Photics: Fireball… Ready For Launch

With the iPad launch less than a week away, I’ve been pretty busy. Apple sent me an email about the grand opening of the iPad App Store. If I wanted my iPad App to be listed on the launch day, I had to meet the March 27 (8 PM EST) deadline. I made it… with about 30 minutes to spare. It was tough, but I’m pleased with the results. Actually, that’s not quite right… I’m actually amazed. I think Photics: Fireball is a fun game, but it also represents a dramatic shift in my life. Up until this point, I used to get excited about game console release dates. I would often be part of the “I gotta have it” crowd. But now I’m on the other side of the picture – as a game developer – with a launch date title ready to go.

The Super Nintendo in ’91, the Nintendo 64 in 1996, the Dreamcast on 9/9/99 and the Wii in 2006, I bought those consoles on or near the launch date. I remember the typical launch day frenzy. You had to hustle before the systems sold out. I also remember something else about launch day – game shortages. Traditionally, a game console would launch with a few titles. There would be a huge drought until the game library was built up.

Things are different with Apple. I imagine that there will be plenty of launch day titles, but is this a fair comparison? I consider the iPad to be a portable gaming console, on par with the Nintendo DS or PSP. I believe that the quality of my game is similar to portable games made not too long ago… but those were made by established gaming companies. I’m just one guy!

Using GameSalad as a development tool, I was able to add dazzling particle effects, animation, positional sound effects and touch controls.

The industry is changing and I’m happy to be part of it. On April 3, when hundreds of thousands of people pick up their iPads, my game should be waiting for them. Heh, I have no illusions. Most will probably skip past my hard work. Yet, the mere fact that I’m even able to compete in this market is impressive to me. I’m getting better.

So, more about the game… Photics: Fireball is a pinball game for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It was quite a challenge to create a pinball table that was fun to play. GameSalad helped a lot with that. With particle effects, it’s not just a metal ball bouncing around. It looks and sounds like a ball of fire. I find it almost mesmerizing. The physics engine in GameSalad is very good. The way the fireball moves – the speed and the collisions – it feel natural. It would be very difficult for me to create a similar project with a different development tool, such as Flash or XNA.

And even though GameSalad is mainly for 2D games, I was able to squeeze some 3D effects into my game. The python is 3D animated and the particle effects on the fireball (and enemy orbs) change shape. I tried to add some perspective to the game and I think it worked out.

The game has features that you’d expect from a pinball game… like kickback. The side alleys have pegs that will temporarily prevent the fireball from falling down the sides. Also, you can hold the ball in place with the flippers. Sometimes I like to hold the ball in place, so I can watch the cool fire effects. I also added a different approach to the plunger. I didn’t want to waste screen space on an area to launch the ball. Instead, you touch and hold the bottom part of the screen to launch a fireball. It as it you are summoning the fire for you to command. When you release your touch, the ball launched upwards to attack the dark wizard’s stronghold.

And now, the waiting begins. Will Apple approve of my game? If they do, the iPhone / iPod Touch version should be launched on April 2 and the iPad version should be available on April 3.