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Mike Riley

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OpenGL iPhone Games with Cocos2D Review

June 21, 2011

Developing native iOS OpenGL titles is hard work. Fortunately, a free, open source framework called Cocos2D for iPhone makes the task surprisingly easy. Yet reading the project's documentation is a bit dry and can be hard to visualize. To address this communication limitation, iOS developer Todd Moore has recorded a series of five videos with O'Reilly Media that showcases Cocos2D for iPhone in a conversational screencast format. Read on to learn if it is worth the nearly 20-dollar price to stream/download the videos.

I'm a fan of the screencast format. While my family prefers to stream Netflix movies, I prefer watching developer video podcasts, programming conference and walkthroughs on Vimeo and YouTube, and professionally produced, pay-to-play technical video presentations. Typically, I have the videos playing in a small window in the upper left corner of my screen while working, surfing, or organizing files. If something in the video peaks my interest (such as a new technique or a block of code that may be too small to see in the reduced window), I will rewind the last 30 seconds, expand to full screen, and play back. I found myself frequently entering full-screen mode with OpenGL iPhone Games with Cocos2D.

Developer Todd Moore is accompanied by O'Reilly editor Courtney Nash, who serves as a faux viewer asking Moore obvious questions while keeping things moving along at a fast pace. The interactions seem a bit unnatural, though, as if Nash is not really there to learn but just to play along. Still, it kept me engaged enough in their banter to see how each person would react to their staged performances.

The production quality is stunning, especially when showing the computer screen running Xcode. This is truly high-def technology at its best. While there remains just a hint of fuzziness around the characters, it remains by far some of the clearest screencast video quality I have seen. However, when it cuts back to Moore and Nash, the camera tries to get artsy with shaky cam (and even some blurry cam) to get that "real world" and/or Battlestar Galactica tight conversational feel. I know that technique supposedly keeps viewers engaged by forcing them to focus more (to compensate for the bobbing, unfocused action), but I find it highly annoying and wish this cheap trend would just go away.

Beyond the superb video and audio production quality, the actual educational content of the videos is just... OK. I learned how to use Cocos2D over a year ago from Ray Wenderlich's exceptional blog for iOS developers, which was a more memorable experience compared to these videos. Ray continues to post really helpful tutorials on all things iOS and it's one of the best free resources on the Web for iOS developers to learn their craft. But for those who are not yet familiar with how simple it is to build fluid motion, sprite-based titles for iOS, these O'Reilly videos do offer a low-friction learning gateway into this remarkably powerful and easy-to-use graphics framework.

Title: OpenGL iPhone Games with Cocos2D
Author: Todd Moore
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes Price $19.99

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