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Wonderland: iPad "incredibly exciting" for new gameplay design

Larger screen, faster processor offer more opportunities over iPhone, says start-up

New development start-up Wonderland sees significant advantages for game design in Apple's new iPad, singling out the size of the screen and its processor as opening more creative avenues than the smaller iPhone.

The team, made up of ex-Lionhead staff, went public this week – the same day that Apple unveiled its new device to an expectant market.

"There are two features in particular that have incredibly exciting gameplay consequences: the big screen size and resolution; and the way that the iPad is going to be used," said Matthew Wiggins, CEO of Wonderland Software, speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz.

"You can see from the software that Apple demoed, how the 4x pixel area totally changes the kinds of interfaces and interactions available compared to the iPhone - things that weren't possible, or are severely compromised, on a smaller screen are now up for the taking. The faster, in-house processor backs this up really well - it's a big thing that Apple can now control the hardware and software for their products."

Wiggins also said gameplay experiences for the iPad can be designed for longer periods of time, as the device is targeted at the home entertainment market, rather than as a portable gadget.

"Equally significant is the way the iPad is going to be used – this is a device designed to be used sitting down, for extended periods of time. This means that where the iPhone favours shorter, more bite-sized experiences, using the iPad is going to be a lot more immersive and substantial. For a developer exclusively developing for Apple platforms, it's a exciting opportunity to create games that work with both kinds of consumption," he added.

Wonderland is currently working on iPhone game GodFinger for publisher ngmoco, and while development is ongoing, it's not interested in jumping on any early "me-too" bandwagon.

"We'd be mad to not support it in the future, but we won't release a game for it until we have something magical to give to people. When that will be, I can't say,” offered Wiggins. “In the short-term, they'll be a lot of me-too developers trying to get a cheap port done for launch, in attempt to win the goldrush lottery. A few will succeed, most will not. Needless to say, we won't get involved in that."

One of Wiggins' early suggestions for game design is to tie both the iPad and iPhone together, to help create persistent experiences.

"After that initial rush, I think there's a fantastic opportunity for creative, talented devs to produce experiences tailored for the iPad," he said. "Apart from the different experiences possible due to the design of the iPad and the way it will be used, there's potentially some very interesting stuff you could do with having both iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch clients for a server based game – using the iPad at home for longer, more immersive play, then using the iPhone app whilst you're on the move to keep tabs on the game. This will work brilliantly for persistent games."

Early critics of the device may be asking who the target market is, but Wiggins believes Apple has thought long and hard about how it will sell the iPad, evidenced by the low starting price of the vanilla SKU.

"They've made a good start by tackling this head-on – before even announcing it, Jobs talked about whether there was a need for a 'third category' device. Apple are conscious of the problem, but after spending years on the tablet fence, they wouldn't release this device without being sure of it's appeal and usefulness.

"They've also managed to deliver it at a great price - by positioning it way below their laptops, they are stopping them going directly head-to-head. The biggest surprise of the launch was the $499 price - no one expected that low."

According to Wiggins, the casual market will be attracted to the iPad and its ease-of-use, not just as an entertainment device, but as a substitute for a traditional PC.

"The iPad is going to be a hard sell to the geek-tech crowd, who generally have a powerful laptop and a smartphone already, but that market doesn't really matter to Apple now - they are going for the millions of people who want a brilliant user experience, rather than the complexity of a traditional computer," said Wiggins.

"As soon as people watch a video of the iPad being used, and eventually have a chance to use one, they'll want it. It's been 12 hours since the launch, and already both my wife and son want us to get one - that's the appeal that Apple are going for with this," he concluded.

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin


Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.