firemint_logoYesterday we pointed readers to Firemint's tech demo, which sprang from developer Rob Murray's desire to see just how far he could push the new iPhone 3GS hardware.

Murray created a test build of his studio's Real Racing [App Store], which normally features six cars on a track at the same time, and started adding cars in order to see when the new hardware would falter.  He was able to push the game to 40 cars on-track at once without any perceptible loss in framerate.  As he concluded, the results are fairly "mind blowing."

Pocket Gamer recently spoke with Murray, who shared his thoughts on what the more powerful iPhone 3GS means to iPhone developers, in general.

"To get value from your 3GS-specific investment you would want to feature and promote its benefits. However, when you do that, at the same time you can very easily give the non-3GS market false expectations," he says.

"So if you do differentiate the 3GS, you need to think carefully about how much noise to make about it. If you make too much noise it may backfire with negative user reviews from non-3GS customers, if you don't promote it at all then you haven't really gotten full value out of your investment."

Murray feels that the best overall strategy for developers is to focus on the lowest common denominator -- the early iPhone platform devices -- and let 3GS users enjoy the added smoothness that the device's beefier hardware brings.  In fact, he feels that few games currently in the App Store are pushing even the earlier generation hardware.

"From what I have observed on the App Store, I don't think there are many apps that have pushed the limit of the existing hardware. For the vast majority of apps, there is little that they can do power-wise on the 3GS that they couldn't equally do on the prior models with just a little bit more care and optimisation."

With the base iPhone 3G selling at $99, Apple should be moving more of the lower-end devices than ever.  And while the iPhone 3GS is indeed the new flagship of the iPhone family, it's higher-end specs are far from the "standard platform."  It will be interesting to see how each developer approaches the problem of making all iPhone gamers happy with future releases.

See the Firemint 40-car Real Racing demo, if you missed it earlier.

  • randomdude

    Wow how about making a pop out saying which device you have and the games change to either the low settings or high settings like pc.

    • spiffyone

      Again, I point out that that's the sort of thing that eventually helped TURN OFF developers from focusing solely on PC game development. Hell, it turned them off so much that some former PC game dev stalwarts have become console-centric instead? Why? Larger audience of assured game consumers for one (as one buys a PC for a variety of things, but a video game console for one specific purpose in mind). But, also, because if one is developing a 360 exclusive or PS3 exclusive, one doesn't have to spend time developing and testing on wholly different hardware specs. That's more time and therefore money in the dev process, which is a big reason why devs have turned more and more away from PC development. And even when they develop for both 360 and PS3 they've only got to deal with two hardware specs in mind instead of a much larger (and costlier in terms of time and money to implement and test) range of specs.

      • Shane

        Not quite the same. We're talking about one device from one manufacturer with three slightly different performance specs. Wouldn't be much of a jump to make. Very different than 50 diff video cards and processors etc in PC configurations.

      • spiffyone

        True, but still more time consuming and therefore costly that developing with the lowest common denominator in mind (1st "gen" iPod touch) and therefore being all but assured it will run optimally across the current platform generation (1st gen iTouch, iTouch 2G, iPhone, iPhone3G) and the new platform generation even (3Gs, the rumored new gen of iTouch devices).

        The cost is slightly more, not as costly as for PC spec development as you point out, but it is still an added cost nonetheless. Devs have to weigh whether that extra cost will be worth it. Currently...it really isn't.

  • randomdude

    Wow how about making a pop out saying which device you have and the games change to either the low settings or high settings like pc.

    • spiffyone

      Again, I point out that that's the sort of thing that eventually helped TURN OFF developers from focusing solely on PC game development. Hell, it turned them off so much that some former PC game dev stalwarts have become console-centric instead? Why? Larger audience of assured game consumers for one (as one buys a PC for a variety of things, but a video game console for one specific purpose in mind). But, also, because if one is developing a 360 exclusive or PS3 exclusive, one doesn't have to spend time developing and testing on wholly different hardware specs. That's more time and therefore money in the dev process, which is a big reason why devs have turned more and more away from PC development. And even when they develop for both 360 and PS3 they've only got to deal with two hardware specs in mind instead of a much larger (and costlier in terms of time and money to implement and test) range of specs.

      • Shane

        Not quite the same. We're talking about one device from one manufacturer with three slightly different performance specs. Wouldn't be much of a jump to make. Very different than 50 diff video cards and processors etc in PC configurations.

      • spiffyone

        True, but still more time consuming and therefore costly that developing with the lowest common denominator in mind (1st "gen" iPod touch) and therefore being all but assured it will run optimally across the current platform generation (1st gen iTouch, iTouch 2G, iPhone, iPhone3G) and the new platform generation even (3Gs, the rumored new gen of iTouch devices).

        The cost is slightly more, not as costly as for PC spec development as you point out, but it is still an added cost nonetheless. Devs have to weigh whether that extra cost will be worth it. Currently...it really isn't.

  • Andrmgic

    Or they could add a slider to control the number of cars and have a pop-up recommendation on the number of cars after detecting your platform.

  • Andrmgic

    Or they could add a slider to control the number of cars and have a pop-up recommendation on the number of cars after detecting your platform.

  • antonioj

    "In fact, he feels that few games currently in the App Store are pushing even the earlier generation hardware."

    ditto

    • Mr Payne

      Indeed!

      For example: Mass Effect
      The combat framerate is slow and there's barely anything hapenning.

  • antonioj

    "In fact, he feels that few games currently in the App Store are pushing even the earlier generation hardware."

    ditto

    • Mr Payne

      Indeed!

      For example: Mass Effect
      The combat framerate is slow and there's barely anything hapenning.

  • bob

    i want full GTA for my 3GS now!!!, or something just as open, so i can play it seriously or just pick it up and piss about.

  • bob

    i want full GTA for my 3GS now!!!, or something just as open, so i can play it seriously or just pick it up and piss about.

  • http://www.alex-hardy.co.uk Alex Hardy

    I reckon all this stuff will shake out naturally. If you're making a match-three game you'd be barking mad to target the 3GS, but there are bound to be developers who want to push the hardware as far as they can.

    (I want Resident Evil 4!)

    For Apple's part, there's no problem at all with them upgrading certain specs every year (e.g. improving the camera, connectivity, battery life etc), but they should only radically upgrade the performance every four years (ish) if they want to have a console-like model.

    A little bit of market fragmentation is the price we pay for progress. As some people love to point out, the iPhone isn't *exactly* a console, or an iPod, a PC, or even a traditional mobile phone. It's a convergent device that can operate by its own rules, that maybe have yet to be defined.

    I bet we won't see another performance boost for a while. The 3GS is a powerful piece of kit - maybe it's the performance level Apple wanted from the start.

  • http://www.alex-hardy.co.uk Alex Hardy

    I reckon all this stuff will shake out naturally. If you're making a match-three game you'd be barking mad to target the 3GS, but there are bound to be developers who want to push the hardware as far as they can.

    (I want Resident Evil 4!)

    For Apple's part, there's no problem at all with them upgrading certain specs every year (e.g. improving the camera, connectivity, battery life etc), but they should only radically upgrade the performance every four years (ish) if they want to have a console-like model.

    A little bit of market fragmentation is the price we pay for progress. As some people love to point out, the iPhone isn't *exactly* a console, or an iPod, a PC, or even a traditional mobile phone. It's a convergent device that can operate by its own rules, that maybe have yet to be defined.

    I bet we won't see another performance boost for a while. The 3GS is a powerful piece of kit - maybe it's the performance level Apple wanted from the start.

  • Kyle

    one thing developers could do is either create 2 different versions of their game (one for older devices and one for the 3gs). Or they could create a option in the game for "iPhone 3gs Mode". I think that would be really cool

  • Kyle

    one thing developers could do is either create 2 different versions of their game (one for older devices and one for the 3gs). Or they could create a option in the game for "iPhone 3gs Mode". I think that would be really cool

  • SalsaMD

    "With the base iPhone 3G selling at $99, Apple should be moving more of the lower-end devices than ever."

    Well maybe...the yearly ATT plans are still expensive for some.

    • swarmster

      Yeah, the difference between $2360 and $2260 isn't exactly going to balloon sales, I would think. And it only gets less significant the longer you plan on using the phone.

    • Terrin

      If somebody can afford $99, that person should be able to afford the $199 to get a much better phone. It is the carrier costs that are significant.

  • SalsaMD

    "With the base iPhone 3G selling at $99, Apple should be moving more of the lower-end devices than ever."

    Well maybe...the yearly ATT plans are still expensive for some.

    • swarmster

      Yeah, the difference between $2360 and $2260 isn't exactly going to balloon sales, I would think. And it only gets less significant the longer you plan on using the phone.

    • Terrin

      If somebody can afford $99, that person should be able to afford the $199 to get a much better phone. It is the carrier costs that are significant.

  • johannvonstranovic

    Just throwing this out there. What about for real racing put in a DLC option to add up to forty cars and specify it's for 3gs only. You don't have to modify everything, just put more stuff in that you've already worked on (ie not better graphics, just more stuff on the screen at once). I realize this only works for pretty specific game scenarios, but real racing is a good one to start with.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com Jose

      That would be a great use of DLC. I would gladly pay a premium to upgrade a good game to 3GS standards.

    • http://www.alex-hardy.co.uk Alex

      Interesting idea, but the proposition would have to be made very carefully. It'd have to be comparable to getting a super-HD-edition-with-special-extras or it would feel like a tax on people who happened to have the better device.

      • JerryNY

        I don't agree with the "tax" thing. If it is an existing title why is it a penalty for time spent on development of features to take advantage of your new hardware. I could see if they released new games and had a higher price for a 3GS version. Another thing that is short sighted is Apple sold 1 million 3GS's the opening weekend. Many of those are early adopters and probably quite a few who paid an early upgrade fee just to get one. Aren't those the type of customers devs should be catering to? Look at the slow uptake of OS 3.0 by iPod Touch users. $10 for an OS update that adds quite a few new features and they all balk at the $10. The early adopters who spend to get what's new are the customers who are going to be most lucrative, not the ones who are still using the first gen iPhone's who might not even be spending any money on apps anyway.

    • SalsaMD

      @jerry

      A number of the features of OS3.0 are iphone specific, which also may be limiting upgrading amongst ipod touch owners.

  • johannvonstranovic

    Just throwing this out there. What about for real racing put in a DLC option to add up to forty cars and specify it's for 3gs only. You don't have to modify everything, just put more stuff in that you've already worked on (ie not better graphics, just more stuff on the screen at once). I realize this only works for pretty specific game scenarios, but real racing is a good one to start with.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com Jose

      That would be a great use of DLC. I would gladly pay a premium to upgrade a good game to 3GS standards.

    • http://www.alex-hardy.co.uk Alex

      Interesting idea, but the proposition would have to be made very carefully. It'd have to be comparable to getting a super-HD-edition-with-special-extras or it would feel like a tax on people who happened to have the better device.

      • JerryNY

        I don't agree with the "tax" thing. If it is an existing title why is it a penalty for time spent on development of features to take advantage of your new hardware. I could see if they released new games and had a higher price for a 3GS version. Another thing that is short sighted is Apple sold 1 million 3GS's the opening weekend. Many of those are early adopters and probably quite a few who paid an early upgrade fee just to get one. Aren't those the type of customers devs should be catering to? Look at the slow uptake of OS 3.0 by iPod Touch users. $10 for an OS update that adds quite a few new features and they all balk at the $10. The early adopters who spend to get what's new are the customers who are going to be most lucrative, not the ones who are still using the first gen iPhone's who might not even be spending any money on apps anyway.

    • SalsaMD

      @jerry

      A number of the features of OS3.0 are iphone specific, which also may be limiting upgrading amongst ipod touch owners.

  • Steve D

    I don't understand. I have Real Racing on the 3GS, and the framerate is awful when there a several cars on screen. They must have a different 3GS than me.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com Jose

      You may have an issue with your specific 3GS. Mine handles whatever Real Racing dishest without a problem.

  • Steve D

    I don't understand. I have Real Racing on the 3GS, and the framerate is awful when there a several cars on screen. They must have a different 3GS than me.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com Jose

      You may have an issue with your specific 3GS. Mine handles whatever Real Racing dishest without a problem.

  • Shokz

    You must remember that there are actually three tiers;

    iPod Touch 1st Gen, iPhone 2G, iPhone 3G

    iPod Touch 2nd Gen

    iPhone 3GS

    The iPod Touch 2nd gen is already 50% faster than the other three old devices, and that really wasn't capitalised on at all, so i don't think they'll do much for the iPhone 3GS either...

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      The 2G touch is faster, but not 50% faster. Same GPU as the other units, as well. Some games do scale based on what device they're running on, as well.

  • Shokz

    You must remember that there are actually three tiers;

    iPod Touch 1st Gen, iPhone 2G, iPhone 3G

    iPod Touch 2nd Gen

    iPhone 3GS

    The iPod Touch 2nd gen is already 50% faster than the other three old devices, and that really wasn't capitalised on at all, so i don't think they'll do much for the iPhone 3GS either...

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      The 2G touch is faster, but not 50% faster. Same GPU as the other units, as well. Some games do scale based on what device they're running on, as well.

  • john smith

    hey guys,
    Great news..
    if you ipod touch users didn't want to pay the $10 for the new 3.0 software like me and are waiting it out until you really need it, don't wait until all of your friends have livewire or dexter before you, in the search for warpack grunts and a legit 3.0 jailbreak, I found a site giving off downloads of the 3.0 software for ipod touch 1g or 2g for free. I can't post it on here of fear of removal for spam, so if anyone wants to be playing warpack grunts by midnight if you're cheap like me than email me at alexsmokin72@yahoo.com and I'll tell you how to get to it

  • john smith

    hey guys,
    Great news..
    if you ipod touch users didn't want to pay the $10 for the new 3.0 software like me and are waiting it out until you really need it, don't wait until all of your friends have livewire or dexter before you, in the search for warpack grunts and a legit 3.0 jailbreak, I found a site giving off downloads of the 3.0 software for ipod touch 1g or 2g for free. I can't post it on here of fear of removal for spam, so if anyone wants to be playing warpack grunts by midnight if you're cheap like me than email me at alexsmokin72@yahoo.com and I'll tell you how to get to it

  • menom

    yeah it's a new platform - and things aren't set in stone about how new hardware will affect software production and targeting

    it's a tricky balance as there's a downside to fragmenting the market and there's a downside to all software being 'limited' by being playable on slowest hardware

    I gather that Apple were savvy enough to make sure the new hardware in 3Gs allows for code that can also downscale on the prev' chips (as Blake mentioned above)

    Apple are very good about longevity of usability of their kit (my Macs are 5-7 years old and still work great for my work) - but with most technology there's a point where the older hardware has to be jettisoned in order to move things forward - luckily for all the early iPhone adopters who didn't upgrade, the similar hardware of the 3Gs is a big enough leap to allow the iPhone to stay 'current' in software terms for a couple of years at least (my guess) - with downscaling keeping all the devices compatible

    Moore's Law makes it difficult for hardware manufacturers to stand still

  • menom

    yeah it's a new platform - and things aren't set in stone about how new hardware will affect software production and targeting

    it's a tricky balance as there's a downside to fragmenting the market and there's a downside to all software being 'limited' by being playable on slowest hardware

    I gather that Apple were savvy enough to make sure the new hardware in 3Gs allows for code that can also downscale on the prev' chips (as Blake mentioned above)

    Apple are very good about longevity of usability of their kit (my Macs are 5-7 years old and still work great for my work) - but with most technology there's a point where the older hardware has to be jettisoned in order to move things forward - luckily for all the early iPhone adopters who didn't upgrade, the similar hardware of the 3Gs is a big enough leap to allow the iPhone to stay 'current' in software terms for a couple of years at least (my guess) - with downscaling keeping all the devices compatible

    Moore's Law makes it difficult for hardware manufacturers to stand still

  • Rob

    This is where a 3GS-only app section in the App Store would come in really handy. That way developers could actually create and promote games exclusively for the 3GS, and not have to worry about morons giving their games bad reviews only because they didn't read that it only works on the 3GS.

    I've heard in the past something about a 'premium games section' in iTunes, it would be nice to have.

  • Rob

    This is where a 3GS-only app section in the App Store would come in really handy. That way developers could actually create and promote games exclusively for the 3GS, and not have to worry about morons giving their games bad reviews only because they didn't read that it only works on the 3GS.

    I've heard in the past something about a 'premium games section' in iTunes, it would be nice to have.

  • Thor

    Well, if you used a white 3G S, how about the back cover. Any brown spots from the heat of the game?

  • Thor

    Well, if you used a white 3G S, how about the back cover. Any brown spots from the heat of the game?

  • Bruno

    Here is my modest opinion:

    Why not create two version of the same software? Imagine Real Racing for 3GS for 9.99 and for 3G or 2G for 5.99.

    The difference would be the number of cars and any other thing that devs think it will just run on the 3GS.

    To guarantee this, it is simple: only 3GS owners could download (I am sure that there is a way to verify this electronicaly and stop the purchase if it was made by a 2G and 3 G owners.

    The mentality of some devs, saying that only a few will enjoy the 3GS because there is a few out there is a mentality of a caveman. I am pretty sure that big dev houses are going to release 3GS games only soon.

    So, keep thinking that to invest in the 3GS is not worth it. But then, do not cry because they are selling much more than you are.....

    • SalsaMD

      I presume your model also allows 3GS owners to buy the cheaper version if they so choose...

  • Bruno

    Here is my modest opinion:

    Why not create two version of the same software? Imagine Real Racing for 3GS for 9.99 and for 3G or 2G for 5.99.

    The difference would be the number of cars and any other thing that devs think it will just run on the 3GS.

    To guarantee this, it is simple: only 3GS owners could download (I am sure that there is a way to verify this electronicaly and stop the purchase if it was made by a 2G and 3 G owners.

    The mentality of some devs, saying that only a few will enjoy the 3GS because there is a few out there is a mentality of a caveman. I am pretty sure that big dev houses are going to release 3GS games only soon.

    So, keep thinking that to invest in the 3GS is not worth it. But then, do not cry because they are selling much more than you are.....

    • SalsaMD

      I presume your model also allows 3GS owners to buy the cheaper version if they so choose...

  • Cork

    Duuuuuuuuuh!!!!!! 3gs is better for speed camera and using it not for games xS. Duuuuuh

  • Cork

    Duuuuuuuuuh!!!!!! 3gs is better for speed camera and using it not for games xS. Duuuuuh

  • Nightmoore

    "Murray feels that the best overall strategy for developers is to focus on the lowest common denominator"

    The ain't gonna work. We have a full blown PC-gaming platform problem now. Same "type" of phone, but the 3GS can literally blow the old 3G phone out of the water. It's not just a "number of cars increase" either. The 3GS can handle a LOT more polygons with higher res textures making the games look more like a full blown console title. If Firemint ignores that power, then another developer will simply make a racing game that DOES take advantage of it and completely blow their game away. There's only one solution at this point: New games (with complex 3D graphics) either need two versions OR an option screen built into each title to switch on "3GS" mode to really shine. This is exactly what PC-gamers are already used to. We go into our graphics options and play with texture/resolution options till we find what our video card can handle.

    Dev's simply cannot ignore hardware that can pump out double the 3D power to keep everyone happy.

  • Nightmoore

    "Murray feels that the best overall strategy for developers is to focus on the lowest common denominator"

    The ain't gonna work. We have a full blown PC-gaming platform problem now. Same "type" of phone, but the 3GS can literally blow the old 3G phone out of the water. It's not just a "number of cars increase" either. The 3GS can handle a LOT more polygons with higher res textures making the games look more like a full blown console title. If Firemint ignores that power, then another developer will simply make a racing game that DOES take advantage of it and completely blow their game away. There's only one solution at this point: New games (with complex 3D graphics) either need two versions OR an option screen built into each title to switch on "3GS" mode to really shine. This is exactly what PC-gamers are already used to. We go into our graphics options and play with texture/resolution options till we find what our video card can handle.

    Dev's simply cannot ignore hardware that can pump out double the 3D power to keep everyone happy.

  • Justin

    I agree I've been complaining about the lack of games taking advantage of the 3gs I think they could get away with. 1gb sized game instead of pushing 100mb or 275 or something in dungeon hunter.

    Or like eliminate pro that has better map rendering on 3gs and better graphics also is free.

    I too though also have real racing and I don't play it if it had 40 cars I might play it if it had that plus better graphics I would def. And real racing ran smooth on my 3g and smooth on the 3gs I still use the 3g as a touch. I think they could push the 3g alot further I'm getting tired of crappy games I want something big and bad.

    Eliminate pro is all I got now online that's worth while and it's only like 60 mb

  • Justin

    I agree I've been complaining about the lack of games taking advantage of the 3gs I think they could get away with. 1gb sized game instead of pushing 100mb or 275 or something in dungeon hunter.

    Or like eliminate pro that has better map rendering on 3gs and better graphics also is free.

    I too though also have real racing and I don't play it if it had 40 cars I might play it if it had that plus better graphics I would def. And real racing ran smooth on my 3g and smooth on the 3gs I still use the 3g as a touch. I think they could push the 3g alot further I'm getting tired of crappy games I want something big and bad.

    Eliminate pro is all I got now online that's worth while and it's only like 60 mb