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Zipline Games is launching a new game development platform today that allows game makers to craft a single game that’s capable of running across both Apple and Google mobile platforms.
Game developers’ resources are getting stretched thin adapting games to run on all the different types of mobile platforms, and quite a few startups are trying to solve the problem, making the market crowded. But the fact that there are so many suggests that no one is solving it perfectly yet.
Zipline’s technology, called Moai Game Development Platform, targets professional game developers and has two parts. (Moai is named after the human face carvings on Easter Island). One is a server-based technology that handles back-end processing tasks such as cloud hosting for games. The other is a software development kit built around the Lua game scripting language. The whole solution uses an open-source development platform that works well with two-dimensional games.
On the software development kit front, rivals include Moblyng, Epic Games, MoMinis, RealNetworks, Ansca Mobile, Sibblingz, GameSalad and Appcelerator Titanium. On the cloud front, rivals include Heroku. Todd Hooper (pictured), chief executive of Seattle-based Zipline, said his company will distinguish itself by focusing on high-quality games, not simple stuff. It will also provide cloud services and let developers use the familiar open source Lua infrastructure. Since Lua is a low-level language, games built with it run fast. The platform lets developers publish to the iPhone and Android at the same time.
While Zipline is just getting started, it has one high-profile convert. Jordan Weisman, chief executive of game startup Smith & Tinker and a renowned game developer, plans to use Moai to make a mobile game. Moai games are already in production at multiple unnamed game studios, and Zipline is doing two games of its own to show off the platform.
That’s not bad for a company that was formed in December.
Hooper said that game developers have been fretting about the challenge of building great mobile games and extending them with a cloud-based backend system. Moai lets developers focus on their unique game play and write code in Lua from start to finish instead of switching between multiple languages and architectures.
The cloud part of the platform is important because it enables game developers to quickly make features for multiplayer games, downloadable content, and persistent worlds. All of those features can make it easier for developers to make more money from their games.
Developers could use Heroku, but most game developers aren’t familiar with the Ruby development process it uses. And many solutions game developers create themselves don’t work properly when a game becomes popular.
Hooper said that Zipline used its own tools to create a physics-based puzzle game called Wolf Toss. Within a week it was running on the iPhone and it ran on Android a couple of more days after that. That’s a pretty fast development cycle and shows that the platform is easy to use, Hooper said.
Zipline’s founders include veterans from Nintendo, Groundspeak and Amaze Entertainment. Co-founder Patrick Meehan is the chief technology officer. The company has raised an undisclosed amount of money from investors including Founders Co-Op and Benaroya Capital. Zipline has 10 employees.
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