I ended my Comic-Con meetings with Jonathan Hunt, the Director of Community Relations at GameSalad. If you are unfamiliar with the product, it is a free-to-use WYSIWYG-style Mac, iOS (and now HTML5) app development tool that runs on the MacOS. About a year ago, I wrote a piece about the product and since I am not a Mac user, it was nice to finally see the tool in person. I was given a live demo of the tool by one of the women working the booth (I apologize for not remembering her name) and literally within just a couple of minutes of simple dragging and dropping you had a very basic Missile Command style game, complete with explosions…very cool!

During our discussion, Jonathan threw out some really impressive numbers. There have been a number of GameSalad-developed games that have appeared on Apple’s New & Noteworthy section including Gravonaut (Nexus Game Studio), Air Supply – 1bit Run (Quantum Sheep), just to name a few. In the last few months, 400-500 GameSalad developed games are appearing on the App Store each month. At this point, 6.5% of all games published on the App Store are GameSalad developed games. As I mentioned, GameSalad is free to use (outside of the $99 Apple charges for a developer license) but there is also a pro version for $499 a year which adds a number of nice features.

One of the biggest shortcomings of GameSalad (at least in my opinion) has been its lack of support for OpenFeint and/or Game Center. I was happily surprised to discover from Jonathan that GameSalad now supports Game Center leaderboards. Unfortunately since this is a pro-only feature, it’s hasn’t been widely adopted yet, because only a small percentage of GameSalad’s use- base are pro users, but it is nice to see that this support is now finally available. Some of the other pro features include the ability to remove the “powered by GameSalad” splash screen, iAds integration, Open URL (add a go to my website link which will open in mobile safari), Game Center achievements (coming soon).

The tool has not only spawned a huge crop of new game developers , but other enterprising entrepreneurs as well, who offer their GameSalad knowledge and expertise in the form of self-made templates or art assets for sale via GameSalad’s active user forums and Marketplace. The Cookbook section of the GameSalad site offers a wealth of best practices information that is both written and voted on by the user community and there is also an active forum community ready to lend a helping hand to fellow developers.

The goal (and slogan) of GameSalad is “Game creation for everyone”, and their user-base really shows this, spreading the gamut from non-programming newbies trying to create their first game to experienced programmers that are just looking for a faster way to develop their apps. However, since the tool remains Mac-only, even Jonathan admitted that the company hasn’t quite achieved this goal yet, telling me to check back with him in a year on a Windows release. It is definitely something that they are actively exploring.

Being a Computer Science major, I did a fair amount of programming in College, but have no desire to sit down and try to make a game myself (via the traditional method) so if GameSalad can get a PC version out, I’d definitely be all over that! WYSIWYG and logic, I can totally handle that, and with the convenient “publish to HTML5” option and the ability to have people play, share (and test) your game right in a web browser via an embedded HTML 5 code or on the Arcade section of GameSalad’s site means you can get a lot of feedback BEFORE you publish, avoiding those unwanted one star reviews!

A sample embedding of a game (Air Supply) via HTML5

If you own a Mac, you really have no excuse NOT to download GameSalad and give it a go. Who knows, maybe your game will be the next great app that we are reviewing on this site.