It’s always an exciting event when Apple gather the world’s developers for their annual WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), and the one that was held at the end of June was no exception. The news was largely about the changes that are in store with iOS14 and, as usual, the tech giant didn’t disappoint.
Obviously, while much of the news was about using the iPhone and iPad. Some of the headline developments included features like now being able to unlock your car with your phone and the introduction of picture within picture technology, just two of a whole raft of changes on the way.
But there were two particular groups who will have been particularly excited by what they heard – gamers and games developers.
In the past Apple have been accused of overlooking gaming in favour of other areas that seemed more lucrative to develop. This is especially ironic as they led the initial wave of PC gaming with the Apple II. But since the advent of the Mac, this appeared to have gone well by the wayside.
There had been signs that this attitude was slowly beginning to change when, as part of iOS 13, they first introduced support for the Microsoft Xbox One and the Sony DualShock 4 controllers. At long last, this seemed like better gaming had suddenly become part of their agenda. Small steps maybe, but a very welcome development, all the same.
The changing scene of gaming
Unsurprisingly, there is some sound commercial logic to this move as PC and console gaming are gradually giving way to mobile and tablet varieties. Games developers themselves have been conscious of this already. That’s why even the most involved and complex games like the GTA series and retro favourites like Sonic The Hedgehog have been refined and developed for the smaller screen, and more limited controls, of mobiles and apps.
And it’s not just traditional games that have been making their presence felt on mobile devices. Online casinos are also being played more and more on them too and that’s why leading names like Virgin Games have optimised everything from roulette to slots to work perfectly in the smaller format. The increase in usage of online casinos on mobile devices is due to the needs and wants of customers wanting quicker and easier access meaning providers have adapted and created apps to meet this need.
With more players wanting to access games via handheld devices such as mobile phones, gaming providers have created gaming apps to meet this need.
Putting the player more in control
The more limited screen size is obviously not something that Apple can really do very much about, but it’s in the areas of how players can control and play the games that real advances can be made – and where they have been made.
Following on from the developments introduced with iOS13 as already mentioned, the updated version will now support the Microsoft Xbox Elite and Adaptive controllers, as well as enhancing the features available through Sony’s Dualshock 4.
Because gamers like nothing more than being able to personalise their in-play experiences, the new operating system will also allow for the remapping of buttons on all of its supported controllers on both a per app and a per game basis. It will also now enable the use of all four paddles.
Players using the Dualshock controller will also be able to enjoy the dual benefits both of motion control and haptic feedback, as well as using its touchpad. This is certain to enhance the whole gaming experience as the shudder of every explosion and the recoil of every gunshot can now be relayed to the player via the vibrating controller. There’s also good news for developers as one of the new features will be to programmer in the recording of battery level for the controller and feed back this information to players on-screen. This seemingly insignificant improvement shows exactly how committed Apple seem to be to become the gamer’s, and developer’s platform of choice.
Mouse and keyboard developments
Going even further in their attempts to achieve this, they have developed the ways in which mouse and keyboard can be used when playing on an iPad. Admittedly, this has been possible for a while, but the functionality has been fairly limited. For example, the use of multiple keys has not been possible, and the mouse has never been able to aim or control an in-game camera.
In all honesty, the use of the mouse has never felt 100% natural using previous operating systems, but the new developments mean that this is going to change. So, fans of first-person shooters or games that need a little more precision in the controls are going to be much better off. With the added ability for developers to over-ride pointer systems on devices, it’s also going to make full screen gameplay possible.
Apple are aiming to enable the use keyboard and mouse whilst games are being played via an iPad.
Refocusing the Game Center
It also seems that Apple is determined to create and enhance the whole game-playing community through a comprehensive overhaul of its Game Center. The stated aim is to make it easier for players to mark their achievements, record and view their places on leader boards and to find, meet and compete against friends online.
While the Game Center has been a feature for quite a while, like many of Apple’s attempts to satisfy the gaming community, the feeling is that it’s been a little underdeveloped. But now this is all changing with more than just a re-skin, more of a complete re-design that is 100% user-centric in approach.
Much work has gone into making it easy to navigate in order to find achievements and profiles. It’s also being backed up by extensive information and support for developers telling them how to get the very best from it in order to improve games and enhance the player experience.
Now it’s down to the developers
But, while these all sound like amazing developments that many might regard as being somewhat overdue, it is going to be up to games developers to exploit them to the full. There are plenty of reasons for optimism, though. That’s because it makes perfect business sense to use all the tricks and tools provided by Apple to make it the number one choice for mobile gaming.
And, if the company’s past record is anything to go by, this should be something that they can achieve with ease.