An Interview with Chris Dillman: iPhone Game Developer

Matt Barton's picture

It's my pleasure to publish an interview I conducted with Mr. Chris Dillman concerning game development. Chris is an iPhone and Mac OS X Software Developer with Plaid World Studios, a casual game company. Enjoy!

First off, can you tell us how you became involved in iPhone and iPod touch development?
I have been working for the last year developing a cross-platform 2D game engine using OpenGL that basically does everything an old SNES would do. As of April, it ran on Mac/Win/Linux. For me, the iPhone was just a 4th platform to add to that engine.

The iPhone looked like a wonderful chance to make good money on a emerging market. I figure the iPhone Bubble will last at least a year, and now is the time to get on the bandwagon. Back in April, I decided to jump in head first, and I have mostly been working on a iPhone port of the engine and our first games for the last 6 months. This also including going out to WWDC Apple's yearly developer conference and putting together presentations for investors and pitching to some VC firms interested in the iPhone.

What is your history as a games programmer? (I'm curious how you got the name Plaid World and whether you're able to sustain yourself on the income from these projects).
I am a primarily self taught programmer. As early as Jr high, I wanted to learn to make computer games. By the time I left high school, I had my first full game finished and a year later published, this was back in 94. Since then Plaid World has gone on to produce 5 more games for the Mac including 1 port to Windows and even a stand up arcade machine.

Until now Plaid World never made me a good living at least not directly. Turns out at least 1/2 of making a game is publishing and marketing. Not every partner we worked with did a good job of that.

Indirectly though, many of the the people I've worked with over the years were able to use our projects for portfolio work, landing them good jobs all over the game and computer industries. Now after spending the last 8 years with Lexis Nexis I'm working at restarting Plaid World again full time.

Currently we have 1 investor, 1 new shipping game and a full time game contract for another local game company. We are still looking for investors interested in the iPhone so we can expand. Finally, after years of working on games in my spare time, I can finally say I'm making a good living at it.

MouseHouseMouseHouseTell us about some of your current projects. How did they come about?
Mouse House is a cute arcade based puzzle game currently shipping for the iPhone. Later it will be released for Mac/Win/Linux. It started as a really cute test game for our new game engine. A simple puzzle game of limited scope based on proven game play styles would be a good way to test out the game engine and produce a quick product. I am told Mouse House resembles The adventures of LOLO in game play from the 80s.

What is the future of the iPhone/iPod touch as a games platform?
I'm not sure yet :)

Honestly, the market for games is in a free fall with prices dropping to 1$ a game, and only the top 100 games making any real money. It's going to take a while for the market to sort itself out. As it is, the App stores have 1800+ games in it already....unfortunately most of them are disposable crap. Which is to say almost nothing is on par with your average DS or PSP game. If you have a good product, then it's a matter of attracting eyeballs on the Appstore. We are publicly posting our sales and marketing data as we go at Looking at the sales, I see that the actual price has very little effect on a products sales. For example, we lower the price... this then gets reported on a number of web sites that track price drops. After about 2 days, we fall off the Price drop / New Charts and the sales again drop way down again. Right now we are working on getting reviews and doing other grassroots things to generate eyeballs.

Is it difficult to code for the iPhone?
Not at all. It's actually just like programming a Mac with OSX on it. The iPhone is basically a hand held computer.

410 Mhz Arm CPU + FPU
128 MB of Ram
and a GPU with 24 MBs of Vram.

I like to compare it to an old 400Mhz mac/pc with a Rage 128 Pro graphics card in it. To put it another way, the iPhone is fast enough to run Quake 3 at 60 FPS.

The development tools are free and anyone can get them from Apple and start coding today. The only thing you need is an Intel based Mac running OS 10.5. You can program the iPhone in normal ObjC, C, C++ using XCode, a high level tool that sits above the standard GCC compilers.

What advice do you have for aspiring games developers targeting the platform?
Read my Game development FAQ :) Everything you need to get started is in there.

Thanks, Chris, for taking time out to answer these questions!


Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
Short, but Very Interesting.

Something that rarely gets discussed on game-oriented sites is the overlooked cellphone game market. I found Mr. Dillman's answers to be very interesting and informative, with an easygoing delivery that doesn't talk over our heads.

I wish the interview was longer, but I don't know what else I would have asked. I guess it's just the fact that I wanted MORE!!!! :-)

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Joined: 05/20/2006
Good interview! I've been

Good interview! I've been working on iPhone apps since last year, but none of them are games. I've wondered what kind of performance you can really get. What really sucks is you don't know exactly how much memory you can use. iPhone and iPod touch actually have differing amounts of available memory. (The iPod has more than the iPhone) When you are using around 30 MB the operating system warns you. It's not like a game console where you know in advance exactly how many bytes you can use. And there are other programs running in the background, like Mail and Safari, and they can take memory & slow you down at any time.

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