Yesterday, on the eve of the release of Apple’s most important game to date, Infinity Blade, the man behind “making gaming on the iDevices fantastic,” spoke with Kotaku, telling them of his departure with Apple. One reason for the dramatic improvement in iPhone and iPod gaming is quite likely to do with Graeme Devine whose purpose was to instigate a move for higher quality titles appearing on the App Store, ones that used didn’t feel out of place on a touchscreen device. Breaking down his role, Devine said: “Basically that meant looking at the technologies involved and making sure the software played well with the hardware, to look at upcoming hardware/API and say ‘Yup, that is a good thing'”. Surprisingly, the job didn’t even exist before Devine’s intervention (see what I did there?): “Apple didn’t have an in-house game designer before me so I think it was pretty unique, game technologies touch everything from the graphics stack to touch latency to push notifications. No other app type covers so many technologies and having someone there to validate and help shape that was basically my day job. It was pretty kick ass.” The importance of his presence is further proven by a number of developers noting a change in Apple’s view towards games. A change for the better and one becoming increasingly apparent with every press conference Apple hold.
Devine’s reason for leaving was simply a personal matter of wanting to get back into development, something he has 25 years experience in. He only has good things to say about his previous employers: “Apple has the smartest and most talented group of people I have ever worked with. Every day I would walk in and feel I was working alongside geniuses and I the guy with crayons in the corner.” So will Apple fill the mighty gap he left behind? “I can’t comment on what’s next inside Apple, but I can tell you, they really do ‘get’ gaming.” They’ve definitely begun to ‘get’ gaming and Devine’s new company who are focused on developing iOS titles should help continue his already great work. But whether or not Apple understand all the subtle nuances of of a gaming experience, Devine worries that far too many other do not: “I don’t think a lot of people are really thinking yet what games mean on these touch platforms, the joystick is gone, there is no proxy in between you and the screen anymore. When I first saw the photos being rotated and pinch / zoomed on the iPhone I knew things had changed forever, and people are trying to insert something back in there when clearly the best applications are the ones where the screen is a window onto a world that you can touch. I am not a fan of virtual d-pads, pointers, or other crutches, we have an opportunity on these devices to let players hold, move, touch, and feel the game in front of them and I intend to focus on that.”
Devine’s leaving is a loss for Apple. While there’s no stopping the hideous amounts of sub-standard early flash-like games polluting the App Store, someone like Devine with his clear understanding of playing the systems strengths could have pushed iOS devices beyond the realms of ‘filler’ gaming systems much further into the DS and PSP territory. It feels like the iPhone and its portable cousins are teetering on the edge of greatness and today’s aforementioned release of Infinity Blade and Rage: Mutant Bash TV shows that its almost within the platforms’ grasp. Who knows, there may be a replacement of similar mind already. At least I certainly hope there is.