General Question

kevbo's avatar

What's involved in creating an iPhone app?

Asked by kevbo (25672points) February 4th, 2009

I have an idea to port an 80’s-era, turn-based, strategy/war game that I still enjoy and that is still available for DOS and Apple ][ emulators. The last time I programmed anything was probably in BASIC in the late ‘80s. Other than buying the SDK, what else would I need to learn to do this? What kind of time is involved? I believe it is abandonware, but what about licensing/rights issues? Who wants to be my Huck Finn?

edit: it looks like the original publisher was acquired a few times over ending with Ubisoft, which has retired the original brand name.

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7 Answers

kevbo's avatar

Also, I’m googling, thanks to this question.

jrpowell's avatar

The SDK is free. But you have to pay if you want to actually use what you make on your phone. But there is a simulator so you can test it out on your computer.

That is about all the help I can offer.

cwilbur's avatar

You’re going to need to learn a lot. Programming for the iPhone is very different than programming in BASIC. It’s hard to say how long this will take; it really depends on how adaptable you are and how quickly you grasp the concepts of object orientation, event-driven programming, and model-view-controller design.

If you’re reasonably adaptable and you have good learning materials, I think you’re probably looking at 6 months to a year between opening your first book and being comfortable and confident with iPhone programming. You might get your program done early on in that year (in which case you’ll probably hate your work and want to redo it later on), or you might try toy programs first.

You’re going to need a Mac. I think the SDK is only available for Intel Macs running Leopard. It probably won’t cost you anything until you’ve got something that’s approaching publishable quality.

Licensing and rights are irrelevant because you can’t copyright game rules. (You can patent them, but that’s not done very often.) If you haven’t seen the source code to the original game and you’re reproducing it based on observed behavior, you should be fine legally, as long as you don’t use names that might be trademarked. (All the Tetris clones get sued because the name Tetris is trademarked, and trademarks require active defense.)

kevbo's avatar

Thanks, @cwilbur. So if I copied the formulas/probabilities that the game uses to determine hits, damage, etc, then that would be a problem, correct?

cwilbur's avatar

Depends on how you acquired them. If you worked it out by playing the other game, probably not. If you copied the source code, or you used their manuals, probably.

There’s a concept called clean room reverse engineering that’s relevant here – if you don’t have access to anything that’s copyrighted when you build the system, you’re legally in the clear.

(And the idea that you should be fine legally doesn’t mean that Ubisoft won’t sue you—it just means that if they sue you and you can afford to defend yourself to the end, you’ll probably win.)

robmandu's avatar

Or, if you’re nine years old, you might’ve written an iPhone app already.

Also, Mike Eash has described the 22 step process for deploying your iPhone app to the App Store.

robmandu's avatar

Craig Hockenberry of Iconfactory (ever heard of Twitteriffic?) just posted a blog article called Bootstrap where he explains how to get started with iPhone development.

It gathers a lot of common knowledge and some direct references in a nice, tidy package.

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