2010-09-26

iPhone Does .NET

In my last entry I described how I began the process of developing a game for iOS. Now, I'm going to continue that story with what's changed since 1 and ½ years ago when I started.

When I was developing initially I was reading a number of news feeds related to iPhone development to try to learn as I went. I remember at that time Novell announce a Mono based platform for iPhone development. This was very intriguing to me at the time, since Mono is an opensource implementation of the .NET framework, with which I have a lot of experience; far more than C, C++, and Objective-C, which are the default languages for iPhone development. I didn't really look into it at the time as it was pre-release and, if I remember correctly, advertised as being around $1000 for a license.

When I recently returned to developing my game, however, I again quickly became frustrated by the Xcode development environment and the learning curve involved for me. Around this time Apple announced greatly relaxed development restrictions and I remembered the Novell announcement and decided to see how the maturity of the platform was now. As it turns out, MonoTouch (the name of the Novell platform) is still undergoing rapid development and is at the point where it is quite usable. Also, the price either changed or I misremembered and is down to $399 for individuals.

Novell has a free version of MonoTouch that has only the limitation that you can run your program only in the iPhone emulator and not on an actual device, so I downloaded that and started porting my game over from the old C & C++ & Objective-C version I'd previously worked on. I should mention that MonoTouch includes a version of MonoDevelop, an opensource .NET IDE, that integrates well for developing for iPhone.

After a bit of work I got enough of my game running to see that it would work on MonoTouch and that it seemed to run fast enough on .NET on the emulator on my Mac. But, I was a bit worried how well it would run on an actual iPhone.

I debated for a while, but then noticed that Novell was having a sale for MonoTouch of 15% off in celebration of 1 year of MonoTouch, so I jumped in and signed up. I then deployed to my iPhone and was pleasantly surprised at the performance. Everything looked fine.

Admittedly $399 is still a bit of an investment, but I'd already paid for a used iMac (about $300 or $400, I don't remember) and 2 iOS Developer licenses ($99 each year), so I decided to double-down and improve the chances I actually finish the game this time.

Next time: MonoDevelop isn't bad, but I really prefer VisualStudio.

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