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A recipe for creating iOS games


John Shea

Editor’s note: John Shea is a two-time Big Nerd Ranch alum and is the creator of Kondrian, an action game for iPhone and iPad.

Alumni: If you’d like to share your success stories with us, please leave a note in the comments.

In my last post, I wrote about the process that lead me to create my first game, Kondrian. During that process, I learned a lot about creating iOS games. In fact, I’d almost call it a recipe. Here are the key steps:

  • Create a story. You don’t have to share it with the player, but it helps you mold the game.

  • Make five simple 2D prototype games. This will help you develop your process and thinking.

  • Reduce your ambition for your first shipping game. Keep it small and focused.

  • Choose an engine. Your main choices are:a.) rolling your own for full control and to reuse your UIKit skills,
    b.) Unity if you want to release on other platforms, or
    c.) Cocos2D, which abstracts OpenGL but in 2D only.

  • Integrating with UIKit can save you a lot of time. If it’s applicable, integrating can save you time, not only by allowing you to reuse your UIKit knowledge and your UIKit code, but also by letting you advantage of the growing number of iOS libraries out there. In my case, I used a lot of UIBezierPath tech from one of my previous apps and used MagicalRecord to help with Core Data.

  • Be careful: developing a good particle engine can be a time sink. Unity and Cocos2D provide particle engines, which might save you a lot of time if your game has a lot of effects.

  • Find a good artist. You can’t avoid this step; it’s essential. However, innovative sound for this first game is not as important.

  • Iterate. Iterate everything, and experiment with everything, including controls and game play.

  • Vectors are very important for AI. Use GLKVector2 from GLKit and get your head around them.

  • Think of your game as a work of art. Think of it as a part of you, and have fun doing it, because most indie game developers don’t make any money!

Making a game is a huge investment in time, energy and resources, much like many other non-game development projects. The rewards are huge, though. You’ll add to your development skillset and create something new. And you never know—it might help you achieve Nerdvana!


John Shea

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