iOS and Android Programming frameworks compared.  I’ve recently been trying to find the best iOS framework for my app project.  I want a framework that can also be used for porting my game to Android if it is successful.  Here is the list I made, hope it helps!

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Corona SDK.  Corona is very simple to use and has the easiest and shortest LUA syntax of all the LUA programming frameworks I looked at.  It is expensive at $199/year for iOS and another $199/year for Android.  To build your app with Corona you have to send it to them online to compile.  Easy to use, but high price and I don’t want online compilation.  I rejected Corona.  It has a very good marketing department so it looks like the best option, but is not because of it’s serious restrictions.

GameSalad – Free to make iOS games with Gamesalad.  Gamesalad Pro costs $299/year and let’s you publish your Gamesalad game to Android and Windows 8.  It has a negative reaction from the forums after an event a few years ago where many moved away from the platform, but seems okay.

Detailed update on Gamesalad 03 March 2013- I have just used finished using Gamesalad for a week and below is my review –

Pros of Gamesalad: Drag and drop programming, very easy to use and program with for fun, Gamesalad is great for prototyping game ideas fast.

Cons of Gamesalad: Online publishing network system ONLY.  To publish your game with GameSalad you have to click publish in the program and upload it to their servers.  Then from there you fill in the details online and can download the files you need to put the game on the Android (if you pay) or iTunes Apple iStore.  This is bad if you want to keep your game a secret because once you upload they get everything.  Your source code, your asset files, you custom code and your idea, they get everything you made.  Very bad.

I was excited about using Gamesalad until I saw the online publishing thing.  It really ruins the experience because previously it had the publishing part inside the application, without needing the online part and they just changed it recently to be greedy.  I was ready to pay for it too.  Sad face.

Cocos2d-x – Special Cocos2d that also makes Android apps.  This uses the c++ Native programming language for making your games and apps.  Cocos2d-x is free and open source.  Cocos2d-x can make apps for iPhone, iPod and iPad, as well as Android devices.  I do not like C++ so I avoided it.  But if you know C++ I would say this is the best option or one of the best options.  Active development community.

CocosBuilder – Cocosbuilder is the new programming system for cocos.  It’s more like flash CS5 in some ways, with animation, assets and is a similar setup, with a built in IDE.  It tries to remove some of the boring coding from cocos2d and is aiming to allow you to make animations for your game quickly and easily.  Cocosbuilder is free!  Cocosbuilder is quite complicated to setup, and it’s a good idea to install cocos2d templates for Xcode, and of course xcode, first.  Here is a link to more information and a full tutorial about cocosBuilder from Zynga.

Conclusion after trying Cocosbuilder with the Zynga guide on 04 March 2013 – Cocosbuilder is for making the animations and layout only and is not a complete system like I hoped.  The process is simple, but you still need to code up the game in Xcode/cocos2d.

Unity3D – Unity3D is expensive but very powerful for 3D  Unity3D is free for the basic play version and $1500 for the pro version.  Flash Player Unity, iOS unity and Android Unity cost $400 each as extensions to the normal free Unity software and $1500 EACH as extensions for the pro version.  This price usually gets you all upgrades for that version of unity only.  This means if Unity 5 is released and you have Unity 4 then you will need to pay again to upgrade.  For everything.  Expensive.  Even using the Unity3D game engine I have found it difficult to make good 3D assets that run well on iOS.  So for 3D, if you do not have a huge budget, your game will look bad.  In 2D it might lag because Unity 3D is made for 3D and does not do 2D very well.  Unity 3D uses Javascript and c#.

Moai SDK – Free and open source.  Moai SDK can compile to nearly everything.  Moai SDK uses the LUA programming language.  Moai SDK comes with very bad documentation, but it is alleged that many top developers are moving to it.  I didn’t like it because the code feels bloated if you do not need the flexibility bloated code offers.  It is hard to get started, hard to get help and made for professional programmers with years of experience already.  If you just want to make normal level games stick to other options and avoid Moai SDK until a good frontend layer is developed.

Sparrow – iOS only.  This list is for Android and iOS so it is not covered.

YoyoGames Gamemaker – Drag and drop.  iOS is $300/year minimum.  Not good.

Gideros Mobile – Free for iOS and Android, but you get a splashscreen.  Uses LUA and comes with it’s own IDE!  $149/year if you want a custom splash screen and $449/year for professional if you make more than $100,000 a year.  You can still do everything on the free Giderosmobile layer, just have a splash screen.  I like that it has it’s own IDE too.

Stencyl – Flash and iOS games.  They are still working on Android compatibility so Stencyl is not covered here.


Which iOS Android Framework should I use?

Which iOS Android Framework should I use for my game app? For my first iOS game programming project I have chosen to use Gideros Mobile.  Then later I will do my second project using Cocos2d-x and learn C++ at the same time.

My reasons are:

  • I do not want to pay again every time Apple release a new device.  Unity 3D has this problem.
  • I want to learn an easy programming language.  I just want to make a fun game or fun games using the framework and not be a professional developer.
  • I do not want to pay too much just to start programming my game and releasing to the iOS store.  If it is successful I will be happy to pay $1000’s, but until then, I want cheap!
  • I do not want to be trapped in a closed source system.  What if a company like Corona goes bankrupt?  How will I update my games for my loyal fans?

With these reasons in mind I chose Gideros for now.  Yes, it is closed source, but has a nice IDE for beginners.  Let me know what you think or if there is anything I missed.

Leave a comment below!


UPDATE 12 26.  This article is getting some heat on the Gideros forums, here’s my reply to the common concerns:

As proof of competency, I built the main website.

Unity 3D – I used Unity 3D for 2 months, with iOS and Android upgrades included. Unity 3D is great for ease of programming (Javascript) but it’s best for 3D. And 3D needs good 3D models and animation as mentioned in the main article, this triples the startup costs and time scales and the end result can still look bad. 2D in iOS Unity does lag when using GUI, not when using a camera position axis lock.  If you use the camera position lock method you need good 3D models.  Which will cost you time or money.

RE: platform vs. reality check – Platforms/tools have a massive effect on the final costings of an iOS project. You can’t do the financial reality check without knowing what platforms are available and their advantages and disadvantages.

We quit the iOS scene because there were financially better ideas available to us.  It’s still a good programming scene for those who have nothing else on, but not for us at this time.

If a great platform was available, at a good price, we would consider reentry.  As great as the iOS programming software scene is, it’s still too pricey to fire that first shot.  That’s one of the key reasons Gideros won, with it’s nice pricing structure.


UPDATE 03 March 2013.  Very disappointed with the online only publishing of Gamesalad.  I was prepared to pay after having fun using the free version.  Now I will not.  They just lost $299 because they were greedy.  I will next try Gideros again, and cocosbuilder.


UPDATE 04 March 2014.  Cocosbuilder was not a complete IDE like I hoped, it’s just for animation and layout.  I still don’t want to program in C or anything too uselessly complex.  LUA looks nice and is easy to use and drag and drop is still what I prefer.  My ordering would be:

C < javascript < LUA < drag and drop.

I will continue searching for the perfect game developing system for ios.


UPDATE 2 for 04 March 2014.  I made a list with an overview of my current thoughts on the iOS and Android programming scene.  Remember that I am aiming for easy to make, quick to prototype and simple 2D games.  If you are willing to spend/waste time programming the details for a complex game then this list is not for you!

Gideros – LUA complete IDE.
Gamesalad – easy drag and drop, need to upload source code.
Codea – LUA, iPad only, complex workflow.
Yoyo Gamesmaker – expensive, doesn’t work great on Mac!

Unity 3D – good for 3d, not for 2d.
Cocos2d and Cocosbuilder – hard programming language.
Corona – LUA but api based, need to upload your source code.


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