As i mentioned in another post (iPhone vs. the Basement Battalion), our decreasing faith in Flash development has lead us to investigate the iPhone. Our experiments in self-publishing our own Flash games (chronicled in our ongoing and depressing Pimp My Game series) have shown that there’s too much free content online to reasonably compete. The pricing models for Flash games are between $10-20 for a trial-based game, and zero dollars for most others. There’s a vast no-man’s-land in between. i’ve never seen a Flash game available online for between $0.99 and $9.99. It could exist – i’ve just never seen it.
So there’s a real need to fill in that pricing gap – the gap between “too much game” (i’m not likely to stick with Mystery Case Files long enough to get my ten dollars worth) and “not enough game” (the average length of time i’ll spend on a free online Flash game is two and a half seconds).
Ok, so i’m supposed to match three of the … LOOK! A DISTRACTINGLY SHINY OBJECT!
The (cr)App Store
The iPhone App Store fills in that gap admirably. While you still have a glut of free, mostly poor-quality games and apps, there’s a spectrum of higher-quality entertainment up for grabs between that $0.99-$9.99 range. More than ten dollars for an iPhone game is largely unheard of. But there’s a lot of debate currently raging among developers about what some are calling the “race to 99 cents”. They’re accusing most developers of devaluing their work, or gaming the system to get more attention for their app, forcing everyone else in turn to keep cutting the price of their apps until everything levels out at 99 cents, the lowest possible price to charge for content on the App Store.
Lengthy discussion follows many of these posts. And it was in reading these discussions that i formed my first impression of these strange beings, these “Mac people”, who i have been avoiding for so long.
i actually identify better with the witty fat guy than the arrogant, catty guy
Once Bitten, Mac Shy
i am a PC person. i’ve owned PCs for most of my life. i worked in a PC-only dev shop for over seven years. Every machine i’ve owned since i was 10 has been a PC. Because at 10 years old, i owned an Amiga.
The Amiga systems were better than the x86 PCs of the time. They were better for artists and musicians. They had better music and video capabilities. Images, animations and movies all played better on Amiga systems. Sounds like a certain fruit-branded platform we know today, doesn’t it?
The Amiga 500. It’s for artsy folks.
The problem with the Amiga platform is that everybody bought PCs, and the Amiga became more and more niche, until eventually all the hot software came out for IBM PCs and “clones”, and Amiga owners were left to seek each other out in weird underground support/software swap groups that met in the catacombs beneath ancient churches. i hear they had their own secret handshake and blood rites.
It was a lot like the BETAMax/VHS battle before it – you can argue til you’re fit to pop about which technology is best, and there may even be a clear winner … but the only thing that matters is what the majority of people buy. After i sunk $1000 into my Amiga 500 to buy a hard drive with a few MB of space on it, i saw the platform die a painful death soon after. Since then, i decided never to go with the “better” product, but always to side with the masses. Sometimes it hurts to be practical.
Yo Mama Uses a Mac
Sure, i make cracks about Macs just like the next non-Mac-owning guy. “i’m getting a Mac.” “Oh? i could’ve sworn you were straight”, and “Mac is so intuitive! To eject a disk – just drag the icon into the TRASH CAN”, etc etc. i bought into the stereotypes that 1. Macs were for creative (read:gay) people, and 2. that despite the company’s claims that the platform was super-easy to use, it wasn’t.
Well, it turns out i was actually right on both accounts. i started watching the developer videos for the iPhone SDK, and the parade of “creative” types reminded me of my stint in community theatre. Mac definitely, definitely attracts more gay dudes. As Seinfeld would say, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
My Mac is also nowhere near as easy to use as Apple would have us neophytes believe. You don’t have to spend much time with Xcode, Interface Builder, Keychain, and the iPhone Simulator before your screen is an absolute zoo of windows, modules and toolbars. Not only are the modules not integrated into a single system – within each module, there’s a laundry list of pallettes that float on your desktop and don’t reliably dock to anything, making it completely confusing to understand which program you’re actually working in. Of course, this is just my experience with Xcode, which is free – i haven’t tried any other Apple software, so i’m willing to reserve judgment.
If someone will tell me the Mac equivalent of the Windows-M “minimize all” command, i will marry your ugly cousin and paint your front porch
Impeccable Attention to Not Bursting into Flames
Where i’ve been really impressed with my Mac experience is in the hardware department. i have a MacBook – an older model, white Apple laptop – that cost me around $1200 CDN after i bullied FutureShop into matching BestBuy’s Boxing Week price. (Pro tip: they really back down on the warranty they try to sell you when you open up a web browser in their computer department and surf over to the pages and pages of Futureshop bashing on EhMac.ca).
My first laptop, my only laptop, is a beastly Dell XPS that i used $3k in corporate bursary money to purchase. It dents easily, and plaques and stickers are always falling off of it. It comes armed to the teeth with Dell bloatware, and it heats up to searing, kill-a-baby temperatures. It’s not a good machine at all, despite what CNet reviews would have you believe. (After buying some Dell monitors based on CNet reviews, i slowly came to the realization that Dell must sponsor reviews on the CNet site. i have since sworn off Dell altogether.)
My Dell XPS after seven minutes of operation. The “X” stands for “scorching bonfire”.
Dell must have done their marketing correctly, because people all over the place ask me how i like the XPS laptop – even when they can’t see the logo on the back of it, which mystifies me. It’s weird. It’s kind of like having this disease, and everyone oohs and aahs over it. “Oooh – the mumps! i’ve heard good things! How do you like them?”
Meanwhile, the MacBook is quiet and happy. The battery life is generous, and seems to outperform the XPS battery by a longshot. It coos at me when i start it up, and it’s gently stroking my thigh as i write this blog post. Something’s a little fishy about that last feature, but i’ll let it slide.
Drink the Apple-Flavoured Kool-Aid
One of Apple’s slogans is “Think Different”, and my early iPhone development experience has been just that – different. There’s definitely a different class of people posting on those message boards i posted above. They’re smarter. It’s obvious. These folks are a far cry from the teenagers hacking Flash and tossing out a mountain of free content from their moms’ basements – the Basement Battalion. The Flash community has its champions, but by and large, there’s a lot of desperate-seeming “me-tooism” and people doing their very best to learn Flash Actionscript so they can launch their sequel to Booby-Shooter 5000 on AddictingGames.com.
i dunno. Maybe i haven’t been around the Apple dev community long enough to have discovered the dregs. But i will say that through all of the Apple dev boards i’ve read, there seems to be this weird devotion to Apple. It unnerves me a little … “Apple” is spoken of with reverence, as if the devs are talking about a benevolent father figure instead of a corporation, who scolds them when they misbehave and who rewards them with technological goodies when they are nice. It’s a teensy bit Big Brother-ish, from an outsider’s perspective. A little cultish. i hope i don’t end up dead in a cot somewhere wearing new Reeboks with a mouthful of Kool-Aid in a bid to join Steve Jobs at the mothership.
Well … if the mothership is taking me to a planet where the market is crazy for independent games, and small shops are praised as a guiding light in interactive entertainment, i might just take a tiny sip.