Guide: What I Learned Making My First iOS Game

Posted on July 1, 2012 by Nikhil P Naik

So, you want to be an app developer for smartphones? So did I until I set out to complete my first project in what ended up being an exercise more than 10 months long. Now I know that I’m not cut out to be a programmer despite my previous fantasies. When I was a kid I programmed my first Commodore 64 computer to play tic-tac-toe and learn by statistical analysis. But the BASIC language was just that; basic enough that the 11th grader with a fairly good math aptitude could put together a decent and entertaining game.

Unfortunately, when it came to developing a game for Apple’s iOS the task was decidedly more difficult. The problem was that modern games are object oriented in their design rather than simply a list of “if/then” commands. Without any formal training in C+ or C++, my ability to think in terms of objects was a bit stunted, to say the least. Once I got over that hurdle there was still plenty of hours spent developing code that ended up being all wrong. Fortunately I finally finished and am now preparing to try and get it into the app store. We’ll see how it goes.

As for the remainder of his article, let me share with you the five most important things I learned during this entire process. Hopefully I can help you avoid some mistakes I made.

1. Join Apple’s Developer Program from the Start

iOS Developer Program

This is probably the single most important lesson for me throughout this entire process. When I first started development from the scratch, I used a nifty little utility that allowed me to test my game using my laptop. I figured there was no need to spend $100 to join the developer program until I had something workable. The problem was I got the game almost entirely finished only to find out it sucked. Once I actually joined the developer program and tested my game on my phone it was nearly impossible to use. Playing on the iPhone is drastically different than using a mouse on my laptop. I also found that the developers program offered a lot of resources I would have found helpful earlier.

Here is the link to the iOS Developer Program webpage.

2. Books are great, practice is better

I discovered at the start of the process that I was going to have to learn Xcode and Objective-C because those are the languages iOS uses. There’s no other way around it. So I got myself a bunch of books and some video tutorials and went to work. While I absorbed a lot of information what really helped me learn was to apply those programming principles on “practice” projects. For this portion it’s completely reasonable to use your computer because you’re just trying to learn the languages and how they work.

Here are the links that will help you:

Xcode 4 – Apple Developer

The Objective-C 2.0 Programming Language – Apple 

3. A Good Idea Does Not Necessarily Make a Great Game

In the rush to get their first app to  many a developer settles for an app that is totally lame. Just because you have great idea in your own mind doesn’t mean that translates into a great game. I bounced several different ideas off of friends before I landed on one everybody seemed to like. Had I gone with my initial idea I probably wouldn’t be writing this post; I’d probably be sitting around wondering why no one was downloading my game.

4. Don’t Expect to Get Rich Overnight

Now that there are literally hundreds of thousands of smartphone apps available it’s getting very difficult to sell something unless it’s really great. After almost 10 months of hard work and days and I just wanted to give up, I would hate to see my game get published only to realize lousy sales results. So I asked a couple of friends who have hoed the road before me and found out that’s exactly what will probably happen. Most developers don’t make more than a couple of hundred dollars off their projects; those who make more have been at it for years.

5. Apple Is Always King

If joining the developer program was the most important lesson I learned, the most difficult one was that Apple is always king. In preparation for trying to get my app into the store I had to wade through mountains of online paperwork containing more rules and restrictions than I ever imagined. The truth is that a good number of people despise Apple because of their restrictive and proprietary mindset. They have a legitimate beef. But if you want to be part of the smartphone revolution with the iPhone, you have to play by their rules no matter how distasteful they may be.

About the Author: Amelia Hunter is from where you can find the best Apple iPhone deals ever. And an iPhone is what you need to start making iOS games – just take into account her experience in making them 🙂

About Nikhil P Naik

Nikhil Naik has a Master's Degree in Information Systems, and is currently working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft. He also loves playing cricket, listening to music, and traveling. Twitter Handle - @buzz_nikhil.

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