Mobile exploits with BoulderDash

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When I started iPhone development, the learning curve was relatively shallow; I knew Mac development well enough, and ten years of writing games and tools gets you knowledgable about a whole host of languages and technologies from C++ and DirectX through to 3D engines on the XBox and file converters in Perl. But these handsets are different in a host of ways, and I’d never touched OpenGL before.

To get myself up to speed writing on the iPhone and the OpenGL graphics pipeline, I looked to my gaming past to find something that I wanted to play on the handset. That something ended up being BoulderDash. I grew up playing it on the Commodore 64, and still love it now, there just wasn’t a perfect version for the iPhone. It ended up being a great project to start from scratch, and actually, a great one to finish. It was a real labour of love, never intended for release, which is why it used all the sounds and graphics straight from the c64 version, but boy did it turn out well. Not only does it play identically to the c64 version, it even came with a persistent level unlocking mechanism as well as a high-score / fastest times table. Very neat indeed.

I started iPad development shortly after they arrived on our shores. The iPad and iPhone share operating systems (give or take a few tweaks), but I thought it worth taking something I’d developed for its smaller cousin and porting it across to get a feel for the issues. The perfect candidate? BoulderDash. First on the iPhone, and now first on the iPad. Quite fitting I thought.

I was struck by a few things. Firstly, how quick and easy it was to get an already completed iPhone app up and running on the new hardware. I guess the sharing of the OS helps, but still. The only major issues in fact were the ones you’d expect: the graphics were too small, and the screen layouts broken. It took me roughly six weeks to go from zero to a complete ready-to-release version of BoulderDash on the iPhone, but approximately 3 days to port it to the iPad up to the same standard (along with a few additional bug-fixes along the way). That’s very cool indeed.

The other thing that struck me was just how exquisite the game actually looks and feels on the bigger screen. I really do love the iPad, and there’s some great games for it, but to create something yourself and see it rendered in such finery really is something else. So much so that I’m actually considering releasing it under DigitalOrigins in some form. Even if I have to replace all the sound and artwork and change the name to something like DiamondRush (which I actually rather like), I think it would be worth having this in the hands of people so that they can get some enjoyment out of it.

Perhaps now is the time to commission some artwork. Anyone up for the task?

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