How to Make a Simple iOS Game

Did you notice how crowded the App Store is with mobile games, right? And the new ones just keep coming every day because this industry is a multi-billion dollar business. More and more developers choose to turn their attention to it, but not everyone knows where to start. That’s why we wanted to present you a quick step-by-step guide on how to begin in this field.   

Note: We assume if you found this article you already have a bright and original idea along with programming skills.

What You Should and Shouldn’t Do
1. Game’s type
2. Screen size assumptions
3. Design & Art
4. Components
5. Mechanics
6. Wireframing the app
What You Should Use
Implementing the Design Yourself
Your Starting Set
iOS Game Development Courses and Resources
Online literature
Engines and Development tools
How to Make a Game on iOS: Final Stage

What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

First of all, keep in mind that it’s always wise to start with the development of a simple app and put your big ambitions aside for future experience. Users should be engaged and not confused while playing. Just shape the concept and state the direction you want to take with your unique application, be creative and avoid copying others ideas. Think outside of the box even if you’re trying to build a Math Quiz or a Maze.

Like with any other app making process, the creation of a mobile game has different stages that are equally important. Neglect some of them? Well, hello, disaster! To build a good game, you need to go all the way – spent some time and money and do your homework. It could be fun and easy if you’re an expert, however, a freshman can expect some difficulties. That’s why we outlined for you these technical steps of the game development on iOS. Get started with your project right now!

1. You should choose app’s type

A clear idea is good but what about the niche that your ‘child’ will take in the App Store? There are dozens of different categories, genres, and types... From the traditional puzzles to high-tech augmented and virtual reality games. The people always search the list based on their preferences, so you have to orientate on your future target audience.

Usually, common genres are: Action; Strategies; RPGs; Adventures; Sports; Racing; Social; Cards. Still, the classification is much wider. Check our post about iOS Game Marketplaces to find out more and choose the right type for your app. After this, you’d be able to point out specific components that are necessary for your new product.

2. You should neglect the screen size assumptions

Screen Size Assumptions

That time when the only available screen size was in constants has passed. The iPhone 5 release changed the whole experience and the era of redesign came up. Now, the platform forces us to always place components relative to the variable screen size and forget about the hard code assumptions.

The space is everything you’ve got and it’s not much when you need to include a range of elements that define the app’s type. So pay attention how you use this space because you must ensure that a game looks and feels perfect on customer’s iPhone, considering the device model. Every screen size coding requires an individual approach.

3. Design & Art

What makes the game a great one? Of course, its eye-pleasing graphics (story-fitting art style) and visual appearance. It’s the first things we see and fall in love with. Everything from the sound effects, maps, equipment, and characters to colors, textures, and menu must look and feel realistic to enhance the overall user experience. The one and only purpose of the UI design is to fascinate a player and pursue him to stay with your product. A poorly designed mobile application is a total waste of time and money, which equals a developer’s failure. The bad plot could be forgiven. A bad graphics? Never.  

iOS game design is a multilayer process too, so you should seek an assistance of various specialists:

  • Digital artists that sketch ideas, characters, sceneries, and apply textures (those could be easily found in appropriate online communities and forums).
  • UX/UI designers are responsible for general layout and feel, animation, 2Dand 3D-modelling (these guys may ask for a high salary).
  • Level editors, who maintain the complexity level by creating architecture for app’s segments (objects and landscapes included).

Design & Art

To understand the core elements of such type of design, get yourself a couple of high-ranking essential iOS applications from the App Store and study them in details. What UX and UI they offer, what elements and icons they use and how they arrange them on the screen, etc. Check this little lifehack on how to get paid iOS games for free without jailbreak. Also, you can look for the game assets web resources that provide a whole bunch of ready-made fun, interesting, and jaw-dropping templates, free and paid ones.

4. Components

Now, let’s talk about what represents your app’s world. All that characters, locations, and objects that exist there... every such element has to serve a purpose, not just occupy the screen space. And don’t forget to handle winning and losing scenarios – people like a game where they’re being properly rewarded for success. This means scoring points, leaderboards of achievements, and encouragement banners in case of a player’s failure.

The basic examples of components would be:

  • Heroes & Villains
  • Weapons & Vehicles
  • Locations & Maps
  • Levels with chapters and fun subplots
  • Rewards
  • Player tutorial & Menu  

5. Mechanics

Moving on from design, we are at the stage where you must develop all the actions that your characters and other game components would do (or would be done to them). This element outlines your application’s difficulty level, so it must always follow the general rules of the game space. And all the mechanics that control user input and everything that defines the play part should be made in code.


6. Wireframing the app

Well, it’s time for fun, don’t you think? At this point, make your product come to life to a certain degree. Create application’s model by digitally drawing the façade with an assistance of development tools. It’s called wireframing and prototyping, which we explained in our previous article.

A quick list of helpers that you can use for wireframe mockups:

How to Create Games for iOS: What You Should Use

Great idea needs to be backed with coding skills that are great as well. Important technologies for you to learn are:

  1. SceneKit and SpriteKit for a simple 2D product (languages Swift / Objective-C, though the first one is better).
  2. Unity (typically C#) for other types of games, including sophisticated 3D ones.

If you’re a newbie in Sprite Kit Performance, check the guide iOS Games by Tutorials to get a grip of texture atlases and general basics. SpriteBuilder is the best free and open source choice in case of creating sprites (characters).

Implementing the Design Yourself

Okay, after you’ve wireframed your app’s structure the coding part starts. In addition to Swift, you’ll need to install the Xcode toolset for creating Apple mobile applications. It includes Xcode IDE,  iOS Simulator, Mac OS X and iOS SDKs, and performance analysis tools. In a word, this is your best friend when you plan to create an iOS game app.

But there is also no reason for you to start from scratch –  there is a variety of existing Source Code / App Templates all over the Internet. You can find dozens of source codes and comprehensive Xcode projects available for download on GitHub. Get yourself an account, team up with other developers, and learn the coding specifics collaboratively. And simply Look for a support community where you can share your ideas and ask for an advice from experts in the field. It might be a meetup group, a developers forum, or a Twitter group. Reach out to people, don’t fight the battle alone.

Your Starting Set:

  1. A Mac and iPhone/iPad
  2. Xcode 8
  3. Art from free Game Art Guppy
  4. Sound effects from and free sound-editing program Audacity

Starting Set

iOS Development Courses and Resources

Everyone starts from a theoretical side before jumping to practice. So, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, these courses will help you learn a thing or two about the video game development.

Online literature

  1. Apple Developer – wanna be an iOS guru? Study the source itself. There a lot of supporting content available.
  2. Game Center for Developers – here are the educational videos on all aspects of such development.
  3. – most famous and the coolest storage that provides tons of tutorials and courses (from programming languages introductions to building platforms). There are even various complete guides on how to build certain types of games.
  4. Gamasutra – a quick guide for those who are new to iPhone development.
  5. iDevgames Programming for beginners – a nice guide with a bunch of articles, programming books, info on libraries, engines, and languages.
  6. Publishing a Commercial iPhone Game – a very useful step-by-step guide from the developer of Asterope.
  7. Game Development Stack Exchange – for asking questions and sharing problems. A community of developers that are ready to help at your fingertips.
  8. V-Play Free Resources – wondering how to make a mobile game in 7 easy steps? This is the right place.
  9. EDUmobile – a collection of tutorials, programming tools, and more.
  10. iOSOnlineCourses – if you’re a complete stranger to programming techniques and looking for a guide on how to create iOS games without coding.

Engines and Development tools

Doesn’t matter if you plan to make a simple application or more sophisticated one, there are dozens of building tools for any purpose. The best and most effective of them are listed below:

1. Game Maker: Studio (GM)

A cool engine for creating an application using just the drag-and-drop interface for variables and a game logic. Has its own flexible GM Language, built-in editors for graphics, and a lot of interesting out of the box features right (adding of in-app purchases, real-time analytics, source control, multiplayer networking, etc.). You can export your creation to any platform without adjusting a code. They also provide a comprehensive GM iOS Tutorial. GM:S is free with the paid Professional version, and the one with an export module to iOS that costs $300.

2. Unity

A revolutionary and globally popular engine with a high-quality graphic capability and sophisticated functionality, for both 2D and 3D products. Allows building augmented reality and virtual reality games. It comes with a massive community and a number of code snippets and various assets that are available in the Unity Asset Store. You can edit the components by dragging scripts onto in-app objects. Unity supports all major OSs, VR systems, and several gaming consoles. The free version is totally enough but works till your revenue stays under $100,000 per year. In other cases, there are a Plus ($35 per month) and a Pro  ($125 per month) plans that open up access to the higher revenue levels.

3. Unreal Engine 4 (UE4)

One of the most sophisticated high-graphic engines that was used to build some of the brand applications. With this instrument, you can create complex games without coding at all. It’s the most professional that was made by experts in the field. Cutting-edge features give you an ability to develop as quickly as possible. UE4 has also awesome YouTube video tutorials and supports seamless exporting to multiple platforms. You start as a free user, then pay a 5% royalty fee on gross revenue, but only after you begin earning more than $3,000 in a quarter.

Also, check another famous drag-and-drop creator for newbies called Gamesalad. It’s a visual editor for creating 2D products with simple logic. Can integrate graphics from Photoshop and has easy-to-handle built-in tutorials. And there is also a worldwide accepted Cross-platform Corona SDK. Thanks to its 500+ useful APIs, it’s used for 2D-making and other types of apps.

For a more thorough list of the top development tools, frameworks, engines, and resources, read this awesome post. There are about 100 useful instruments, services, platforms, and tutorials described.

Final Stage  

How to Make a Game on iOS: Final Stage

Hello, can you hear me? Testing the app

Okay, you’ve made a prototype and wrote a code. What’s next? Real-environment testing, of course! Compile and run the application on a simulator and the actual device to see if there are any code bugs or user’s complaints. Gather the feedback and analyze every aspect from your development checklist to know whether or not people enjoy the playing process. Then you’d be able to improve the assets, change the code, and launch your perfect ‘child’ to the marketplace.

For this goal, you must register as an Apple developer and sign up into iTunes (yearly membership fee is required). After you pay and load your product, others from the community would be able to test it and point out if there are any problems present.

That’s about it, folks... Just fully commit to the process and you’ll be able to move mountains!

Did we miss something? Or maybe you need a hand with a game you’re designing? Get in touch and let us know!

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