Vespers on the iPhone…for real?

My last blog was mostly tongue-in-cheek, referring more to the IF version of Vespers on the iPhone running in Frotz. Still, there has been speculation over on the GarageGames forums that the Torque engine was being ported to the iPhone platform. I didn’t give it much consideration, though, since I figured (a) it would be a long way away, (b) licensing would be more than it’s worth, and (c) they’d be far more likely to port their 2D engine rather than the 3D engine. Plus, I can’t imagine Vespers truly running on the iPhone in 3D — surely there’s no way the phone could handle the load. It would beg for mercy, maybe even spontaneously ignite.

Well, so much for (a), (b), and (c) at least.

Yesterday, GarageGames officially announced the licensing and availability of the iPhone version of Torque. (It’s actually called iTorque, but really, it’s almost too painful to type that. Seriously. I’ll just call it iPVT or something until they correct that gaffe.)

By the way, what is that iTGE guy doing? Digging a hole? Farming? Shooting pool?

So it turns out they’re porting both 2D and 3D engines, which is pretty cool. And the SDK is apparently available now, although at first only to commercial licensees, which I’m not. The indie version is supposed to be available soon, after they’ve worked out some of the kinks. The nice part is that their licensing model is really not that bad: $500 for the 2D or 3D SDK (for current owners) with the right to publish one title; future titles are only $100 each. And no royalties for GarageGames, ever. That’s a pretty nice deal, all things considered.

The Unity engine will also be available for the iPhone at some point, which means that there will be a whole lot of goodness coming to the iPhone. I really know nothing about the iPhone and its memory or graphics, but I imagine since both Unity and TGE will allow for iPhone development, it must be at least somewhat capable.

My guess, however, is that 3D gaming will still be limited, at least for a while. I really can’t imagine that we’ll be seeing complex 3D graphical games running at acceptable speeds on that platform, although the smaller screen would presumably dictate (and allow) simpler, less intensive models. Maybe as the platform evolves we’ll see more powerful 3D chips able to handle large models and textures with detailed lighting. Who knows.

As for Vespers, I still have serious doubts.

Graphically, it’s a pretty intense game — even though that really hasn’t been the objective. The monastery is a fairly huge set of models with a lot of polys and some large textures, and it’s still makes my desktop cough and wheeze. There’s a lot we could do to simplify and optimize, but that would take a lot of extra work.

Then, there’s the whole interface thing. I think it probably wouldn’t be too hard to come up with an interface design to allow for simple movement similar to the typical W-A-S-D/mouse combination, but there’s still the accompanying text input and output. I don’t know. It might be possible, but it would require a whole lot of redesign.

Still, it’s nice to see the possibility there, however distant. But we still have a long way to go with the desktop version.

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  1. georgeolivergo
    Posted August 21, 2008 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    Wow, that is exciting.

    I’ve been thinking about a text interface for this kind of platform, and while I don’t even have a remotely similar device and probably won’t for a while, I think one possibility might be to combine all off the ui into a modified compass. Directional movement is obvious with such a thing, but I think you also might be able to do text with a kind of context-sensitive ‘spiral alphabet’ that rotates around the compass. This has the advantage of unifying the ui and keeping the screen space clear.

    The (possible) technology for this was referenced on your blog even, in the comments here —

  2. Aaron A. Reed
    Posted August 22, 2008 at 12:36 AM | Permalink

    Wow, and here I was thinking it was a long shot to get text-based IF on the iPhone. 😉 I’ve been trying to get Java Glulx running with the latest spec, in the (perhaps naive) hope that Java will start making it onto all the portable devices one of these days, and we won’t have to keep rewriting and resolving all the interpreter issues over and over again. It’s proving to be a lot more difficult than I’d expected…

  3. El Clérigo Urbatain
    Posted August 22, 2008 at 5:09 AM | Permalink

    You should watch some videos of properly done FPS on palm devices controled with a stilus pencil-pointer:
    Make a search about these games in youtube. They all has the perfect control for a FPS: “Dementium: The ward”, “Metroid Prime Hunters”, and “Moon”.

    Ok, I have not played Moon because it is no published yet. Metroid is a fast FPS shootemup, so is a bad example to follow. But Dementium, although it is a horror shooter, it has a slow pace, so slow, that the first time I get my hands on it, I get marvelled about the enviroment and interaction with it. Later it get less interactive and more shooter, but the good impression about the interface remains.

    I think you must go for a IPhone version, because it is a platform with a well established online shop, like Wiiware, Playstation Shop, and Xbox’s Live, so I think there could be more sales for that ways than online sell by the net for PC.



  4. Rubes
    Posted August 22, 2008 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    I think the UI would definitely require some sort of redesign, and the compass-style idea sounds pretty interesting. I still think there should be some way to enter text efficiently, but I haven’t used an iPhone so I don’t know how reasonable that is to expect.

    I’ll have to check out Dementium, too. It sounds like they have the right idea, but without a stylus I’m not sure how it would work.

    I wasn’t sure text-based IF would ever make it to the iPhone either, and I’m surprised at how quickly it did. I’ll have to play with it, but Frotz looks like a pretty nice application, especially with the link to IFDB. It really does depend on the interface, though. As for Java…I don’t know, I’d rather see you writing more IF than messing with that…

  5. El Clérigo Urbatain
    Posted August 23, 2008 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

    Ummmmmm, but Iphone is tactile, so, for sure it will have a stilus, like every Palm PDA in the world. Could anyone confirm this.

    On my NDS, then only manner to play IF properly is with the stylus. The same could be said about Palm devices, so, if not, Iphone will not be a proper device for IF. Hope it is. I doubt it doesn’t, it is pretty well designed.

  6. georgeolivergo
    Posted August 23, 2008 at 10:33 PM | Permalink

    Well, the iphone is a touchscreen, but you don’t get a stylus. You can buy an aftermarket one if you want.

    However I offer this random quote from the internets:

    “The key to typing on the iPhone is this: Stop looking at the letters that are being inserted; only look at your keys. Then type as fast as your fingers will allow.

    Before I explain, jut try it… No peeking at the results. Just the keyboard!

    So, here’s the deal: The iPhone has an awesome proximity-based spell check. What that means is when you fat finger a letter or twenty the iPhone will automatically show you (but not directly since you’re not looking at anything except the keyboard!) possible dictionary matches for words which use letters CLOSE to the ones you hit. This is very different from normal spell check which does alphabetic proximity.

    So, when you screw up a word, the iPhone displays its best guess as to what it thinks you meant and then when you insert any character that is a word boundary, it drops that replacement in place. After using your phone for just a little while, it’s *incredibly* accurate. I actually type nearly as fast on the iPhone as I do on a regular keyboard!”

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