WWDC 2018 kicked off yesterday evening with an emphasis on AR (Augmented Reality), and a surprisingly on-stage demo of Unity, one of Apple’s main Game Engine competitors. With decreasing focus at WWDC throughout the years, and increased partnership with Unity, is SpriteKit dying a slow death?
SpriteKit was initially launched at WWDC 2013, a time where Unity didn’t have 2D support and Cocos2d-x, an open source 2D game engine, was the main tool used for developing games for iOS. SpriteKit had two separate talks, and developers (including myself) were really enthusiastic about developing games for iOS using Apple technologies within Xcode itself.
WWDC 2014 saw the launch of Swift, Apple’s modern programming language, and SceneKit, a 3D game framework analogous to SpriteKit. SpriteKit wise, a best practices talk was much welcomed, but an actual editor to visually layout scenes was the real highlight.
WWDC 2015 saw the announcement of OnDemandResources and GameplayKit, while SpriteKit introduced numerous features, for instance allowing the camera, audio and animations to be set in the Editor, while SKReferenceNodes allowed scenes to be placed inside other scenes.
In September 2015, Apple released iOS9 and a whole lot of woes for Game Developers. I’ve written about this before so won’t go into detail, but, for instance, games built for iOS 8 were broken on devices users upgraded to the latest OS. Worst of all, there was no official acknowledgement from Apple themselves, although the developer forums were overrun with posts.
After the iOS9 SpriteKit shambles, at WWDC16 Apple announced the SpriteKit Tile Editor, something which at that time wasn’t built into Unity, added warp transformations, optimized the scene outline view and added a FPS Performance Gauge. Although these were welcomed improvements, there still wasn’t any acknowledgement from Apple on SpriteKit’s iOS9 failings.
At WWDC 2017, Apple announced ARKit and the ability to render AR content with SpriteKit. Apple clearly views AR as the future, but SpriteKit itself didn’t receive any new features.
At WWDC 2018, SpriteKit wasn’t even scheduled as a talk. Although there was a discussion on the creation of an AR game using Apple technologies, for the second year in a row, there was no new features for SpriteKit announced.
Lets see what WWDC 2019 brings, but from where I’m sitting, SpriteKit seems to be dying the slow death.