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A Brief Guide to Software Designed to Help you Develop iPhone Apps

written by: Andrei Nadin•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/14/2010

Don't know Objective C? Bit rusty on your coding skills? Got an idea for a game and want to get it on the iPhone? Maybe one of these great tools will help you get your idea on the AppStore quicker.

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    So you want to make games for the iPhone?

    If you make games or want to make games, chances are you are thinking of making your game for the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Thankfully making games for iOS (as iPhone OS is now known) is not only for experienced developers. Any industrious entrepreneur with a good idea, a little technical knowledge and motivation now has many options to deliver a game on the hottest gaming platform on the planet right now.

    Of course the main development environment for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad is Apple's own SDK (Software Development Kit). To use this you require a Mac, working knowledge at least of C/C++ and some time to learn Objective C - Apple's main development language.

    For those of us with a slightly less in depth knowledge of coding there are alternatives. A number of excellent game engines are now available for the iPhone which allow you to use a combination of scripting, prebuilt behaviours and drag and drop for getting your game out much faster, allowing you to focus more on content and less on tech.

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    Tools.. engines.. fun

    Unity 3D for iPhone engine is a fully featured game editing toolkit that allows you to build your title once and output to many platforms. The basic engine is free and for US$300 you can get the ability to output iPhone games (Mac, Windows, and Web are free). For $2400 you can go Pro on the base engine and iPhone giving you access to Pro Assets amongst others (see here).

    Torque 2D for iPhone is built on Torque Game Builder which is limited to 2D games but with a very good intuitive interface. It is built around dragging and dropping 2D assets into the game world and applying behaviours to them. There is a good selection provided and you can also get behaviours from other people, plus script your own logic in Torque Script. Torque 2D is available for US$750 for the Indie version (limited to revenue below US$250K) or US$2250 for the Pro version (unlimited revenue). (Note Torque 3D for iPhone is coming too).

    Gamesalad is a relatively new tool to the market but that is by no means to its detriment. Whilst still labelled Beta, there are plenty of games for the iPhone and the iPad already on the AppStore. Similar to Torque, you drag and drop assets into the game world and like using Automator in MacOSX, you can create complex chains of logic. It is free to download and make on Mac but you will have to pay to be able to publish US$99/year or US$1999/year for Pro.

    Shiva by StoneTrip is a Windows based tool with output to many formats similar to Unity3D, iPhone, iPad publishing it is achieved via a free publishing tool. The basic editor is available for free but the Advanced version is €1499.

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    Other skills or software or services you will need

    As well as iPhone app development software, you will need an Apple developer account to be able to publish a game for iOS. This costs $99/year and gives you access to the SDK, developer documentation (including guidelines), developer forums, iTunes connect (for submitting and monitoring your app) and areas for filling in and maintaining agreements for publishing, tax etc. with Apple.

    Depending on your title you will need at least 2D image editing/creation tools such as Photoshop, The Gimp, Pixelmator, Illustrator and maybe 3D apps like Maya, or Blender 3D.

    Even if you are not the artist(s) you may well need these tools to check art you get from team mates or contractors you use to generate your art.

    Audio is an often under rated or forgotten part of game development. Whilst you can source plenty of high quality royalty free audio on the net, you will probably still need to be able to level, edit and convert the audio for your tool of choice, again the options are many from free to paid, look for tools such as Audacity (free), Sound Forge etc.