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Matmi: "Banning middleware from iPhone is crazy"

And Unity boss says Apple have "fundamental misunderstanding" of development afters fears of tool block

Matmi founder Jeff Coghlan has said that Apple would be "crazy" to block the use of middleware from iPhone development, with Unity boss David Helgason questioning how well Steve Jobs' firm grasps how games are made.

Following comments in his talk at the Develop conference yesterday in which he was concerned the Unity toolset might be blocked from submissions to the App store, Coghlan explained to GamesIndustry.biz that the same risk applied to all such third-party tools.

"It's not just Unity - I could work with Torque, they could pull it. What hope have developers got? Obviously banning middleware is crazy. Everything has got some element of middleware. That's the issue."

Unity CEO David Helgason explained that, so far, Apple had not said anything on the matter, explaining that there were "1.5 unity-based games per day are getting approved [for the App store]. We would with know within minutes if one was turned down." Helgason also followed up his contentious comment in yesterday's keynote that "Steve Jobs doesn't understand games."

His complaint centered around the issue of potentially banning all middleware from the App store, concerned about Apple's expectation that every game should be made entirely from scratch.

"It's a fundamental lack of understanding of the economics of games development as an organisation. It's not just him, you can't expect the CEO to know everything. It's not how people make games anymore. They used to in the 80s, build it from the bottom up. It's just incredibly inefficient. It's not just Unity, it's scripting languages, it's frameworks...."

Neither Coghlan or Helgason were able offer a theory on exactly why Apple might have banned third-party tools, though Coghlan said "it can't be a performance thing. But they're remaining very tight-lipped about the whole thing."

While Helgason pointed out that there was much more to Unity than iPhone, including a number of high-profile browser-based MMOs such as Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, he explained more about the company's back-up plan in the event "the worst comes to the worst" and Apple did completely disallow games made with tools such as Unity.

"We're working on it, we're still early stages," he said of the plan to have Unity export to C++ and be recompiled from that. "We're doing the work for our customers so we don't let them down, because we don't get full control over this."

He was unsure whether it would prove a successful get-around were Apple to be militant enough to hunt for signs of a game's origins: "You will always be able to recognise the fingerprint of any technology. You can always know what stuff is made with if you want it."

Coghlan stressed Matmi's commitment to Apple platforms, despite the risk to tools such as Unity. "I love the iPhone and the iPad, I think they're fantastic devices and I love making games for them. We've just been caught between a bit of a storm. Obviously Flash has never been on the iPhone in the first place, but these are tools that are already making things.

"It seems crazy to change something that works, that makes developers happy, that makes users happy with games that would just not be viable if they made them from scratch. It would take too long."

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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