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Devs React: Apple's new game-ready Apple TV and click-sensitive iPhones

Devs React: Apple's new game-ready Apple TV and click-sensitive iPhones

September 9, 2015 | By Alex Wawro

Evidently nobody told Apple that a September 9th console launch had already been done, because the company effectively debuted its own TV microconsole today in the form of a fresh game-ready Apple TV.

The box was the centerpoint of a press event that also encompassed a chubby new 12.9 inch iPad Pro and revamped iPhone 6S/6S Plus smartphones that offer developers a new way of reading player input: pressure-sensitive "3D Touch" controls. 

This new input method allows players to "click" on things in mobile games by pressing and holding the screen, and developers can offer feedback based on both how long and how hard something is pressed. Rebuild 3 developer Sarah Northway (of Northway Games) told Gamasutra via email that "I'm excited about the new pressure sensitive controls," but she's yet unsure of how to best use them in mobile game development.

"I'm not sold yet on using touch pressure to differentiate actions on the press of a button," wrote Northway, noting that it might be better used for contextual triggers like, say, tooltips. "But I can see it being useful to control speed or perhaps depth in a game."

Spry Fox's Daniel Cook is also excited about the possibilities of the new input method, though for slightly different reasons.

"I'm a big fan of the next generation of haptics hardware combined with touch...I haven't used the new phone, but from what I've seen the response time on this new class of hardware is so much faster and the range of responses is richer," wrote Cook. 

"I'm curious how it will impact more action-focused touch games and their virtual controls. Sloppy controllers limit the games you can make. As the controls evolve and allow for tighter, crisper input, the games are able to become richer and more nuanced alongside. We've seen this with analog sticks and mice. I suspect the same co-evolution will happen with virtual controls."

Cook has helped design Spry Fox games for a variety of platforms, from Alphabear on mobile devices to the browser-based Steambirds, and the news that Apple's App Store will be extended onto the new Apple TV boxes seems to give him hope that attention-starved game makers will be able to get their work in front of fresh eyes.

"The past indie explosion was driven almost entirely by the advent of new markets and new distribution opportunities," he told Gamasutra. 

"Those markets are maturing and we are seeing smaller teams starved of players, no matter how good their games might be. So any time that there's a new platform that offers a chance for a small team to reach players, it is worth paying attention to. I actually love that Apple TV has a unique controller. Big niches where established games struggle can be a godsend for indies."  

Cook and Northway weren't alone, of course -- a fair number of game developers took part in today's cavalcade of Twitter buzz around the Apple event, and some of them made useful observations. We've taken the liberty of embedding a selection of those below.

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