For the many that surely missed it, on Wednesday Apple quietly announced a new member of the iPhone OS family, the iPad. And, while it runs existing iPhone applications just fine in a pixel-for-pixel or 2x-scaled mode, the device with its 9.7-inch screen has much more to offer in the way of screen real estate (over 5x the pixel count of the iPhone) and both CPU and GPU power. The iPad proposition gives iPhone developers much to ponder in the way of just how best to support it.
James Brown, author of the lovely, zen-like frog manipulation game Anicent Frog [App Store] has, himself, begun to ponder the situation and has shared his thoughts on what he feels makes the most sense in bringing Ancient Frog to the iPad, in a recent blog post.
I can make the current iPhone application recognise the iPad and behave more like a native application on that platform. What I've done here is run it at 768x1024, but allowing it to letterbox slightly to retain the original aspect ratio (luckily the ragged border gives me a neat way to bring the edges in a bit, as well as a bit of room to lose some pixels top and bottom). This already looks way better than the previous shot - lots of elements are still blurry, but things that appear at varying scales in the game are already at a higher resolution. This means the text, the daisy and the particle effects are all crisp, which makes the whole thing seem higher resolution
He goes on to point out that fully supporting the iPad's enhanced resolution in his existing iPhone game would not only require a reworking of the graphics that make up every level, but would also push the game above the 10MB barrier for Edge / 3G download, which would greatly reduce the game's "impulse buy" potential for iPhone users.
Brown's plan is to bring the incremental upgrade that he describes, enhancing the game experience on the iPad in the near term and, down the road, release a separate, larger iPad-only version that takes full advantage of the device, but does not penalize iPhone and iPod touch gamers with a larger install.
For new games, moving forward, building in specific support for the iPad is one thing. But reaching into the back catalog to refresh existing titles for Apple's new device is quite another. Just what degree of iPad support is worth adding? What make the most sense? Once gamers start getting iPads in their hands, the early reaction to the experience of gaming on the device, as well as overall sales levels, should help answer that question. But developers and gamers alike should keep in mind the fact that, when the App Store launched, the iPhone had been on the market for a full year with millions of units sold. When a gamer downloads the first iPad game from the App Store, its market will be starting at zero. As such, it will be some time before developers determine where the "sweet spot" of iPad development effort lies.
App Store Link: Ancient Frog, $4.99