Ever since GameCenter and GameKit (the SDK for GameCenter) were made available for iOS and subsequently made available for OS X developers, there has been an explosion of new games on the market. Some of this is due to GameCenter, but most of this is due to the simple fact that the App Store is the single largest and cheapest supply channel to get games from developers to consumers.
One thing has always bothered me when developing with GameKit – your application must be configured in iTunes Connect before any of the GameCenter functionality is available. For those not all that familiar with the process of developing applications for iOS there are two stages of the development process. The first stage is where your application is registered on the iOS Developer Portal. This means creating an AppID, a provisioning profile, certificates, and the other information necessary to develop and test your application on a real device. Since Xcode 4, this process has been streamlined considerably and isn’t quite the nail-biting, hair-pulling source of agony it used to be. (Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s not all roses and perfume either).
The second stage, if you are to believe Apple’s documentation, tutorials, rhetoric, and propaganda, is the publication stage. It is during this stage that you go over to the iTunes Connect website and configure your application for publication. Here, you create a new app, which consists of picking an existing AppID, and then supplying multiple pages of information in a very intimidating, “this will go on your permanent record” kind of experience.
So, what’s wrong with these two stages and GameCenter? I’ll tell you – you can’t develop with GameKit until your application is in iTunes Connect. Developers, especially agile developers, like to fire up Xcode, get in there and start coding stuff up, poking around, molding the clay, as it were. They do not want things slowing them down, and ITC slows them down and, for many indie developers, has actually scared them off to the point where the developers skip GameCenter entirely and roll their own (not that rolling your own isn’t an idea without merit, but that’s a topic for another blog post).
What this boils down to is that if you’re going to create a GameCenter-enabled game for the iPhone, immediately after you create your empty scaffolding “hello world” application from a bare bones template, you have to perform the following steps:
- Go to the iOS Developer Portal and create an AppID for your application (e.g. com.kotancode.AwesomeGameThatNobodyWillEverPlay)
- If you want to test this on a device, you need to create and download a provisioning profile for that AppID. This isn’t all that big a deal, and is necessary with or without game kit programming.
- Now the fun part: go to iTunes connect and supply bogus values for all of the following:
- Name, AppID
- Availability date – you probably want to set this for 1 year from now
- Pricing tier
- Primary and Secondary Categories
- Answer 10 multiple choice questions on content used to determine the rating for the game.
- Your contact information
- Review notes – this is where I typically put the phrase – “going through the motions of creating an ITC profile for my app just so I can get GameCenter to work. Don’t accept or review this application. If you get tired of seeing messages like this, maybe you should let GameKit devs develop their test versions without an ITC app.”
- Supply a large app icon (no, I’m not kidding, and all these screenshots need to be in a specific PPI density and resolution)
- Supply at least one 3.5-inch Retina screenshot
- Supply at least one 4-inch Retina screenshot
- Supply at least one iPad screenshot
Now, and only now, after you have supplied all this information and wasted your time by creating an ITC application (thankfully you can choose to upload your application later and don’t need to upload a fully running app first.. that would be even more ludicrous than this process), can you finally do a simple task such as obtain a pointer to an authenticated GKLocalPlayer object.
So here’s the bottom line: Want your game players to be part of Apple’s ecosystem of friends, leaderboards, badges, and get limited multiplayer (turn-based or real-time locally over bluetooth) with chat capabilities? Then you’re going to have to suck it up and jump through all of Apple’s hoops. For many, many developers, this initial crapshoot is worth it for what they get in return.
For other developers, even indie developers, who are going to be providing a backing infrastructure for their application anyway, creating a private store for badges, achievements, accomplishments, friends, and multiplayer may be the way to go.
All this frustration aside, if you already have placeholder screenshots (which can be solid color blocks), then the whole process probably takes 20 minutes to do, so you can get up and running in one night. My problem isn’t that this takes too long, it’s that it’s so annoying, and even at times difficult to decipher, that it turns off newbie developers who would otherwise want to play with GameCenter.