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John Calhoun’s Mac Classic ‘Glider’ Coming to iOS

It’s almost a certainty that no one who considered themselves a Mac gamer in the late ’80s or early ’90s could be unfamiliar with John Calhoun’s Glider.

Perhaps the quintessential early Mac game, Glider was first released as a black & white shareware title in 1988 under Calhoun’s Soft Dorothy label. The game challenges you to fly your paper glider from room to room through a series of houses while avoiding a wide range of obstacles and using only basic controls and updrafts from floor air vents to keep yourself aloft. It sounds simpler than it was, and what it was was a whole lot of fun. After the original release, Calhoun followed with several new versions of the game — Glider 3 perhaps being the most well known — and finally, in 1991, partnering with now-defunct Casady & Greene for the commercial release of Glider Pro (which is now available for free).

We’re happy to report that iOS gamers will soon have the chance to experience the magical little game that is Glider in Calhoun’s upcoming App Store release of Glider Classic. I recently had a conversation with Calhoun, who left Apple after 16 years this past summer in order to bring Glider to iOS, to find out more about his coming release.

After parting ways with Apple, Calhoun wasted little time jumping into the iOS game scene, releasing Lab Solitaire [App Store], a photo-realistic version of Free Cell, last month. After that was out the door, his full focus moved to Glider Classic, which is now complete.

The iOS version, from a play mechanics standpoint, is something of a mix of several of the early versions of the game. (The developer, and a number of the game’s fans, felt that Glider Pro deviated a bit too significantly from the spot-on formula of the original.) All of the graphics used in the game have been re-created with pen and paper, through a process that Calhoun details on his blog, giving the game a very clean look, evocative of the original’s artwork.

Glider Classic features tap-based controls and is a universal application that runs natively on both the iPhone and the iPad. In the first release, iPhone 3GS and 3G iPod touch devices will be the minimal supported platforms, though earlier devices will gain support in an update soon to follow. Calhoun indicates that a Mac App Store release of Glider Classic is also likely at some point, given that Glider Pro for the Mac is PowerPC-only and will not run under OS X Lion. In fact, we might one day see a desktop “house editor" emerge, allowing players to create their own houses for both the iOS and the likely Mac OS X versions of the game.

Calhoun told me that, from the view of an old-school designer, he absolutely loves iOS as a game platform. He got out of game writing way back when largely because the “big guys" came in and basically stole the show from indie developers like himself. He sees iOS as an excellent opportunity for indies to get their work out there and embraced by gamers, and it’s a notion backed up by so many one-man home runs we’ve seen since the App Store went live. Calhoun has a number of other iOS projects in mind to follow Glider Classic, and I’m anxious to see what we’ve got to look forward to.

In addition to Glider, Calhoun released several other games for the Macintosh in the distant past, including Glypha III (there’s an iOS version by another developer), Pararena, and Stella Obscura. For a bit more history on John Calhoun’s days as a Mac game maker, I recommend checking out Bitmob’s excellent article entitled “Dreaming of a thousand-room house: The evolution of Glider," as well as MacScene’s two part interview with the man in question.

Glider Classic is expected to arrive in the App Store this week at a launch price of $0.99. We’ll post a closer look at the game when it lands.