3D engines for iOS Development

I’m evaluating several different 3d engines for our planned iOS space combat game Torchships.

I found good overviews at Never Read Passively, Open Source iPhone game engine comparison, and The Commercial iPhone Game Engine Comparison (3D and 2D).

This week I’m digging more into Unity and cocos3d to get a better understanding of the pros and cons. Unity looks very nice but I’m not sure I want to go with a non-iOS-native solution.

Here is the list of 3D engines I’ve looked at so far…


UDK – Unreal Development Kit for iOS – PC & iOS

The same toolset used to make Gears of War and Infinity Blade.

+ Beautiful graphics

+ Industry Standard, high performance

+ Completely integrated development system

– Development on PC only

– proprietary scripting

Unity 3D – web, flash, iOS, Android, PC & Mac, Wii, PS3, xBox 360

Very popular 3d engine that supports a large number of platforms.

+Large developer base and very active community

+Very nice 3d Graphics, physics, and particle effects.

+Integrated editor and asset pipeline

+Largest number of platforms available

+Javascript or C#

+Mac native development

-Not a native iOS app, all new iOS features may not be available right away


Engine to create of richer apps and games on iOS, Android and other platforms.

+based on c++

-based on c++ 🙂


3D game engine with a graphical editor to create applications and games for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry QNX, WebOS, Marmalade and Wii


An OpenGLES based cross-platform 2D and 3D game engine for iOS, Android, MacOS and Windows


An extension to cocos2d. A sophisticated 3D application development framework for the iOS platform.

+open source

+based on and can integrate with the very powerful and popular cocos2d library

+native iOS


iSGL3D (iOS Scene Graph Library) is a 3D framework for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch written in Objective-C, enabling the creativity of developers to flourish in a 3D world without the complexities of OpenGL.

+based on OpenGL

+iOS native

-author is not actively supporting, looking for new contributors

Web2PY , Google App Engine, and DatastoreTimeoutException

While web2py runs great on the Google App Engine there are several gotchas that can cause a lot of headache if you aren’t aware of them. [Note to readers – this post assumes an advanced understanding of web2py and python.]

Google App Engine will throw a timeout error (DatastoreTimeoutException ) if your web2py function takes too long to execute. This can happen with a long database update or query. The average time to trigger a timeout appears to be about 30 seconds.

One approach to resolve this, if you can’t refactor your query or update operation to guarantee it will stay under 30 seconds or 1,000 records, is to create a progress display page that periodically calls a web2py function to incrementally perform the operation you are attempting.

The example I’ll use is a fairly complex report that works against a large number of records that can take several minutes to execute.

We have a summary_report view that allows the user to choose multiple filter options (year, school, etc). On submit the controller summary_reports is called, the request.vars from the user selections are saved as session variables and the view summary_report_display is called. The variable session.summary_m is our chunk size for our query, you can increase it to speed up the report but going too high can cause the process to hit the 30 second limit.

def summary_reports():

    if request.vars.teacher_select:

        #stores running values from report generator

        #user selections


        #used in the partial query

        #counter for number of report results


    return dict()

Our summary_report_display view has a javascript function defined that calls our web2py function get_progress_on_summary_report every 3 seconds, the get_progress_on_summary_report does the heavy lifting.

{{extend 'layout.html'}}</pre>
<h1>Generating Reports</h1>
<h2>This may take a while if you have a lot of walkthroughs - but you can monitor progress below...</h2>
<div id="progress"></div>
<div id="summary_report_show"></div>

Here is the code in the web2py controller for summary_report_display that sets up the progress bar display and the javascript call to get_progress_on_summary_report every 3 seconds.

progress = DIV(_id="progress")
wrapper = DIV(progress,_style="width:400px;")
summary_report_show = DIV(_id="summary_report_show")

def summary_report_display():

    callback = js.call_function(get_progress_on_summary_report)
    page.ready(jq(progress).progressbar( dict(value=request.now.second) )() )
    return dict(wrapper=wrapper)

The get_progress_on_summary_report function in the web2py controller does most of the work.

def get_progress_on_summary_report():

    if session.summary_break==0:


        #base query includes all walkthroughs

        #build the query list based on user selections

        #if user hasn't selected 'All' for an individual search/filter term, then add to the query
        if session.school_select!='All':

        if session.semester_select!='All':

        if session.year_select!='All':

        if session.class_select!='All':

        if session.teacher_select!='All':

        if session.observer_select!='All':

        #handle start / end date if user entered same
        if len(session.datestart)>0:
            date_object = datetime.datetime.strptime(str(session.datestart), '%Y-%m-%d')

        if len(session.dateend)>0:
            date_objectEnd = datetime.datetime.strptime(str(session.dateend), '%Y-%m-%d')
        #create query from list
        summary_report_query = reduce(lambda a,b:(a&b),queries)

        rows = db(summary_report_query).select(limitby=(session.summary_i*session.summary_m,(session.summary_i+1)*session.summary_m))

        for r in rows:

            # do something with r
            for w_record_result in list_walkthrough_result:
                if not type(w_record_result.f_result) is NoneType:
                    if w_record_result.f_result==None:
                        #do nothing
                        if w_record_result.f_result in session.dictGraphVariables:

        if len(rows)
<a href="summary_reports_complete">Click Here to View Graphs</a>'
                return_value='Report generation complete - there are ' + str(session.summary_overallcount) + ' results.


            return jq(summary_report_show).html(return_value)()

The core of the the iterative process is the query below, it pulls a chunk of rows (size defined by summary_m) each cycle.

rows = db(summary_report_query).select(limitby=(session.summary_i*session.summary_m,(session.summary_i+1)*session.summary_m))

This performs our operation in chunks, once there are no more rows the function changes state and then returns a link to the summary_report_show view page which will parse the results and present them to the user, if no results are produced then the operation tells the user.

This approach will let you perform queries or db updates against an very large set of records without triggering the timeout.