Porting first-person shooter controls to the iPhone is a little more complicated, and developers have continued to experiment with control schemes. The iPhone version of Wolfenstein 3D incorporates left and right virtual analog sticks in the lower corners to control movement and aiming, while also using tilt controls to allow the player to move forward and backward. This layout has been well received, and there are indications id may use it again in future releases.
In the case of Duke Nukem 3D, you move and aim using a similar control scheme, while you simply tap on monsters to shoot and tap at the bottom of the screen to switch between weapons. Players have had some difficulty adjusting to these controls - for example, the stick needs to be tapped rather than dragged to get any real reaction - but Broussard says an update should be coming soon to correct these flaws.
Ask the Audience
Since the majority of retro games being ported to the iPhone have survived chiefly due to a devoted fan base, it should come as no surprise that fans remain vocal and involved on these titles, ranging from feedback on the App Store to Twitter messages and forum discussions. Many developers even solicit these suggestions; both Carmack and Broussard have posted direct questions on forums such as Touch Arcade.
The format of the App Store allows developers to respond to these requests more quickly and offer updates for customers almost immediately. Carnie says that when Manomio released their first game, the feedback they received not only shaped updates, such as the inclusion of a help overlay and level access codes, but also factored into the development of the C64 emulator's joystick. "We spent hours using all the tools at our disposal to gather feedback and then spoke about the issues on our blog so users knew we were listening," Carnie says.
The positive feedback from players and critics alike has been enough to encourage programmers to continue adapting retro games for the iPhone. Gold has said that Digital Leisure will be following up the success of Space Ace - a top-30 app a few days after release - with a port of the popular Dragon's Lair in the next few months, and Broussard says 3D Realms is looking into possibilities for following Duke Nukem 3D. All indications are that developers enjoy working with the platform, and classic gaming fans are reaping the benefits.
"I think the design of the iPhone and its limitations is actually a big strength in keeping indie development alive on the iPhone," Whitehead says. "A simple and cleverly designed game will always trump the eye candy."
Les Chappell is a freelance writer based in Portland, OR. He has written for publications including Beer Northwest, WTN Media and The Daily Cardinal, and operates the literature blog The Lesser of Two Equals when not digging up classic games.