Apple Makes New On-Screen Game Controller Available to Developers on iOS 15 and iPadOS 15

During the Platforms State of the Union at WWDC this week, Apple unveiled a new API for iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 that enables developers to implement an on-screen virtual game controller in their iPhone and iPad games with just a few lines of code.

apple virtual game controller ios 15
While many iPhone and iPad games already offer on-screen controls, Apple's new virtual game controller is available to all developers, easy to add, and can be customized on a per-game basis. Apple said the on-screen controller can be adjusted to a variety of layouts, with up to four buttons and a thumbstick, d-pad, or touchpad available per left and right side.

"These new on-screen controls for iPhone and iPad look amazing, and they're carefully tuned for grip locations across hand sizes and for a great responsiveness and feel," said Nat Brown, an Apple engineer working on Game Technologies.

Apple offers a WWDC session and developer documentation with more details.

Related Roundups: iOS 15, iPadOS 15
Related Forum: iOS 15

Top Rated Comments

dannyyankou Avatar
12 months ago
On screen game controllers have never worked and will never work. It’s very difficult to keep your eyes on the gameplay and controls at the same time. You need physical buttons.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheDailyApple Avatar
12 months ago
I find the best on screen controllers are the ones designed from the ground up for touch screen instead on those trying to replicate standard game controls.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheDailyApple Avatar
12 months ago

On screen game controllers have never worked and will never work. It’s very difficult to keep your eyes on the gameplay and controls at the same time. You need physical buttons.
While I tend to agree with you, this could help with that. If multiple games share the same on screen controls then it will be easier to memorize button location and placement. Similar to how I can type on the 12.9” iPad’s software keyboard without looking just like I do on a real one (albeit more slowly) because the key placement is the same.

Obviously a heavy gamer should buy a real controller just as a coder or writer should buy a real keyboard. But as light/infrequent gamers are unlikely to invest in one, it’s worth optimizing the on screen interface.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
RadioHedgeFund Avatar
12 months ago

On screen game controllers have never worked and will never work. It’s very difficult to keep your eyes on the gameplay and controls at the same time. You need physical buttons.
I don’t know, Caster (http://www.elecorn.com/caster3d/) largely nailed the core aspects of it in 2009 by just using the position of your thumb from the first point it hits the screen. It is entirely possible to use the orientation of your character or vehicle as a visual cue for where you need to go to next. Controlling a camera using the same method is no different to using a mouse.

Meteor Blitz (https://toucharcade.com/2009/09/16/meteor-blitz-dual-stick-space-shooting-goodness/) also showed how you can use orientation and visual cues to make up for a lack of buttons. Geometry Wars 3 on iOS was and still is a fantastic port.

Where touchscreen controls do fall down is when devs tried to port over console titles to a phone and have to shoehorn touchscreen controls into games not designed for them. This does not work.

There are exceptions, for example games with a largely static camera like FFVII but this pales in comparison to proper ports like FFIX which have been redesigned with the host platform in mind. See also titles like Horizon Chase and Oceanhorn 1.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LFC2020 Avatar
12 months ago
This is why they must of released a 16gb ram iPad ?? since the ram is useless for anything else on iPadOS at the moment.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Joniz Avatar
12 months ago
Yeah, I can see someone making a game where these are a set of boobs or something.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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