finally have time to write this blog.