While many developers have been enjoying the public release of the Palm Mojo SDK, and developers such as Spaz developer Ed Finkler give praise, others are not quite as impressed with webOS. iPhone developer Craig A. Hunter described in a blog post that his excitement for getting his hands on the SDK quickly fell through the roof when he found out access to the hardware, particularly OpenGL and accelerometer response, was extremely limited, at least for "serious games".
Sadly, my suspicions were confirmed -- there is no way for developers to tap into OpenGL ES using the webOS SDK, despite the fact that the hardware supports it. Strike two -- while the webOS SDK allows access to raw accelerometer data, it's limited to a 4 Hz sampling rate (that's four samples per second)...most games need at least 20 Hz for smooth inputs.
He goes on to state that accelerometer support in webOS is suitable for basic movement and interface rotation, but that's about it. Motion-based apps, such as gMeter (vehicle performance) and greenMeter (eco driving) require even stricter accelerometer reponse, from 50-100 Hz to be practical.
While this could change, this will likely limit big game studios from investing in webOS, except for casual/mobile games. Palm and Sprint have already stated in a webcast that 3D gaming "will not be featured in webOS 1.0", so this certainly doesn't come at a surprise.
Another iPhone developer, Stephen Stroughton Smith, defends webOS, stating that these stumbling blocks are a "mere by-product of the immaturity of the platform". The Pre simply doesn't have an OpenGL ES graphics driver. It's merely a software limitation, which will be improved upon with updates. The accelerometer issue could also be "an oversight" by Palm, that also can be remedied.
Also, Palm has already hinted that they are a much more open company than Apple with the hacking community. For example, Playstation, MAME, and NES emulators ported from Linux could help tide gamers over until the platform opens up. Moreover, Flash 10 Beta, expected in October, could help give gaming a boost for the Pre.
How do you feel about developing with the Mojo SDK so far, and if you've developed for the iPhone, have you felt limited by the capabilities of webOS and the Pre?
UPDATE: It appears Palm is taking gaming seriously on the Pre. A recent call for a Graphics Frameworks Engineer at Palm is one of many job postings directly relating to webOS hardware and software. An excerpt is below:
"Palm is establishing a new software team to focus on building the best tools and technologies to allow game developers to design and develop innovative gaming applications for Palm's WebOS platform."
The new hire is required to implement, integrate, debug, and optimize graphics and gaming frameworks, as well as investigate and prototype new technologies and APIs. 5+ years of experience in 3D graphics, hardware piplines, and programmable shaders are a requirement.
So as Palm's new gaming team becomes established, we should expect good things in the way of 3D gaming and game developer support in webOS.