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WWDC 2010: Hands-on with Chopper 2


Chopper's been in the App Store since day one, and David Frampton of Majic Jungle Software is the guy who put it there. Since then it's garnered over a million downloads, he's made a number of other App Store titles (and brought the game to the Mac), and he's hard at work on the game's sequel. We've actually posted it here on TUAW before (more on that implementation in just a bit). but I got to go hands on with the game on the iPad at WWDC.

As a game, it plays about the same as the first one -- you control a chopper across 36 missions in 12 different locations, doing things like blowing up enemies, rescuing hostages, and so on. But the intriguing part of the game is the control scheme -- while it uses the same tilt-to-fly method as the first one, the fire button isn't on screen any more. Instead, you just touch anywhere to fire, and then adjust your finger on the screen to aim. It's amazingly intuitive -- the lack of a UI solves the problem of graphics getting in the way, and Frampton's figured out a great balance of skill-based aiming and touch-anywhere-to-fire.

The graphics have been completely updated (the chopper is now in full 3D), and look just as gorgeous as you'd expect on the iPad. The app is going to be universal as well, which Frampton said he will do because, "I decided that it was the nice thing to do." He agrees that there are disadvantages to releasing an app universally on the iPhone and the iPad -- aside from the extra lost revenue in having two versions of the app, a universal app gets "paralyzed in the charts," because Apple only counts it as one purchase. But the downsides outweigh Frampton's loyalty to his customers, so buying one copy of Chopper 2 will get you both versions.

Which has another bonus: you can use the iPhone version as a Bluetooth controller for the iPad version. I played around with it in this way, and it was pretty awesome, if probably not the usual way to play the game. Putting controls on the iPhone leaves the iPad's screen for graphics, and responsiveness was great. Of course, owning an iPhone and an iPad is an expensive proposition to play one game this way, but if you happen to have both, it'll be a nice bonus.

The app will be out in a few months, and Frampton says it will be priced at $4.99. I told him that I thought he could charge more, given the app's quality, but he said he wasn't "convinced that a higher price will make more money." Even if he makes more per purchase, a higher price won't have as large a potential audience.

Finally, he also says that he plans to support GameCenter as soon as he can. He may actually use some third-party social gaming networks as well, and then maybe migrate the data over to Apple's service, but he believes that other third-party social networks' "days are probably numbered."

Chopper 2 was a great game, probably one of the best I played at WWDC last week. We'll keep an eye out for it on the App Store -- stay tuned.

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