Unity and Mobile pt. 2 : The iPad Cometh

February 1, 2010 in Technology

Moses-Jobs72Ok, so the iPad is now officially old news. Let me get something out of the way, first: yes, we will support it. Yes, we are aiming for 0-day support. If we get there or not basically depends whether on if Apple can get us early access to the device.

With that out of the way, here’s what I actually had in mind – Looking at the event, Apple unveiled pretty much what most of us expected – but it wasn’t until a bit later that it hit me what is so great about this:

I’ve never before seen a computer that is so designed for consumers. It goes straight into the stream of iPod, iPod Touch, etc. Sure, it’s using general-purpose chips behind it, so it’s not like it can’t do “real” apps, but the focus is here 100% on consumers. That means games.

Apple has been taking games more and more seriously – I guess that started happening when they realized games were one of the main movers of iPod Touches. This means that as far as we’re concerned what we’re looking at is the launch of a new console. For indies it’s even better: Apple actually gets the whole “make life sweet for developers” – so it’s a platform that you can make games on and you can even earn money – all major console’s stores are simply embarassing compared to the AppStore. In short, on iPod/Pad/Phone the hoops you have to go through to develop, publish and get paid are crazy low. If you’re one of those people who think the submission process is slow/bad/bloated, just try becoming a registered developer with Sony or Microsoft :)

Naturally, we want to be there the moment it happens. Whenever new and exciting platforms come out, we want to be there. Our goal is to let our users publish anywhere. We can’t support all platforms instantly, but Apple have had an uncanny ability to produce hits. With the iPad I think they’ve done it again.

So we are scrambling like mad to get support for it. On the iPhone our guys worked round the clock to get it out – hopefully that won’t be neccessary this time, but we’d always rather burn some midnight oil than end up like the large behemoth we’re currently seeing on the sidelines – 18 months after iPhone launch with no shipped support for this platform mumbling OMG! The Net Is Broken ;)

Comments (25)

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  1. Jon

    March 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm / 

    Does this mean devs (those submitting to the app store) might be producing more GPU intensive games with the caviat “for ipad 2 only”? (for lack of a better term) In other words can we say this game is for ipad 2 only, because the game doesn’t run so well on ipad 1 with its lacking GPU?

  2. Loci

    February 11, 2010 at 10:02 pm / 

    Brilliant! My take-away after the keynote was initially like many others; “oh no I wanted and OSX tablet”. a few hours later and some philosophical reflection; yes it is the firstest-bestest-general-purpose-handheld-consumer-console ever! People will find uses for this that nobody has really anticipated yet. I love that.

    Thank you for the undefined “we will support it”. I would not accept that from many parties/firms/engineers or individuals; I think it says a lot that I (and obviously others) are certain Unity will deliver.

  3. Daniel Wind

    February 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm / 

    @Nicholas

    You’re totally right, iPad is 100% consumer-focused and that means this device is going to be the new buzz in the game industry. I expect for Unity to release a Unity pro iPad plugin pretty soon!

  4. dingo

    February 8, 2010 at 7:02 pm / 

    Awesome news Nicholas :) I can’t wait to see graphical recommendations…ie. suggested polygon counts etc. And you are right it is another “gold rush”.

  5. AaronC

    February 8, 2010 at 3:29 am / 

    more screen space than a touch? WOOT! Cheers Nicholas, for the good news at your end..AC

  6. IPete2

    February 8, 2010 at 1:00 am / 

    Wow – this is brilliant news, expected, but still re-assuring to actually hear it.

    I think that the iPad is actually gonna be hugely important device for us all, its a turning point for consumers as it has the ability to put all the communications tools and abilities we need and use day to day, right into our hands when we are NOT sat at our desks (although we can be) and at a size that’s truly useable and convenient.

    That also happens to be when most people are relaxing.

    In short games and entertainment will be a very, very important part of this devices life, unlike other earlier attempts at this same format.

    As developers and with Unity being so powerful a tool we will be able to bring some really innovative games and apps to the platform. I am really excited!

  7. Sean Baggaley

    February 5, 2010 at 11:10 am / 

    @Wonderwhy-er:

    ” Thing is that exactly document editing scenario is a scenario I can’t imagine on iPhone OS and iPad is built on it too. So unless they made some changes it is hard to imagine…”

    Again, check out the keynote presentation for the iPad’s launch. Seriously. It’s all in there. You’ll find the link on Apple US’s website, on the new iPad pages.

    Remember: it’s running OS X. It’s just a GUI on top of a clone of UNIX—an OS which dates back to the 1970s! iPhone and iPad apps can—and do—store data on the device. A filesystem is just a database, nothing more. Even “Brushes”—the forthcoming iPad version is demonstrated in the keynote too—lets you save and copy images around, and that’s been available on the iPhone and iPod Touch for a while already.

    Granted, running and compiling scripts could be a tricky call, but Unity uses the Mono framework which relies on JIT compilation. (.NET, contrary to popular belief, does NOT run bytecode directly. Ever.)

    And Safari has a Javascript interpreter running on it already, so it’s perfectly feasible technically. The reasons for the restriction are stability and security. If UT can convince Apple that their editor won’t cause problems with either, they may get away with it.

    (Okay, perhaps the first version will just be an app which links the iPad to the Mac and PC editor, letting you use it to manipulate scenes and use its multi-touch features to test your games. But there’s no *technical* reason why a full-fat editor couldn’t run on an iPad. It’s just politics.)

  8. Brady

    February 3, 2010 at 10:56 pm / 

    @Sean Baggaley
    I think the idea that the iPad is not a computer has much more to do with the “locked” nature of the environment, and pretty much nothing to do with the GUI or input scheme. I, for one, would have been quite happy with a tablet PC that has ONLY a touch screen. The issue here, however, is that it is a console (or what I like to call a “digital appliance”) and not a computer because, unless it is jail broken (assuming that will be done when it is released), Apple has full say over what you are and aren’t allowed to run on it. You say you want a bittorrent client for downloading TV shows on your iPad? Good luck with that – there’s next to no chance Apple’s going to let you do that.

    It has nothing to do with the interface and everything to do with the fact that, in a sense, it is a fixed-function device compared to a “proper” computer.

  9. wonderwhy-er

    February 3, 2010 at 11:58 am / 

    @Sean Baggaley
    iWorks you say? I wonder how it will be working… Thing is that exactly document editing scenario is a scenario I can’t imagine on iPhone OS and iPad is built on it too. So unless they made some changes it is hard to imagine…

    Say I got exel file by mail. I want to open it, read, edit and send back. Well I can’t truly save file on iPhone OS, I can’t truly open file saved by one app in other app. I can’t really edit it, save and send back by mail. I can’t open file from browser in some app too… Or am I wrong somewhere? Some of needed features are possible though but far from all the needed set.

    As for Unity Editor it is prohibited by Apple policy right now to have any interpreter and compiler on iPhone OS, which means no unity or any other app development on it. Also that means no games with Lua Script is allowed (there are workarounds though to compile it in a way that Lua scripts will be static with disabled dynamic stuff, seems Apple allows that).
    Or again lets return to file system problem. It is hard to imagien again on how to manage projects with graphical, audio and other assets + code and libraries on such system as iPhone OS…

    I do agree that interface should be reworked for the device but sadly also a lot of other stuff will need to be reworked + it may fall on shoulders of developers to figure stuff out. Though Unity, .Net and not Adobe Flash are figuring on how to make easy portable stuff without virtual machine and removing this weight from developers shoulders again and allow to reuse same code and libraries on all platforms.

    Anyways I may be have problem of perspective as I said before but that;s why I don’t see iPad as a full featured computer. It is closer to the console then to the computer by what it can do and what it can’t.

  10. Sean Baggaley

    February 3, 2010 at 11:12 am / 

    As an addendum to the above: if you’ve never read Jef Raskin’s “The Humane Interface”, I recommend it. It’s a bit dry in parts, but there are a number of elements from Raskin’s “zoomable UI” research clearly visible in Apple’s multi-touch OS X GUI. (It’s especially noticeable in Safari.)

    And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, one day, and possibly sooner rather than later, we *did* see a version of the Unity Editor on the iPad. (Though probably not before the next iteration; the folks at UT deserve at least one holiday this year!)

  11. Sean Baggaley

    February 3, 2010 at 11:08 am / 

    @Wonderwhy-er: The iPad *is* a computer. Watch the keynote presentation for it all the way through—especially the bit by Phil Schiller on iWorks for iPad.

    If you’re going to build a “Tablet Mac”—and Apple have been doing just this since 2007—you simply cannot port the ancient, 1960s-era WIMP and “desktop” metaphor GUIs over wholesale and expect them to work. Microsoft have learned this the hard way with their complete failure to get Windows-based Tablet-PCs to catch on in a big way.

    The *correct* way to design a GUI for a new form-factor is *exactly* what Apple have demonstrated: throw away the old and start over.

    Ask yourself how often you actually *need* a keyboard while browsing the internet, listening to music, playing games or watching videos. (And remember that the iPad will have Bluetooth 2.1 *and* a “Keyboard Dock” accessory, so you can drop it into the latter and use it as an ordinary laptop when you need to.)

    The iPad is the beginning of the end for the desktop metaphor. Don’t expect “OS XI” to look much different.

  12. wonderwhy-er

    February 3, 2010 at 12:49 am / 

    @Nicholas Francis
    Well may be it is thing of perspective. I was expecting a computer but we got a portable console. May be not most powerful but portable and probably with pretty good consumer experience and wider range of possibility. Like portable Xbox that took a large step towards mobile phones and computers but still is an XBox…

    And by being locked I mean what I mean. Only way to get stuff to it is AppStore + without host computer it is almost useless. And I already provided best example of “lock”. You will not be able to run any development environment except for may be HTML one on it and it is just and example for developers. You would not get a lot of other stuff on it too. Some banned because of duplicating functionality, some banned because of Apple partners (AT&T and probably media companies), some banned based on Apple views on what its customers do not want to see on their devices (or apple does not want to see). Another thing that bothers is that Apple dictates to some extent apps payment strategies…
    I actually see all that as bad anti competitive features of the platform. And that is never good.

    But again it all comes from my wrong viewpoint here… I am looking on it and wishing a computer but it is closer to the console and rather stands somewhere in between. For a console those features are not new but rather common. It just that iPad gives and impression of being full feature computer which actually is misleading.

  13. Nicholas Francis

    February 2, 2010 at 11:01 pm / 

    @wonderwhy-er
    I’m not sure I get the “locked” part. The AppStore seems to be exactly the way to allow “other apps” on it. For the HTML5 part, don’t forget that when Apple launched the original iPhone, the only way to develop anything on it was using HTML in MobileSafari. It wasn’t called HTML5 back then, but it was still the strongest mobile browser so far. Everybody was so annoyed that Apple had to add AppStore

    @Ashkan
    I think it will be quite a while before Microsoft and Sony learns anything about the development model. The fun part is: for e.g. PSN store, Sony’s deal is pretty much the same as Apple: they take 30% you get the rest (except they throw in some marketing on top). The only difference is that with Apple I can do pretty much whatever app/game I want and they’ll take it (good or crap). Sony/MS actually wants to have control of what comes out on their platform, so there’s so much more paperwork involved.

    I don’t see JITting happening on iPads anytime soon. In this regard they are just like consoles – Tight security on only executing signed code. However, I don’t really see this being a real-world problem.

  14. Ashkan

    February 2, 2010 at 10:42 pm / 

    apple is changing the way that big companies should work with developers. hopefully enxt consoles from Sony,Microsoft,Nintendo trinity will have better licensing models for developers. i am interested about the ipad and i think it really worth the price. does ipad support jit compilation or you have to stick with aht compiler? it can become a big problem in future? what do you think UT guys?

  15. wonderwhy-er

    February 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm / 

    You have pretty mixed view over what iPad is but in some parts probably closest to the truth. Firstly iPad is not a computer in broadest sense but as you noted it is hand-held console with locked application ecosystem. And “locked” part is why Apple will never allow any other apps on it. Because it will just ruin that ecosystem both for them and their developers. Is it better for consumers? I believe that not. I wonder what will they do in few years when HTML5/Canvas/WebGL potentially will come to power.

    Anyways if you want hand-held tablet console then iPad is probably good. If you want hand-held computer to install Unity IDE on it and develop games on it then iPad is not for you. HP Slate with Windows 7 probably will be.

  16. Nicholas Francis

    February 2, 2010 at 3:34 pm / 

    @Kyle, Vinnie

    The main point I was trying to get across was that while Adobe was making noise about how broken the internet is, we just got busy, worked with what we had and shipped and product so our users could get in on the gold rush.

    And once Adobe gets round to getting CS5 out the door, they’ll be in the same spot as we were 15 months ago: They’ve got version 1, while we’ve released several performance and capability improvements. Well, actually they aren’t quite in the same spot – they had to cancel their Beta in order to get the product out the door.

    My main point of this blog post, however, wasn’t to make fun of Flash – it was about how we see the iPad and how it fits into our product roadmap. I just saw that post from them and it was too tempting to ignore :)

  17. Dock

    February 2, 2010 at 11:47 am / 

    Fantastic news Nicholas, thanks for being so transparent with it. I’m very interested in developing for the iPad, and I’d really prefer to stay with Unity, so this puts me at ease.

  18. vinnie vivace

    February 2, 2010 at 11:30 am / 

    Good point Kyle… any response Nicholas?

  19. Kyle Rodgers

    February 2, 2010 at 11:02 am / 

    But surely Unity will only be able to publish to iPad/iPhone apps downloaded from the app store, rather than be a plugin in the safari browser? That puts it in the exact same position as Flash, which will be able to publish directly to an application with CS5. The main Flash controversy is that it isn’t supported within the browser.

  20. Jashan Chittesh

    February 2, 2010 at 10:38 am / 

    Sounds great! I think the iPad really rocks as a gaming device. I’ll buy one the moment it gets out (well, maybe I’ll wait for the 3GS … or maybe I’ll simply buy two ;-) ). And: Yeah, Flash is … well … something I totally don’t care about (let’s call it “technology of yesterday”) ;-)

  21. Ben Throop

    February 2, 2010 at 6:04 am / 

    Ha nice dig at the end Nicholas… only funny because it’s true. Also, it’s really nice to read someone with something positive to say about the iPad. As a giant multitouch device it has all kinds of unknown potential.

  22. Aaron

    February 2, 2010 at 5:38 am / 

    BIG SMILE on the “Net is broken!” comment. And now a lol.

  23. Hanford

    February 2, 2010 at 2:59 am / 

    >I’ve never before seen a computer that is so designed for consumers.

    I can only think of one: WebTV. What ever happened to that?

  24. Corey Ricketts

    February 2, 2010 at 2:51 am / 

    All of my flash developer friends are pretty unhappy about the flash issue. I just smile and tell them do lose the PV3D and get a real 3D engine like Unity. Keep up the good work guys.

  25. Lars

    February 1, 2010 at 11:56 pm / 

    Great news!!

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