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iPhone 6 and 6 Plus gaming

September 14th, 2014

What’s this? Two posts, in the same year? Madness!

As mentioned in my New Beginnings post- I’m gearing up for game development to become more and more central to my life, so this blog and my twitter account ( @ChronoSoft if you’re not already following me ) should be much more active than before.

Everyone’s heard about the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus by now. Many are excited for the possibilities of larger screen gaming, but some developers have concerns about games looking less than optimal on the new phones.

I fall somewhere in the middle of these two camps. Why? I like my pixels crisp, with lines so sharp you can cut yourself on them! That may be a problem with the new iPhones coming out next week, especially for games that do not get updated.

The screens on these new phones are fantastic of course, higher resolution than any previous iPhone generation. I have no doubt they will be beautiful. The issues I have stem from the “desktop class scaling” that Apple referred to during their presentations. I’ll try to explain the problem without using too much technical detail:

Both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will upscale existing apps to fit the new screen space available to them rather than show black bars as older iPhone apps would do on the 5, 5s, and 5c. Your older apps and games will believe that they are running at 1136×640, but the content is being stretched to fit either 1334×750 (on the 6) or 1920×1080 (on the 6 Plus). This means every game in the store will need updating in order to avoid this undesirable effect.

The iPhone 6 Plus actually has a second issue. In a nutshell the screen is rendered at 2208×1242 and then down-sampled to fit 1920×1080 (note that this is exactly how the Retina MacBook Pros operate). This will have the effect of subtly softening and blurring things, even when running native iPhone 6 Plus apps! I’m not yet sure if this will affect OpenGL or “Metal” drawing APIs. If it does, pixel art fans will notice the difference, and many will be unhappy.

Now, all may not be lost… I’ve not yet dug into the latest XCode and iOS SDK to see if we can target pixel-perfect 1920×1080 resolution with OpenGL drawing on the iPhone 6 Plus. It seems this should be possible, especially because 3D games usually need the extra rendering performance that could come from drawing at “only” 1920×1080!

I was tempted to buy an iPhone 6 Plus to dig into the problem first-hand. However, after testing their relative sizes with cheap cases I got from Amazon, I decided to go with the 4.7″ iPhone 6 as it was more reasonably sized for my hands and pockets.

My iPhone 6 should arrive on “launch day” this coming Friday, hopefully I can tweak Rogue Touch one more time to fit the new form-factor… and then it’s back to work on Spirit Hunter Mineko and Rogue Touch 2! 😀

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