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Sticky suggestion - development engines for iPad

This is a discussion on Sticky suggestion - development engines for iPad within the iPad Development forums, part of the iPad App Store category; I'm sure there are a lot of people interested in iPad development. There are a lot of options out there from the standard Xcode across ...

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Thread: Sticky suggestion - development engines for iPad

  1. #1
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    Sticky suggestion - development engines for iPad

    I'm sure there are a lot of people interested in iPad development. There are a lot of options out there from the standard Xcode across to Flash CS5. This post will attempt to stay current with all the available development engines. Please PM me or post a comment if you have any additions or corrections.

    Note: To actually build and install on an iOS device you will usually need an Intel based Mac running Snow Leopard. The exceptions to this are Flash CS5, Airplay or DragonFire which can build and install on PC or Mac. If anyone knows otherwise please post a comment and I will update this post. You will also need an Apple developer account which costs $99/yr.

    Note: Cross platform refers to the target platform which may include iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch), Android, PC, web, console. Generally iOS development is done on a Mac, PC development is done on a PC, Android and Web could be either Mac, PC or Linux. Ideally, you should be able to create an app for one target platform and recompile it for a different platform with minimal changes. Additionally, some of the engines have a different version for each OS that needs to be purchased separately (I.e. Unity).

    Xcode - official development environment
    This is the main IDE for app development. Requires you to be a pretty solid programmer with C++ and Objective C. Not for the timid. There are a number of frameworks available to assist with graphics and physics, probably the most common one being Cocos2D.

    Airplay SDK
    A cross platform development environment that allows you to use straight C++ to develop iPhone, iPad, Android and PSP apps. Works in Xcode on the Mac but allows you to avoid using Objective C. The PC version allows you to create iOS apps without needing a Mac! I really have to wonder why anyone would use the straight Apple Xcode SDK with an option like this. Even if you like the Xcode environment you can be cross platform with the same codebase using Airplay. Free for iOS if you make less than $100K/yr. I know someone who has been using this and he swears by it.

    DragonFire SDK
    C and C++ development for iPhone and iPad. Runs in Windows or Mac and can create iOS apps with the Windows version! This sends your code to their server to build the app on an actual Mac and then sends the app back to you. Looks like you still need to be a registered developer to actually run it on your iDevice. However, they do allow you to publish free apps through them without having to register with Apple. I assume you would only be able to run it in the simulator to test it in that case.

    Corona
    Corona is a simulator and compiler for iPhone, Android and iPad apps. It uses the LUA scripting language and includes a physics engine, sprite animation and hooks into the regular iOS stuff. Appears to be well supported, has an active forum and regular releases. It was used by that 14 year old kid who created the #1 physics puzzler. Free to use until you publish something and then the fees are quite reasonable. No royalties. [update: I have been using it and it's pretty solid. Very high level and forgiving for those of us who don't want to manage every last spec of memory. I was able to get something up and running very quickly and it's the easiest by far for actually getting your app on the iPad/iPhone. Good example code on their site and an active code exchange community.]

    Torque for iPhone (probably DOA)
    I tried this engine for iPhone development as I was impressed with the 2D engine for the PC. This turned out to be a major exercise in frustration. There was little documentation, all the support was through the forum and I couldn't even run the tutorials out of the box. This was a few months back so they may have got it running better by now but it was such a poor experience that I won't be going back. Set me back $600. [Feb 27/11 - update: looks like the guys who make Torque have gone under and put the engine up for sale]

    Unity3D for iPhone/iPad
    Unity is a solid cross platform engine and they boast a large number of published apps in the app store. It's a full environment that includes a 3D editor and integrated scripting system. It's not for the casual user but it's a thousand times easier than working in Xcode for non-objective C types. If you are familiar with 3D programs such as Maya or 3D Studio Max then it will be a breeze to learn. The PC version is free but the iPhone/iPad version is $400. Quote from indie game developer Graham Jans: "I've used a lot of game engines but Unity is the first one that gave me a hug". Check out his awesome Unity game at zombieminesweeper.com.

    Shiva3D
    I don't have any experience with this one but it looks to be an up and coming contender for Unity. Cross-platform, lots of apps, full 3D, etc. Similar pricing structure to Unity.

    Flash CS5
    Great environment and cross platform. I suspect that somewhere the overhead of Flash will bite you in the ass but I haven't done enough with it yet to hit that point. I also suspect that Adobe will not be supporting this whole hog as long as Apple has a grudge-on for Flash. One of the few that lets you develop and deploy on PC or Mac.

    GameSalad
    This is a code-free environment that is supposed to be easier for artists and designers to use. They have a few apps in the store that seem to be running reasonably well though I found the loading of menu screens to be a bit slow.

    Livecode
    iOS version of this is $99. They don't seem to have any apps in the store yet from what I can see.

    Appcelerator Titanium
    Cross platform development environment using web technologies like Javascript, PHP, HTML5 and CSS3. Seems to be targeted at web developers. Lots of solid looking apps built with it. Appears to have pretty good access to low level functionality like GPS and camera.

    PhoneGap
    This is a cross platform engine based around web technologies like Java, Html, CSS, etc. They have a number of apps in the store and it looks to have a lot of grass roots users. Similar to Appcelerator but supports even more platforms. If you are familiar with coding websites take a serious look at this and Appcelerator.

    Here's another good list with some comparisons The Commercial iPhone Game Engine Comparison (3D and 2D) | iPhone, iOS 4, iPad SDK Development Tutorial and Programming Tips

    mike
    :8^]
    Last edited by bigchicken; 03-22-2011 at 11:05 PM. Reason: updated post

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  3. #2
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    I'm really interested in finding an easy solution. I'm a teacher with an idea for an education App but have no coding experience. Now, I'm a pretty intelligent guy and may buy some books to learn the basics, but really i feel my only recourse is hiring a company to do it, but I lack the capital.

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    I'm no coder, either, but I know Labview and would have some nice ideas I'd love to try. Is there something that can convert Labview into an app?
    It would also be nice to use some access databases with an adjusted UI

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    I've used Phonegap to develop 2 apps now and it is a good framework for a wide range of apps.

    If you can make a website you can make an app with this framework.

    You need to understand HTML and JavaScript and that's mostly it.

    Be prepared to spend some time figuring out the settings to get the app running on the device you want but developing it is as easy as building a website.

    Also, (a pretty big also) there is very limited documentation on how to use Phonegap unfortunately

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nremondelli View Post
    I'm really interested in finding an easy solution. I'm a teacher with an idea for an education App but have no coding experience. Now, I'm a pretty intelligent guy and may buy some books to learn the basics, but really i feel my only recourse is hiring a company to do it, but I lack the capital.
    Here are a couple of options:

    1) Do it yourself
    I haven't tried it personally but I think the best development system for non programmers is probably GameSalad. At least if you are planning do something "game like".

    2) Hire a developer
    Another option is to use one of the App prototyping tools that are available on the iPhone/iPad to lay out the interface and hire someone to put it together. I would recommend looking at rentacoder.com or elance.com to find a developer. You can put your proposal and budget up there and have people from across the globe bid on putting it together. They have an escrow service to safeguard both of you. The more you can be specific about every detail of the app the better. Create a paper prototype to test it first, flowchart all the logic, mock up the UI, etc. Don't give away the exact specifics of the project until you have decided on the developer and ask them for examples of their work.

    3) Find a partner
    Look at meetup.com and see if there are any iPhone/iPad development meetups in your area. Go to the meeting and/or post in their group that you are looking for a development partner to do the coding side. Have them announce at the meeting that you have a project and are looking for a developer/partner. You will be surprised at who's out there looking to team up.

    In any of these cases, you will need to register as a developer with Apple and navigate their cryptic provisioning/certificate labyrinth to actually get the app onto devices etc. A necessary evil. If you go with option #3 you may be lucky enough to find someone who will deal with that part of it for you. Otherwise you will need to.

    cheers,

    mike
    :8^]
    Last edited by bigchicken; 02-20-2011 at 01:54 PM. Reason: added Apple registration notes

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    as for Appcelerator Titanium



    Their documentation says:
    Preparing for iOS development
    For iOS you will need to have a Mac running OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and an iOS developer account (the account is free, but to run on device, you will need to pay a $99/year fee for the iOS developer program). Installing the iOS SDK is as easy as downloading the SDK and Xcode, mounting and running the disk image, and following the onscreen instructions


    So it's not actually cross platform =)
    Pipwa likes this.

  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by denn1s View Post
    as for Appcelerator Titanium



    Their documentation says:
    Preparing for iOS development
    For iOS you will need to have a Mac running OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and an iOS developer account (the account is free, but to run on device, you will need to pay a $99/year fee for the iOS developer program). Installing the iOS SDK is as easy as downloading the SDK and Xcode, mounting and running the disk image, and following the onscreen instructions


    So it's not actually cross platform =)
    Hi denn1s. Thanks for the comment and for pointing out that point of confusion.

    By cross platform development I'm generally referring to target platforms (iOS, Android, PC, Web).You're correct to point out that you usually need a Mac to actually build and install apps for iOS. I believe this is true for all of the engines listed except for Flash which allows you to compile and install in Windows. I'll have to double check the other ones. I'll update the sticky post.

    mike
    :8^]

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    Hey, bigchicken

    Here is some interesting SDK I've got for u to take a look at Dragon Fire SDK:
    It's windows and C/C++ based solution. Including devices simulators as i can see.

    Their pricing plans start at $50 and go up to $150

    p.s. not sure how good it is (didn't have chance to play with it), but it can be helpful for people willing to develop not under Macs =)

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    I have experience from GameSalad and Cocos2D-iphone.

    I started with GameSalad and if you dont have any coding experience that is a really good start. But for me GameSalad was not enough so I tried Cocos2d and that framework was perfect (for me).

    But if you want to make an app you must know it is a lot of work. Hard work!

    But it is also one of the coolest thing to do...
    ...to say - "I made an app for the iOS family!"

    So, I made a game and yes, I am very proud of it!

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    @bigchicken: If you look at this post How to create your own app for jailbreak iPad you will see that it does not require an apple developer account, and that you can develop right on your iPad (or use a text editor from PC or Mac). This of course is for jailbreak ipads only, so would not be useful for developing for Apple Store.
    redsn0w iPad 1 16GB WiFi v4.3.2
    Remove Background, VLC Media Player,
    Activator, Animate, Browser Changer,
    FakeClockUp, Icon Renamer,
    iFile,
    iSH****, OpenSSH

    [B]


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