August 22, 2009

Applying Torque to Game Development II

When I wrote my first entry about iTGB and GarageGames, I mentioned that I would do a second post detailing my actual experience using iTGB and my impressions of it. So this is where I do that :)

But before I get started on that, I should mention one thing – the people I talked to at GarageGames were not sales people. GG does not appear to have any sales people as such. Everybody appears to wear several hats at GG and the people I spoke to were involved in development and documentation as well as handling the workload on the support forums. This might be another reason why things were so chaotic and I, as a potential customer, wasn’t getting the answers I wanted. But then again, I heard from somebody else later who said that they got an immediate response from GG, so maybe it was just me :)

But enough of that, on to the actual evaluation of iTGB. Now the way GG appears to position iTGB is that anybody who can work with their demo version of TGB can get going on iTGB quite easily. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case. If you have some knowledge of XCode and know how to troubleshoot XCode projects and so on, then you can get iTGB to work after some fiddling around. The default project that they ship with iTGB is not configured correctly. If I recall correctly, it was compiling the application under one name but was trying to launch it after compilation as another name and so would always say something like “Application <name> is not found at this location” or something to that effect. This could potentially confuse a user who bought the app thinking that things just worked out of the box.

In fact, the whole feel of iTGB is that it’s not quite ready for primetime. It’ll work but only if you are willing to put the time and the work in. You might have to go trawling through the source code to figure things out. You might have to modify source code. You might have to search the GG forums till you find a solution. You might have to apply patches. And so on. It’s rather deceptive of GG to sell it as a complete product when they don’t appear to have a complete product nor are they willing to support customers who’ve purchased the product and are having trouble with it after they bought it.

For instance, there’s forum threads like this one where a customer bought iTGB based on the hype and found that the product did not work out of the box. That thread has not one but two new iTGB customers asking for help. Have any GG support folk responded there? No. At the time of this post, even a month after the original post by the customer, and despite me having pointed to that specific thread several times in my conversations with GG employees, nobody has bothered to answer their questions. The attitude at GG appears to be, “The answers are there on the forums. You just have to search for it.”

Yes, the answers are there on the forums. But there are a lot of forums to trawl through. And while some of us might do it, a lot of people will throw up their hands in disgust and move on. Given that there are no refunds for iTGB (or TGB for that matter) once you pay for it, a part of me can’t help but wonder if perhaps this is what GG wants. They might consider it an easy way to winnow the serious developers from the wannabes but it’s again not a good way to run a business and certainly not a good way to build customer loyalty.

Speaking of loyalty, there are users on the GG forums who respond to support threads more often than the GG employees do. Some of them, as I’ve seen, do take the time to answer newbie questions. Of course, some of these people also have frustrations with GG because they’re questions and comments are probably ignored for months on end. So they tend to tell you how things are when you talk to them – they’ll tell you the good and the bad. But the response of one GG employee to these comments was to say something like “I wouldn’t pay too much attention to his words – he spends so much time here dissing stuff but has does not submit any patches to fix things” or words to that effect.

Excuse me? A customer has to pay for your product and then also help you fix it because you shipped something substandard? Are you serious? Well, apparently GG is. Or at least, some of the people who work there are.

I don’t like to criticize for the sake of criticism and when I do criticize I try to also offer suggestions as to how things can be improved. I did so when I talked to GG and they did make the usual noises about “We’ll pas it on”, “This will be given serious though” etc. but nothing appears to have come of it. If this is the same treatment that the forum folks get on a day to day basis, then I can certainly understand their frustrations and anger.

But back to using iTGB. I worked out the main issues with compiling for the iPhone and managed to get their demo application working. I then started working on a project of my own. Setting things up for left-right or up-down movement and gameplay appeared fine. There were a few issues but overall it worked. And being able to set up a game scene visually was certainly a great boon. But when I wanted to get some of the physics working – such as have a cannon ball being fired from a cannon and moving according to the laws of physics, things didn’t work so smoothly. There are a lot of settings to get physics working and some of the settings would interfere with others. Sometimes I’d have things working right but at other times it wouldn’t work so well. It was a frustrating mess where I basically was reduced to changing a setting, compiling the game, running it to see how it operated, and then going back and changing another setting, and then repeating the whole process.

I finally gave up and did something I should have done in the first place before I got all caught up in the glamour of using a WYSIWYG game editor – I gave about a day of my time to cocos2D. I was able to achieve my aims quickly, in a manner which made sense and I didn’t have to go through a whole bunch of trial and error cycles. And since cocos2D is free, the price is definitely easier on the pocket than iTGB :)

If you are not a hard-core programmer and want something easy to work with, and don’t mind the outdated documentation, the lack of proper support, and the need to sort through various XCode issues before you can get started, iTGB still would probably work for you. But if you don’t mind working through a bit of code to get what you want and actually enjoy seeing how things work when you do your game, then cocos2D might be more your cup of tea (or coffee or brew of choice). Of course, it also depends on the kind of project you want to do … but in the end, my final conclusion has been that you just can’t beat the price of cocos2D. And as far as I can tell, it’s being developed much faster than the paid game creation solutions :)

Be Sociable, Share!
Tags: Coding, Software
Posted by Fahim at 7:08 am   Comments (5)