Gamers, if you think the gaming capability of the iPhone and iPod Touch will be limited to two-dimensional Pac Man and Tetris styled games, Apple has plans that they want you to know about: Apple is integrating OpenAL, OpenGL, and Core Animation technology into the June software upgrade.
Scott Forstall spoke about the gaming technologies in the software upgrade: “OpenAL is an industry standard audio API, that’s used to efficiently render three dimensional. multichannel positional audio. This is great for game developers-it allows them to take and render sounds and special effects in three dimensions, around a player in a game.” As you might expect, the OpenAL audio language is usually behind the convincing explosions, gunfire, waterfalls, and other lifelike audio effects heard in games that feature OpenGL graphics language programming.
Forstall continued by discussing Core Animation, which was introduced in Leopard. including multilayered graphics, text and video animation, it relies heavily on hardware acceleration to enhance the operating system’s graphics capability.
OpenAL and Core Animation will be useful tools for game developers, but the heart of game development on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform will come from the embedded OpenGL technology.
Scott Forstall smiled and seemed visibly excited as he talked about the integration of OpenGL into the software upgrade: “It is an absolute screamer for 3D graphics on the iPhone.“ Forstall went on to demonstrate a 3D game called “Touch Fighter“, which he said was built in just two weeks on the new platform.
Forstall continued: “As you can see, this is an OpenGL game for graphics; it’s OpenAL for audio...”
“...but my question is, how do I fire at this, at these ships, because we’re not using up a big chunk of the user interface here for buttons. Well, we have a great touch screen, so I just tap anywhere to fire.”
“My next question is, I don’t have a joystick here or any four-button toggle control, so how do I steer? Well, we’ve got a full, three-axis accelerometer built in, so all I do is move the phone around, and now I’m steering it.” Steering the spaceship in real time just by tilting the iPhone brought applause from the audience.
Forstall also demonstrated that as he tilted and moved the iPhone, the OpenAL responded by altering the sound of the ship’s engine, making it sound as though the ship was moving in response to the iPhone’s movements.
Travis Boatman from Electronic Arts went on to demonstrate an iPhone version of Spore. In Spore, a microorganism makes its way through the primordial soup, eating things smaller than it and avoiding things larger, hoping to survive and evolve.
Spore makes use of the iPhone three-axis accelerometer for steering, and the touchscreen for its “Evolution Editor”, where various features are customized.
In perhaps the most impressive display of the new iPhone software’s 3D capabilities, Ethan Einhorn from Sega demonstrated an iPhone version of Super Monkey Ball.
Einhorn commented: “I’m a console producer, and this team, they’re a group of console developers. So for us, the most exciting thing by far was that we’ve been able to create on the iPhone the kind of game that we’re used to making.”
“This is not a cell phone game. This is a full console game. And if anything, we underestimated from the start what the machine was able to do graphically. We had to actually fly in an extra artist to start scaling up the quality of the visuals, to match what the output was capable of giving us. And that’s the best kind of problem you can have.”