Platform Overview: RIM’s PlayBook
3rd June, 2012
ShiVa fully supports the Blackberry PlayBook since the end of 2011, yet few ShiVa developers have taken the little effort required to port their games to this new and exciting platform. Thoroughly unjustified, as we think.
Shiva is the most cross-platform engine in the world, spanning its portfolio of supported platforms from the three major Desktop Operating Systems over consoles and handhelds to exotic and upcoming platforms like Flash 11 and the Google Native Client. But by far the biggest crowd amongst the ShiVa developers is targeting mobile platforms like iOS and Android – but those two are not the only big players in the market. ShiVa fully supports the Blackberry PlayBook since the end of 2011, yet few ShiVa developers have taken the little effort to port their games to this new and exciting platform. Thoroughly unjustified, as we think.
The tablet is built around the powerful Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 platform, running both cores of the ARM Cortex A9 dual-core processor at 1GHz. A PowerVR SGX 540 accelerates all 2D and 3D graphics on the screen, which is the same graphics unit found in Apple’s iPad, iPod Touch or the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Rim also threw in a 3 MegaPixel front-facing and a 5 MegaPixel rear-facing camera for video conferencing and Augmented Reality apps, a bright and very responsive 1200×600 resolution display, a light 425g body and all the typical sensors (6-axis motion sensing gyroscope, accelerometer and GPS) to make this 7-inch tablets one of the most interesting and unique iPad challengers to date. And the current platform is only the beginning…
Playbook OS 2 and Games
All the interesting hardware facts aside, what would a high-tech be worth without powerful software to drive it?
The PlayBook OS is built upon a strong foundation: QNX. This unix-like operating system combines the power and security of unix we know and love from other unix-like systems like Linux, BSD and iOS and combines it with the speed and flexibility of the QNX microkernel. The current Playbook OS 2, which is based on the latest QNX Neutrino Real Time Operating System, supports all the modern features you would expect, like SMP, multitasking, advanced security and state of the art networking.
More and more “big” developers are targeting the Playbook. The last weeks have seen the release of well-known franchises to the tablet, like Angry Birds Space by rovio, Cut the Rope and even demanding 3D action titles like Dead Space. But that is only the beginning. Halfbrick, the studio behind titles such as Fruit Ninja and Monster Dash, will be bringing Jetpack Joyride to RIM’s tablet, along with four more games. Other highlights include Fishlabs’ Galaxy on Fire 2 and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light which was released for the tablet a few days ago.
But RIM is not only interested in getting the juggernauts of the industry on board. Back at BlackBerry Dev Con 2011, Research in Motion announced a number of partnerships with middleware developers including the studios behind ShiVa, Unity and Marmalade, with ShiVa offering the easiest and most complete solution yet in getting your games to the PlayBook. Combined with easy access to development tools like the free NDK or the “Free Playbook” initiative which offered even the smallest independent developers a free tablet to port their games, the BlackBerry Playbook is by far one of the most accessible platforms to date.
“Educating and providing support for game developers on our platform are central to our initiative to recapture the minds and hearts of game developers. We have initiated a comprehensive outreach program and, as a result, we see many top titles starting to come to the BlackBerry platforms already — Dead Space 2, N.O.V.A. 2, Bejeweled, Plants Vs. Zombies, to name a few — and we expect this to increase rapidly with the BlackBerry 10 devices hitting the markets.
Support is essential. We are making it easier than ever for game developers to bring their games to our platform. The BlackBerry PlayBook Native SDK with clean, well-documented C++ as well as the many tools and libraries that are supported — including Unity 3D, Marmalade, Shiva 3D, Bullet Physics, Box2D, Cocos2D-X, Lua, SDL, ALUT, Scoreloop social API and more — demonstrate we are walking the talk; cases where it takes a developer three days to port a high-end 3D game from iOS to PlayBook OS tend to be more and more the rule rather than the exception. Our Android runtime, support for Webkit, HTML5, Flash, etc., makes it more versatile and frictionless to bring games to the BlackBerry PlayBook than to any other platform”, says Alec Saunders, , VP Developer Relations and Ecosystems Development at RIM. (Source)
“It’s a common misconception that the majority of BlackBerry users are middle-aged businessmen when, in reality, almost 80% are regular consumers and many of them women between 15 and 30 living a lot of their social life through the amazing BlackBerry social features like BlackBerry Messenger and e-mail but also using our integrated Facebook and Twitter apps”, says Alec Saunders.
Anders Jeppsson, Head of Gaming at RIM, adds: “I’d like to say that it’s not by accident that BlackBerry App World is now the second most profitable app store in the marketplace and 13% of BlackBerry developers make $100,000+ from selling their apps on App World, which is significantly more than iOS and Android developers. BlackBerry apps also generate 40% more revenue than Android apps and have more paid downloads.
BlackBerry users show a high propensity to purchase games by paying a fee, with 39.2% of BlackBerry users who have either purchased, trialed, or downloaded a game indicating that they paid a fee to purchase the game, compared to a smartphone average of 29.8%, and vastly outpacing Android (18.2%).” (Source)
In the long run, RIM will unify its phone and tablet OSes. That means by the end of the year, the new BlackBerry 10 platform will replace the current PlayBook OS. But that does not mean that your software will not run any longer! Once programmed, RIM guarantees that you do not need to modify your games for BlackBerry 10. All existing games will continue to work with the new OS – so you can safely start coding today without any worries about the future of the platform.
And there is a lot to be excited about in the coming months. If the first peak at the new phones is any indication, BlackBerry 10 with its unified lineup of phones and tablets will be a force to be reckoned with. And it’s all hitting the market in october.
What ShiVa developers say
In a recent case study, ShiVa developer Gamescorpion Inc. noted that their Appworld sales were close to and just behind iOS and that the playbook apps generated way more income than, say, Google Play. Porting their games to the Playbook only took them a day, without having any prior experience with the platform.
“When ShiVa3D added support for Blackberry Playbook, I was able to port my iOS and Android games to Playbook in 1 day! Amazing.” Jopacus J Parrott, CEO of DVide Arts for their game “Crusade of Destiny”
Psychicsoftware, a ShiVa game developer and tutor, dedicated a whole blog post to his new PlayBook: “It’s a really nice device – I love the size, coming in at halfway between an iPad and a smartphone. So it’s not small and fiddly nor is it too unwieldly to carry around for everyday use. Nice bright screen, punchy front-facing speakers. Touch sensitive strips above and below the visible display provide OS-level controls in a similar way to the hardware keys on Android devices (this is something that’s seriously lacking on iOS devices).
I have been testing out Afterburn 2150, one of my in-development games on it, and it’s giving between 100 and 150 frames per second – versus my laptop which gives between 40 and 65!”
Research In Motion (RIM) is the company behind the innovative and award-winning BlackBerry® product line.
The BlackBerry family includes best-in-class smartphones and software offerings, as well as the BlackBerry PlayBook, the world’s first professional-grade tablet.
Setting the bar for mobile access to email, applications and more, the BlackBerry family of products also allows virtual real-time communication, so you can stay in touch with the people and information that matter most.
The BlackBerry product line includes the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet, the award-winning BlackBerry smartphone, software for businesses and accessories. BlackBerry products and services are used by millions of customers around the world to stay connected to the people and content that matter most throughout their day.
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