On the state of cross platform development

I’ve been a bit lately and while I can’t complain about anything in particular, my time dedicated to example coding for the blog hasn’t been exactly stellar.I do however try to keep a schedule of a new post every now and then and since my activities have brought me to cross-platform development research, I’d like to share a few thoughts about it.

The first thing that everyone thinks about nowadays when you say cross platform is HTML5 and it’s true that there’s no other alternative that can come close to the plethora of platforms that you can reach with that technology simply because getting a consumer electronic device out nowadays without including a browser in it is somewhat of a niche market. It’s also true that you can get some pretty nifty stuff out of it , except the obvious canvas, CSS transitions and shaders come to mind and the army of developers working round the clock to make browsers lightning fast also helps you as a developer since they will basically do all the optimization work.

All of this is of course amazing and to be honest most ideas an indie developer could create in a decent amount of time could probably give a decent experience, maybe with 1-2 optimizations that you can learn from the awesome guys at netflix, but this is something that most people already know and is well documented on other sites that have better graphics than mine, so I’d much rather talk about the next best thing.

Another alternative worth taking into account when trying to build a product that runs on almost everything is Qt. It’s probably not for the less experienced indies as the preferred language for development is C++ (and you will have to use C++ if you want your stuff to be cross platform) but on the other hand it’s still a UI toolkit that actually works and compiles with 1-2 clicks on everything that’s worth bringing into discussion. The good thing is that it has the cleanest API you can ask for and native capabilities are of course a plus (device discovery over LAN comes to mind), so there is still a gap left by HTML5 that Qt can fill, however the biggest drawback is that it’s not exactly backed by the same same amount of developers working on webkit, so the ports created for mobile devices are not exactly matching the same level of functionality you can get from the framework on desktops.

It’s slowly getting there though and it’s gotten to a point where it might be worth it to try and see if you as a company can make one Qt app and adapt it for all the platforms you intend to support (did I mention you can style controls with CSS?) since at this point making a mobile build is as easy as adding a new target to the project.

In other news I just made my tile editor run on tablets so I can make levels on my tablet and play them on my PC. The other way around is too mainstream.

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