When the iOS App Store launched in early July of 2008, I'm not sure anyone would have thought it was going to grow to the gargantuan beast it is today. Hundreds of thousands of apps later the iPad was introduced which complicated things further with 2x scaling for legacy app support, iPad-exclusive apps, and in some cases, universal compatibility. Last week Apple expanded the App Store ecosystem even further with the Mac App Store, allowing for iOS-style app purchasing in a desktop environment.

We've been covering the Mac App Store, because even though (currently) no Mac App Store purchases can be played on iOS devices, the two App Stores are much closer related than you might initially think. This morning I chatted with both Craig Kemper of Little White Bear Studios and Graeme Devine of GRL Games about just how much can be shared between both iOS and OS X games, and the work that has gone in to creating games on both platforms.

It's easy to forget sometimes, but behind the scenes of the game you're playing is a surprising amount of code that handles everything from the graphical output to the core logic that makes the game play. In the case of Compression [iPhone / iPad / Mac], Little White Bear Studios is topping 25,000 lines of code to make their game work. According to both Kemper and Devine, a surprising amount of code can be used between the Mac and the iPhone, even though they are completely different devices.

How portable a game's code is depends heavily on the the graphics technology used. For instance, if a game leverages something like Unity or cocos2D, the porting process between OS X and iOS platforms could potentially be as simple as retooling the interface to be touch-based or keyboard and mouse-based. Of course this is an oversimplification of the work involved, but Graeme was able to port the upcoming iOS version of Clandestiny [Mac App Store] to be ready for the Mac App Store in a single day.

In the future, Kemper suggests that developers are going to need to consider the Mac, the iPad, and the iPhone as the three target platforms for their games. The way he sees a potential development cycle going could involve planning a solid game for all three devices targeting the Mac first, because developing for a keyboard and mouse is generally more straight forward. Also, both performance and memory issues likely won't be a problem on a desktop platform compared to the somewhat limited resource pool of iOS devices.

From there, the developer could switch gears to work on a solid touch-driven interface and address any potential performance and memory optimizations that need to be made to make the game run on portables. If developers adopt a workflow like this, the Mac App Store could serve as an excellent crystal ball to gaze in to the future of the iOS App Store, much like how the New Zealand App Store gives us an early glimpse of what's coming to the US App Store.

As a part of this discussion, Graeme brought up an interesting point in that targeting all three of these platforms could potentially lead to mediocrity if the project doesn't lend itself to be a great game on every platform. We're already seeing a bit of this, as excellent games on iOS devices such as Angry Birds and Flight Control feel like quite a bit has been lost in translation when you replace their fantastic touch-based controls with a mouse pointer. This could potentially be an even larger issue in the future as the performance gap closes between both portable and desktop devices, ending in the game's interface being the only thing in need of changing.

Several games already exist on the Mac App Store that would seem to fit well on iOS devices in the future. Bejeweled 3, and And Yet It Moves seem to be perfect for all iOS devices. Precipice of Darkness (Episode 1, Episode 2) and Gratuitous Space Battles would be awesome on the iPad. If it wasn't for the Mac App Store, we wouldn't have had any idea that these games could have even potentially been coming to the iOS platform.

We're going to keep a close eye on both the Mac App Store and the iOS App Store in the future to follow how developers actually end up using both of these virtual storefronts together. Taking in to account how trivial it is to port between both platforms, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see developers targeting the Mac App Store first, giving iOS gamers a sneak peek of what's to come on their portable devices, making the Mac App store very interesting regardless of whether or not you even own a Mac.

  • Sl1pstream

    Can we get one of these articles about Steam as well? A lot of games were released on Steam ages ago and are just now appearing on the Mac Store. Some of them even got ports to the iPad before this thing launched.

    Of course, that wouldn't fit into the whole Apple fanboyism thing. Then again, reviewing something that has nothing to do with iOS doesn't have much to do with this website either.

    • Adams Immersive

      Good idea—an overview look at gaming “app stores” in a more general sense would make a very interesting TouchArcade article. Steam, XBLA, even Aspyr Game Agent and Amazon’s new Android store and Google’s Chrome store.

      But you have to admit that the Mac App Store is a LOT more closely tied to the iOS App Store than Steam or any other store is. That’s not fanboyism, just reality. People get emotional about the ties between iOS and Apple, but they’re real and sometimes interesting!

      Your fandom of Steam is well-deserved—I like it too and have been on a Mac spending spree there myself--but nobody is denying the value of Steam or when Steam came out. It’s just not what this one article is about.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I actually keep an eye out for all kinds of mobile games on all platforms, but currently it seems like the iOS App Store is king... And anything cool filters out via half-baked ad-laden ports to other devices. (Like Angry Birds for Android, for instance.)

        This applies very well here: http://daringfireball.net/2010/11/where_are_the_android_killer_apps

      • Adams Immersive

        Looks like someone’s using the Disqus Flag feature to temporarily block thoughtful comments they wish were silenced... A temporary problem of course, since Disqus isn’t going to like abuse of that feature.

      • Anonymous

        One of my posts was "flagged" as well. Never had that happen before. Weird and annoying.

    • http://twitter.com/eeen Ian Marsh

      I think the Mac App Store is more attractive to developers than Steam if they are specifically targeting the Mac as a platform. Steam controls what games they sell much more than Apple does. Also Apple never puts pressure on developers to charge certain amounts or put their games on sale.

    • Frumius

      Huh? If you read it, you can see that it has very much to do with the content covered by this website. Amazing you missed it.

    • Anonymous

      Well yea you're right. There's really nothing distinct about the Mac App store: its basically the same thing as Steam and any number of other download based software marketplaces. There's at least one market like this for Ubuntu Linux that's been around for years, Steam has been doing this since 2004, and I'm sure there's others I don't know about stretching back into the 90s.

      But this is an Apple specific thing so people are going to write massive buzzword filled articles filled with massive, sweeping over-exaggeration. People are going to act like its some completely new avenue released in a vacuum that will somehow change the world, even though the world has already been changed by the people who did it before.

  • HelperMonkey

    But would a "Mac first" mentality eliminate games like Infinity Blade, which are not just "optimized" but conceived of foremost to make use of touch mechanics?

    • Adams Immersive

      I don’t think “Mac first” makes sense a lot of times, simply because the Mac is more powerful: I’d rather “keep the Mac in mind” (and other platforms too for that matter) but build for iOS first, making a game that’s playable well on this mobile platform, and THEN add the extra eye candy (etc.) for Mac. Rather than the reverse: design for Mac and rick a nightmare optimizing it to play well on mobile chips. (And I’ve been through this partly myself, with a touch game I hope to release some day. It started on Mac and went to iOS, and so far that’s turning out well—but I do think the reverse would be easier!)

      In terms of controls and UI, many games really need to be aimed at one main target platform. There can always be the hope that it will adapt well to the other interface (touch vs. mouse/keys), and it’s worth thinking ahead to multiple platforms. But trying to be “all things to all platforms” is not always the road to greatness!

  • http://twitter.com/dusser Rasmus Andersson

    Games should be developed with one platform in mind (or, more correctly one type of platform. ie you should make your game for PS3 and Xbox 360, but not also for the Wii. You should design your game for iPad, not for iPad and PC).

    The problem when you design a game for several different platforms is that it's very likely that none of the versions of the game would be it's best. You need to design the games after what the platform is good at - not design the game and then sit down and think "hm..how can I redesign this to make it work for another platform?".

    All platforms has limits. If you're going to design a game that will work on iPad, iPhone and PC/Mac, you'll get three times as many limits which will in return...limit the potential of your game.

  • Guest

    You should not forget that there also is Apples Magic Trackpad, which might provide some slightly more iPod-like gameplay mechanics.

    • http://twitter.com/johnhood John Hood

      I've played Angry Birds for Mac, using Apple Magic Trackpad, and it works wonderfully.

  • Adams Immersive

    Also, I’d say that the store, while exciting, is less relevant than the OS: the ease of game porting, the sharing of Xcode tools, the sharing of new technologies like Core Animation, etc.—those don’t come from the App Store alone, but from the shared underlying OS. In fact, I see the Mac App Store (and parts of OS X Lion) as being just instances of the larger pattern: iOS and OS X sharing technologies and innovations back and forth.

    So while the iOS App Store is the basis for the Mac App Store, it may be even more relevant to remember that Mac OS X is the basis for iOS. So we’ll keep seeing Mac features arrive on iOS and iOS features come to Mac.

    Either way, the Mac and iOS platforms have close ties beyond the obvious one of being created by Apple. It’s an interesting time!

  • http://dendory.net Dendory

    Apple is smart there is no question about it, the AppStore will sell macs and mac software.

    • EastsideStompers

      I'm not too sure about that. I mean, take Angry Birds (just because it's being talked about a lot). It's all about the touch screen for me. Take that away, and it will end up being just another casual game. I don't want to play my iDevice games on my mac, and I certainly wouldn't buy a mac to get in on the Mac App Store, unless they started to deliver games equivalent to the likes we see on Steam, but that's not likely to happen really is it. It is Apple we are talking about. When it comes to serious gaming the choice has always been a bit feeble.

    • EastsideStompers

      My post vanished into the ether...weird. Anyway, all I was saying was that I thought it was unlikely that the mac app store would attract people to buy a mac, just to play games they can play on their iDevices at a fraction of the cost. Games that have been designed now with the touch screen in mind. Take that touch screen away, and all the innovative pizazz goes out of the window.

  • Anonymous

    I just shared my own point about mac app store http://rouslan.com/2011/01/mac-app-sore-my-experience/

  • bomber

    Actually the Mac is missing a lot of APIs (GameCenter, in-app purchases etc.), but Apple will hopefully add those on Mac too. We had some work getting the Mac accelerometer work in Cocoto Kart Online, but it's working now 😀 (although more a gimmick)

  • Anonymous

    The Mac App Store needs a lot of improvements. It looks a lot like the iOS app store, including all the same limitations, which seem especially egregious on the Mac. I recommended my Mom upgrade to 10.6 so she'd get the Mac App Store, but that was before I tried the MAS myself. I should have waited.

    It's a combination of both way too much information and not nearly enough information. I.e. a sea of incomprehensible application icons and then only a portion of their titles and no description whatsover to clue you in to what the heck they are. You have to click on them and wait for the full page to load. Repeat 100 times. Or not. With each days passing I'm starting to conclude that it's just downright horrendous. I really wish I hadn't suggested it to my Mom as an easy way to find applications. It does make them easier to download and install, though. I will give it that. But for finding things she might like? I don't think it's that at all. I think if I locate things she might like for her, and then email her a link to them in the MAS, she'll probably do fine with it, but the Mac App Store could be so much better then it is.

  • Fv

    why not use an i-device as a controller on macs for mac appstore games? simples surely?

    • Frumius

      That has been done in at least one instance already, see Majic Jungle's Chopper 2 game.

      • Dave

        I have yet ti get that feature to work!! Tried 10s of times with no luck.

      • Adams Immersive

        Also Pinball HD—or rather, the equivalent pre-App Store title. There is/was a free Pinball Remote app that could control it. It worked pretty well.

  • http://twitter.com/AhiruDuck Ahiru Nakamura

    great article!!

  • Anonymous

    Another problem, and one that Angry Birds has run in to, is that apparently the Mac App Store doesn't check requirements being met before allowing purchase or download. Angry Birds' star rating keeps going to down due to all the upset customers for whom the game doesn't run due to them not have an Open GL 2.0 savvy graphics "card". They shouldn't have been able to buy it in the first place.

    If Apple doesn't come up with a way to do this, then I can see devs going lowest common denominator and only releasing apps that work on all hardward that can run 10.6.6, as otherwise they set themselves up for grief and bad ratings.

    • Pen_sq

      Plus, Apple doesn't allow LITE versions of apps in the Mac app store. Developers have to host their program demo elsewhere online, not paid for out of Apple's 30% commission. I can definitely see developers come close to going viral, their demo hosting suddenly starts handing out "403 Bandwidth Exceeded", and they fizzle.

  • andrzej raczynski

    i didn't see the subject answered. why should i care about the mac app store? i have access to a mac laptop at work, but i've personally always hated gaming on laptops, pc or mac.

    not about to bother with a mac desktop.

  • Teodor P

    There's one thing that I've been hoping to see for a long time: having the same game on 2 platforms with transferable saves. Just imagine playing the game and then taking it with you on the go! I was hoping for this from Sony's ps3 and psp but they seem to have other priorities in mind. Obviously the portable game Would have crappier graphics & sh*t but you get the point. As I hear, the iOS version of Dead Space will be the same with the one from consoles/pc so this is possible.
    Also the driving games could use the iPhone as the controller.

  • Teodor P

    Oh I forgot to mention the Appletv that could become a console if apple shows some interest.

  • The Truth

    this is probably apple's first step in turning macs into oversized iphones. i bet the next version of os x won't let you install any non-appstore apps.

    • Anonymous

      uh, no. don't be an idiot.

      • Anonymous

        I bet next time Steve Jobs takes thte stage, he will bring along a gun and shoot himself in the foot, in front of the audience!

      • Jenkum

        Hows that being an idiot? its a sarcastic comment made in the hope that Apple will not go down the route that has been sarcastically foretold.

        Of course, if by being a idiot you mean "disagreeing with my own fanboy opinions" then you are right.

      • Anonymous

        it sounded a lot more like ridiculous speculation than sarcasm.

  • Anonymous

    It's the games that matter, not the store. Where's Assassin's Creed 2? Where are the EA games? I would have bought Assassin's Creed 2 again if it meant that I could transfer it across different Macs.

    • Lamshade37

      there is harry potter years 1-4 on the mac app store (console version) selling for $49.99. instead of the watered down IOS version. though granted, it's not on the same quality of assassins creed 2, (console version).

      • Selidor

        Is that still available on some of the Mac App Stores? I saw it initially, but within a day it seemed to vanish from the UK store at least.

      • Lamshade37

        not sure, (i don't have a mac). i only knew that it was in the store from the article here on toucharcade. sorry.(:

      • Selidor

        Oh, I don't mind since I wasn't planning on getting it. I was just curious that it had been pulled from the UK store.

  • robotsvswizards.com

    So many of all these opinions tend to lump all games into the same category.

    Some games work well on multiple platforms.

    Some work best on only one.

    Not all games are the same in that respect.

  • Teodor P

    Where did my first comment about compatible saves disappear?

    • Adams Immersive

      A number of people have been affected I think. Something fishy going on—either some Disqus bug, or someone falsely flagging a bunch of posts here as abuse and getting them deleted. (Not sure how the latter could happen though, since I know my several missing posts were not abuse! And apparently Disqus comments are moderated by the site, not by Disqus, and I don’t see TA making that many moderation mistakes. So I lean towards the bug theory.)

      My first post in this thread was flagged, and all the others (2 or 3) simply vanished; is that normal when something is flagged? Maybe when TA re-instates my flagged post, the others will re-appear? (Clearly I can still add new posts after the flag, at least.)

  • Gumpybear

    "Not like choice, need told what buy brruurrruuurrrruuurrr"

    meanwhile later that day "sliced bread, best new invenshun eva! brruuuurrrruuurrrururr"

  • Philipp Lenssen

    Agreed. As an iOS developer (but also as a gamer) I really hope you keep up coverage of related systems and even competing platforms. Heck, even a post on how certain iPhone top sellers do on the Android market could be interesting, or how competing tablets are springing up all around this year. The Mac store is very relevant to the iOS store as it's such a close-distance neighbor, so it can influence what happens on the iOS...

  • Anonymous

    Angry Birds on Mac doesn't "really" use a mouse pointer, except for menus. When it comes to firing the catapult it behaves exactly as the iPhone version does. Drag in any direction and you're instantly pulling the elastic, it's not like you have to hover the cursor over it and click, so ideally you should be using a MacBook's trackpad to get the full effect. To me it feels even better than other versions as it behaves practically identically but your finger isn't obstructing the view.

  • JrHicklevator

    Steve Jobs: Hey have you seen the crap that sells on the App store?
    Grunt: Yeh its crazy
    Steve Jobs: I thought we'd missed the boat a long time ago with games, but our audience don't seem to know any different
    Grunt: Lets do a crappy version of steam selling them "special" games
    Steve Jobs: What do you mean "Special"
    Grunt: You know, like "Special" Olympics.
    Steve Jobs: Let it be so!

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