Gendai Games on Wednesday announced its GameSalad iPhone Early Access Program, which lets users of its software development kit (SDK) create and publish iPhone games at Apple's App Store. In an interview, Gendai president Michael Agustin stressed that GameSalad is "a tool for those getting started developing games but who don't know how to program. It's a robust toolset for game building."
Until now, GameSalad has been available only for the creation of web-based games playable at the GameSalad.com web site and shareable through Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. While that's nice, Mr. Agustin and the rest of the team at Gendai realizes the opportunity presented by the App Store's frontier spirit, where enterprising developers can stake out some turf for themselves and do well.
"I'm hoping to fulfill the same role as Dreamweaver did for web page design," Mr. Agustin said. "I want to do the same for iPhone games." He said that GameSalad is the first visual creation system for the iPhone -- previous ones were XML-based or required scripting.
To showcase what GameSalad can do on the iPhone, Gendai has also released three titles created with the technology: Flutterby, in which players control a butterfly who collects dandelions and avoids bees; the silly ninja movie parody Rock Paper Scissors: The Movie: The Game; and Spark of Life, which is similar to the first stage of Spore, except players guide a fledgling planet around the cosmos, rather than a single-celled organism swimming through primordial muck.
Rock Paper Scissors: The Movie: The Game
Of course, Apple controls iPhone app publishing, so GameSalad users who want to deploy their games on that platform need to pay US$99 a year ($299 for the enterprise version) to join Apple's iPhone developer program. And if they want to create and deploy an unlimited number of games, they need to pay an annual GameSalad subscription: $499 for indie developers and $1,999 for professionals. However, both give game creators 100% of the royalties generated by their games at the App Store.
The pro version of the GameSalad subscription offers several benefits, including a custom loading screen (indie developers have to use a loading screen with the GameSalad logo); the ability to endorse web pages and other iPhone apps within the game; advanced analytics; integration with social networks, such as Facebook Connect capability; online leader boards using custom servers; and more.
GameSalad is currently officially a free Beta, but Mr. Agustin noted that the final version will be free too. And while it's Mac-only at the moment, a Windows version is in development, he confirmed. Gendai also plans support for more web browser technologies (a plug-in is required right now), deployment of games as desktop executables, and a possible foray into the console world. "We're still evaluating that," he said of that last item, noting that Microsoft's Xbox 360 is the most accessible of the three current-generation consoles.
Academic institutions have gotten into the game too: Mr. Agustin said the University of Texas is using GameSalad to teach game design, and AMD sponsored a Game On event in the Austin, Texas school district where high school students were able to try out the tool.
"I was even contacted by a teacher in Indonesia," Mr. Agustin said. "We're hoping to do more with GameSalad around the world."