Unity Engine Update Adds iOS Game Controller Support

Unity is the go-to engine option for mobile developers the world over, and its latest update promises robust support for hardware game controllers paired with iOS.

The game controller-iPhone relationship has been touch and go, but Apple recently announced an MFi (Made for iPhone) licensing program that will bring official Apple support to this oft-ignored corner of the hardware world. Unity has taken notice of Apple’s plans, and has already updated Unity ahead of the forthcoming hardware releases.

A post on Unity’s official blog broke the news, and it also serves as an introductory tutorial for those who want to add controller support to their game. Part of the blog post is below:

Like most mobile games developers, we’ve been closely following what important additions and changes the recently released iOS 7 update has made. One of the biggest and most exciting of Apple’s initiatives is the standardization of game controllers for iOS-based platforms. So we’re happy to tell you that, in addition to several important bug fixes for Xcode 5 / iOS 7 (Build&Run, WebCamTexture and status bar), Apple Controller support is included with 4.2.2! This blog post aims to answer most common questions this addition will raise and serve as a short tutorial on how to add support for iOS Game Controllers to your game.

Lets start with the questions you probably have:

  • Q: Will there be a separate iOS-specific API for iOS Game Controllers in Unity?
    A: iOS Game Controller support plugs directly into the standard Unity Input API.
  • Q: The Game Controller API is part of iOS 7, does that imply that games supporting this API will only run on iOS 7 and later?
    A: No, Unity takes care of it. The Game Controller framework is loaded dynamically by Unity iOS runtime only if it is available. For older iOS versions it will just return an empty list of controllers.
  • Q: Can I release my game with a controller-only input scheme?
    A: No, Apple documentation explicitly states that controller input must be optional and your game should be playable without them.
  • Q: Where can I read more about Game Controllers and the Unity Input API?
    A: The Unity Input manual is available from our manual page and Apple Game Controller documentation is here.

Take note that touchscreen support is still a requirement for all games sold in the App Store — controller support is secondary and optional.

With so many older games seeing iOS ports with shoddy touchscreen controls, official controller support on multiple levels shouls make for an improved mobile gaming experience, without a doubt. Wolf3D with a touchscreen? Cool, I guess. Wolf3D on an iPad with a dedicated controller? Even better.

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