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8. July 2018


Apple have just rejected an application being updated on their app store due to “non-public API usage”.  This generally means the application used an non-official or undocumented API on their system and this is not allowed.  There are a variety of reasons for this, such as guaranteeing the application will run in the future if that API call is changed or removed, or it could be that the app is intended for Apple’s usage only.  Why is this relevant at all?  Well last month Apple deprecated OpenGL support and using Vulkan with MoltenVK was one such work around for supporting iOS and Mac OS 3D in the future without having to write your own Metal renderer.  That makes the timing of this news suspect.  This leaves three possible outcomes.  First, the developer could have made a mistake.  Second, the MoltenVK team may in fact be using APIs they shouldn’t be.  Or finally, Apple may be trying to force people into their developer ecosystem by targeting a cross platform tool.


The original notice of the app’s reject and MoltenVK usage was posted on phoronix.com:

We were alerted today by an indie game studio that one of their iOS games is now rejected by Apple over its MoltenVK usage. Specifically, the game was rejected for "non-public API" usage. Apple's rejection letter cites the use of non-public interfaces around IOSurface, which is used directly by MoltenVK.


There is also now an open issue on the MoltenVK github, which is most likely where this story will unfold.  If you are looking for alternatives to writing your own Metal renderer, be sure to check out our guide to OpenGL alternatives.  Just realize that MoltenVK may not be as good of a recommendation as it was before!

GameDev News


4. June 2018


Today was Apple’s annual developer conference WWDC with the usual swath of new products and betas announced.  Among the announcements was one of direct importance to game developers everywhere.

From the document What’s New in iOS 12:

Deprecation of OpenGL ES

Apps built using OpenGL ES will continue to run in iOS 12, but Open GL ES is deprecated in iOS 12. Games and graphics-intensive apps that previously used OpenGL ES should now adopt Metal.

Metal is designed from the ground up to provide the best access to the modern GPUs on iOS, macOS, and tvOS devices. Metal avoids the overhead inherent in legacy technologies and exposes the latest graphics processing functionality. Unified support for graphics and compute in Metal lets your apps efficiently utilize the latest rendering techniques. For information about developing apps and games using Metal, see the developer documentation for Metal, Metal Performance Shaders, and MetalKit.

They will also be deprecating OpenGL support in the next Mac OS version “Mojave”.  Deprecating doesn’t mean that OpenGL will stop working on those platforms, but it may in future OS revisions.  What it does mean however is that OpenGL support will no longer be updated, no new features, no new drivers, etc.  So basically if you want high performance 3D graphics on iOS and MacOS devices, you now have to use their native API Metal.  

If you want to develop cross platform for Apple platforms going forward you either need to use a game engine that does the work for you, or write a Metal renderer for iOS and MacOS targets.  There might be some hope however in the form of MoltenVK which enables Vulkan code to run on Metal.

GameDev News


26. September 2016

 

From the publisher (but not developer) that create the popular JRPG development kit RPG Maker, RPG Creator has just been released.  RPG Creator is a iOS only tool for creating and sharing JRPG style games.  It does not have interop with the desktopRPGCreator product, being a completely distinct product at least for now.  Here are details from the announcement blog:

RPG Creator is a completely separate product from the RPG Maker series for PC, with a different development team (and company).

We believe that in the future, RPG Making should be a fluid experience. In the experience we dream of, you would be able to start a project on your PC, draw maps and event on your tablet, record sound effects or voice acting lines on your phone and then bring it all together on your PC again to finish up and send out to every platform. This is the first step towards that goal.

If RPG Creator proves to be popular, we will invest more heavily into it’s development, such as looking at ways of integrating it with RPG Maker as well as creating an Android version.

To help spread the word about RPG Creator, we’ve got a few events going on.

RPG Creator Rebate
RPG Creator is Free to Play (ad supported) but you can also pick up the “Premium” version which has some extra features. As a special thank you to the RPG Maker community, we’ve set up a Rebate. If you purchase the Premium version of RPG Creator, simply forward a copy (or screenshot) of your receipt to [email protected] and we’ll set you up with a $5 credit for the RPG Maker Web store.

 

I created a quick hands-on video of the new free to download iPad app in action available here or embedded below.

GameDev News


8. July 2016

 

Released just a few days ago on the App Store is Continuous, a complete C# and F# development environment that runs directly on your iPhone or iPad.  It contains a fairly full featured IDE with capable text editor, programming friendly on screen keyboard and more.  In addition to the editor it contains everything you need for development, a port of the Roslyn compiler, VM as well as implementations of several key libraries such as Xamarins WinForms implementation.

From the App Store entry:

    • Continuous is always building and running your code so you can see changes as you type. Writing interactive apps in Continuous is a pleasure compared to the traditional code-build-run cycle. It frees you to make lots of small changes and see their effects immediately - no more waiting for builds or deployments and no more clicking around trying to get to the screen you're trying to code.
      Continuous looks and works in many of the same ways as traditional .NET IDEs so you'll feel right at home, but it also strives to advance the state of the art in IDEs with these features:
    • Full C# 6 and F# 4 compilers so you can use the latest tech
    • Automatic compiling and running so you can focus on the code and the results
    • Fancy text editor with tabs, semantic highlighting, inline error bubbles, and inline values that are updated as you type
    • Watch window enables you to view graphical objects in your app (UI and images), inspect live objects as your app runs, create instances of new objects, and call methods
    • Code completion with inline type info and documentation makes learning new APIs fun
    • Uses standard .NET file and project formats so you can share code with other IDEs
    • Includes Xamarin.Forms and UIKit to build apps and SpriteKit and SceneKit to build games
    • Split screen support so you can keep documentation by your side
    • Execution powered by a new IL interpreter

 

If you are interested in learning more I already did a hands-on video available here or embedded below.  After some more experience I may follow up with a full blown review.  If you are a C# developer and are interested on developing directly on your device, check out Continuous.  It’s a pretty amazing piece of software.

 

GameDev News


15. April 2016

 

The title pretty much says it all. While it is an unfortunate announcement, it’s not an all together shocking one.  For those who have never heard of it, RoboVM is a technology that allowed you to run Java applications on iOS devices.  Of perhaps most importance to game developers, it was the technology that enabled LibGDX applications to work on devices like the iPad, iPhone and Apple TV.

So how did this happen?  Well, it’s a bit of a story...

Back in May of 2013 LibGDX moved from (ironically enough) Xamarin to RoboVM to support iOS.  At this time RoboVM was open source and simply worked better than Xamarin at the task.  Everything was going well until October of 2015 when RoboVM was suddenly purchased by Xamarin.  Leading up to this point, the open source project was quietly shutdown and the future of RoboVM was suddenly in doubt.  Xamarin responded with free licenses for LibGDX developers, removing a great deal of the fear about the future.  At this point I had this, now somewhat eerie, exchange with Nat Friedman, CEO of Xamarin:

 image

The devil truly is in the details, eh?  In all honesty, Nat is a stand up guy and I don’t imagine he even knew what was coming next.  On the topic of coming next in February of 2016 Microsoft announced the acquisition of Xamarin.  For most developers this was ultimately good news, as just a few months later they made Xamarin free and open source.  The missing piece in this whole equation is what happens to RoboVM?  Xamarin’s goal was to own the process of porting to mobile devices, but Microsoft’s are more about pushing the adoption of their .NET developer stack.  Let’s just say Microsoft isn’t Java’s biggest cheerleader at this point.  So then, what happens to RoboVM when the dust settles?

 

That brings us to this day, and this announcement from the RoboVM team:

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working with the teams at Xamarin and Microsoft to assess the technology and business conditions of RoboVM to determine the path forward for the products. After looking at the complete landscape for mobile development with Java, the decision has been made to wind down development of RoboVM.

We have compiled an FAQ to help guide customers through the impact of this announcement. Please contact us at [email protected] for questions not covered by this FAQ.

What happens to my app developed with RoboVM?

This has no impact on the apps that our customers are currently shipping. If your app is currently working, it should continue to work unless Apple introduces a breaking change in iOS – just like any other iOS app. Android projects and apps that you have created in RoboVM Studio can be opened and compiled in Android Studio or IntelliJ IDEA, and any cross-platform RoboPods you are using on Android and iOS should continue to work in those projects, subject to breaking changes.

What should I do with the app I’m developing with RoboVM?

Depending on where you are in the development of your apps, there are several options available to move forward, including tools that will help you port to Xamarin, and alternative Java SDKs which target iOS. In particular, libGDX has just announced their support for Intel’s Multi-OS Engine, which means there is an alternative for the majority of RoboVM’s active developers. Beyond this, Microsoft and Xamarin are very interested in enabling your success in mobile and we’d like to help you move forward. If you’d like to discuss your app development plans, please email us at [email protected]

Can I continue using my license?

Yes. You will be able to continue to activate your current RoboVM paid or complimentary subscription until April 30th 2017. This should give you ample time to transition your existing apps to alternatives.

I purchased a license, can I get a refund?

Yes. We’re offering a full refund for all existing customers as of today. Please contact us at [email protected] to request a refund.

 

Translation, Microsoft took a look at RoboVM, decided it didn’t fit with their plans and put a bullet in it.  Ouch.  In this new world where Microsoft is trying to look more open source friendly and get away from their past of embrace, extend, extinguish, it’s sad to see they didn’t just re-open the source code and let the world continue merrily as it was.  Perhaps if there is enough outrage they may do exactly that, as right now the optics on this move don’t look too good for Microsoft.  I do however have to applaud them for giving complete refunds to every customer that requests one.

 

So, where does that leave LibGDX developers in the meanwhile?  While the post above linked to the answer to that.  Mario Zechner, founder of the LibGDX project, has made a rather extensive blog post on the subject.  I suggest you go read the entire thing for insights into the various options available, but I will reproduce key bits below:

RoboVM is dead, what now?

Quite a few libGDX folks have free RoboVM license keys to deploy their libGDX app on iOS. These license keys will continue to work until the 17th of April 2017. However, there will be no further updates to RoboVM, be it new features or bug fixes. The same is true for all the RoboPods the community came to rely on. Moreover, new sign-ups for free RoboVM Indie licenses will also no longer be fulfilled.

In short, if you have a game using RoboVM already, you can continue using RoboVM until the license expiration date. If you start a new game, RoboVM is not an option. In either case, you should move to an alternative as soon as possible.

What are the alternatives?

There are many alternatives to RoboVM, however, none comes quite close to what RoboVM offered. Let’s examine all the available options. We’ll look at them from various viewpoints: tooling support (IDEs, Maven, Gradle), bindings support, binary size, performance and Bitcode compatibility.

Before we dive in, let me elaborate on the Bitcode compatibility, as it is probably the most important feature. Apple recently introduced a requirement that prohibits submission of apps in raw machine code form for watchOS and tvOS. Instead, Apple wants you to submit your apps as Bitcode. Bitcode is a (not quite) machine independent intermediate language from which Apple generates actual machine code on app submission. Any solution that has no clear path to Bitcode is hence at a big disadvantage.

The Options (See Post for Features and Flaws of Each):

  • Mobile OpenJDK 9
  • Codename One
  • J2ObjC
  • Avian
  • Xamarin + IKVM
  • Intel Multi-OS Engine

--Snip--

What is the future of libGDX on iOS?

Tomski has already written a new libGDX backend for Multi-OS engine. Here’s the roadmap for libGDX:

  1. Clean-up the Multi-OS backend, integrate it with the libGDX Setup UI, and update the documentation. We are at a 95% status with this, i hope to have the code drop sometime this weekend
  2. Release a new libGDX version next week, that will make Multi-OS engine the default iOS backend for newly created libGDX projects
  3. Begin creating bindings for popular 3rd party iOS libraries. This is where we hope the community can jump in
  4. Keep the RoboVM backend around until the licenses expire (April 17 2017). We’ll try our best to fix any bugs in the backend, however we won’t be able to fix bugs in RoboVM itself

The roadmap of your existing apps should look something like this:

  1. Keep publishing updates using RoboVM 1.14.0 and the corresponding backend
  2. Immediately start adding a Multi-OS engine based version of your app for iOS
  3. Test it and report bugs on our issue tracker
  4. Switch over to Multi-OS Engine as soon as possible

 

So, that’s where we stand today.  The sky isn’t falling, the world isn’t ending, but we are certainly going to see some bumps in the road shortly.  No doubt some of you are going to be upset, but be smart about how you direct your anger.  Mario and the RoboVM team aren’t the villains here, in fact they just had their baby taken away from them, imagine for a moment how that feels?

It always sucks to see a good technology discarded for business reasons.  I think the happy ending for everyone would be if Microsoft open sourced the RoboVM project instead of killing it completely.  In the grand scheme of things it may not take off, the skills required to develop and maintain this kind of project aren’t common place.  It would however give the technology a chance to live and not be the casualty of a business decision.  More to the point, it would allow developers a great deal more time, options and a smoother ride in transitioning to a new solution.

At the end of the day this wasn’t a decision made by Xamarin, RoboVM or LibGDX.  The decision is 100% on Microsoft.  If you want to properly focus your response, that is your target.  Again, Microsoft is a company that is trying to improve their image with developers on non-MS platforms and in the open source community.  This action... certainly doesn’t help!

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