iPad games and gaming: what you need to know

Essentially, with Nvidia's Tegra 2 the technology is already there for game creators to make interesting new experiences that could be played on the likes of Asus' soon-to-be-revealed Eee Pad or Notion Ink's intriguing-looking 'Adam' tablet PC.

"Hopefully games developers will start to make use of the capabilities that Tegra 2 opens up in some interesting ways this year," says Nvidia's Bea Longworth.

All that tablet PCs really need to convince gamers, as is always the case with a new platform, are a few killer apps. Those games that are way better on this platform than on any other and are also (ideally) exclusive to the platform.

"Tablets which support Flash are going to give you exactly the same type of experience that you have come to experience from a desktop computer, but in this newly portable form factor," says Longworth. "Gaming and mobile internet are going to be the key uses that drive the development of these things forward."

One leading game developer who really sees a lot of potential with Apple's iPad is Team 17's Martyn Brown, the man behind the phenomenon that is Worms.

"Unlike a lot of people I've spoken to, I totally get where Apple are positioning the iPad," Brown told TechRadar. "Whether it's the first iteration, the 3G, the 2nd Generation or whatever, I think there's certainly room for a device that's used for information & entertainment both in the home and outside of it, particularly as the need for constant tethering to a power source and storage facility become less necessary.

"For me, Apple's device, with its immediate content in the form of the App Store with many top apps destined to arrive very quickly at low prices, with the high user confidence in their quality/value ratio, looks to really take off – despite many people not claiming to "need" the device. I'd swap one for my laptop on business and I know my wife and even parents would be better served with that kind of device in the home.

As for games, the Team 17 man thinks that the iPad's "increase in screen resolution will mean a far better user experience in games, richer looker visuals and more opportunity for better gesture control. For me, it's a winner."

Bringing games to the iPad

Firemint Games' Flight Control has been one of the most critically-acclaimed games to date on the Apple iPhone. So what is the games' developer doing to bring its games to the iPad?

Firemint's Community Manager, Alexandra Peters thinks that multiplayer games and, "in particular board games and similar family-friendly genres," could be huge on iPad.

The studio is also very interested in those games "that require some information to be kept secret, like card games," so players might want to use their iPhone for their personal secret information, and the iPad for shared information and game progress updates.

"We downloaded the iPad SDK as soon as it became available," adds Peters, "and we've been working on a re-imagined version of Flight Control. We wanted to do more than just upsize the graphics, so we're really looking at the best way to play it on a larger multi-touch screen."

Firemint promises us that Flight Control iPad will be familiar to players of the iPhone and iPod touch version, "but it will also bring new aspects into play…it's still a bit early to go into the details, but we hope to have it ready at iPad launch and we're hoping that people buying an iPad will check it out."

Tarver Games' Chris Cross, the developer of iPhone game Ghosts Attack, is equally excited about the possibilities opening up for gaming on the iPad, telling TechRadar:

"I think all the iPad does it to make certain games more viable, particularly anything with touch as a primary interface. A good example of this is air hockey. It's just physically too restrictive to play multiplayer on a phone and share the same screen.

An iphone classic: tarver games'

IPHONE CLASSIC: Tarver Games' Ghosts Attack

"RTS and tower defense games will expand as well," adds Cross. "The screen size will also make driving games more enjoyable and the accelerometer or tilt steering feel more analogous to an actual steering wheel."

As for his own specific iPad plans, Cross confirms for us that Ghosts Attack "will for sure be on the Pad as soon as we can do it with an adjusted feature set…I think it'll actually be better on the iPad."

The Marmite Pad

So why has the iPad divided gamers and early adopters to the degree that it has? How did it instantly become a "love-it or loathe-it" bit of kit, before anybody has actually properly played around with one?

"Gadget lovers everywhere had massive expectations for the iPad because Apple has a track record of making awesome devices," says Firemint's Peters.

"Since there were no official details before the iPad's announcement, it was easy for everyone to get carried away and mentally design their own personal version of the super tablet.

For some people that vision coincided with what Apple revealed and they are delighted, and for others there were differences so of course those people were disappointed.

"The iPad seems to be designed specifically for mainstream consumer content delivery, so we don't think that its commercial success will depend so much on what early adopters think, but more on the crowds of people who would prefer technology to become transparent."

It is interesting to consider that many of the early reactions to iPod and iPhone were quite similar to what we're now seeing with the iPad.

"People's base reactions come from imagining how they would use the device," says game developer Chris Cross. "In this particular case the love and hate reaction is a divide between those that instantly understand the need for a machine that lies squarely between a smart phone and a computer and those that don't.

"I immediately see a use for it, particularly when travelling light if I'm on vacation or a short jaunt. I would also use it at the office as a satellite machine that I can take to other people's desks. Slightly more serious than a phone but not lugging around a laptop."

Daniel Boutros, Creative Director of iPhone developer Adept Games doesn't think that the iPad will not open up a major new market for games just yet, telling TechRadar: "I think for now, it will merely extend the iPhone's game market to greater sophistication in design, but only in the sense of presentation and UI (user interface, controls and depth of detail between those elements)."

The only immediate game design benefit that Boutros can see with iPad is more screen real estate "leading to multi-touch being more comfortable, more detail in visuals and therefore potential for more streamlined UIs across genres.

"Flight Control would be able have more planes and landing strips onscreen, we could do a 10x10 tile difficulty in Trixel, and FPSes like Nova could gain a newly introduced multi-finger control system with the hands resting on the device like a keyboard, rather than dual thumbs, to give FPS battles enough control to become a serious genre on iPad."

Boutros is far from keen on the idea of holding the device like a steering wheel, "as the weight is counter-intuitive to gravity making things comfortable, but as a lap-rested screen with touch / tap ideas, I think it could work very well for things like online pub-quiz style apps."

So there we go. Someday soon we may well see Apple Stores start to sell beer-shields for the iPad screen. You read it here first…

Adam Hartley