Decisions…Decisions…

One of the advantages of pursuing game development as a hobby is the ability to work in ‘fits & starts’…..putting a lot of energy into the project when time permits, and then again taking short sabaticals when other priorities come to play.

That said, I must admit that one of the major disadvantages is that the project takes much longer than ever expected — and as I’m rapidly re-realizing that the technological landscape is continuously moving forward.

Two initiatives seem to be drawing my attention of late:

  • Tablet Computing, in particular the iPad, and
  • HTML5, especially the new <video>, <audio> and <canvas> elements.

Back in 2008 when I started thinking about the underlying design of this Napoleon at Waterloo historical combat simulation, I felt that a CD-based (or downloadable), PC installable game was the preferred end product — and chose Microsoft’s DirectX (and then XNA) as the best toolkit to base the project on.

In late 2009, the project was transitioned from an installable PC game, to a browser-based Rich Internet Application — with Microsoft’s Silverlight framework as the underpinnings for the User Interface, which allowed me to continue to leverage the large investment in .net application code for the majority of the underlying game logic.

And now it’s 2011…..

Apple’s iPad. What can I say — for years, I’ve focused on the Windows/Intel environment – both at work and home.  However, I’ve just started using an Apple iPad and have to say — it’s phenomenal.  Easy to use, clear and bright screen, app management is as user friendly as one can get.   I’m hooked.

So….should I consider developing a variant of NAW to work on an iPad?  It’s certainly a unique market niche…and there seems to be a demand for this type app.  I’m certainly starting to lean that way — though there are a couple considerations that make complicate the decision:

a.  iPad apps need to be developed on a Mac platform (using XCode), necessitating the purchase of a Mac and spinup in a totally new programming environment (that’s both good and bad);

b.  Application development would need to be transitioned from .NET over to Objective-C — not impossible, but definitely a major investment in time, energy.

That said – I think it’s not a question of if I create an iPad version, but rather, when I decide to make the $/time investment to kick it off.

HTML-5.  I’m hardly the expert in this field, but a quick read of the numerous new releases and blogs regarding HTML5 make it pretty clear that this is the direction the industry is moving in its support of Rich Internet Applications.  Now well beyond just an academic issue related to emerging standards — HTML5 seems to have become a viable platform for the type of gaming experience I’m developing.

Compounding the explicit messaging from Apple when it refused to support either Flash or Silverlight on their iPad product — just last month, Microsoft released its first major Service Pack for Visual Studio 2010, a major feature of which included support of the HTML5 schema.  Although VS2010 doesn’t support the entire HTML5 specification, most of the new elements and attributes are supported and Intellisense has been extended to support it as well.

Although there seems to be some differences across the Microsoft team — it looks like Silverlight is being targeted at specialty media and Windows 7 phone devices.  Not really the segment I’m looking to.

This certainly makes continued longterm use of a Silverlight plug-in design strategy suspect.  Over the course of the next 12-18 months, my sense is that the general public will become wary of ‘pain of plugins’, and will prefer the ease of running HTML5 within their current browser: IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc.

So….

How many plates can you keep spinning at once:

  • Complete the Artificial Intelligence modules of the current NAW prototype — staying in the .NET programming environment;
  • Re-Engineer from the Microsoft Silverlight-based Rich Internet Experience, to HTML5;
  • Build an iPad app of the NAW wargame – fully compliant with that unique operating environment.

Hence — decisions, decisions….my next step will be to make the call and develop a high-level Action Plan for where this project needs to go…more to follow in future blog entries this month.

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