Less than a day after Apple made its surprising announcement about a whole new programming language for building iOS applications, called Swift, a developer with just four hours of Swift programming experience under his belt created a clone of the virally popular game “Flappy Bird.” However, the game itself didn’t take four hours to code – as has been reported on Reddit and elsewhere – it took closer to nine hours, including breaks, the developer says.
The confusion around the time frame came about thanks to this post on the Hacker News website, where the game’s author, Nate Murray, chimed in saying that he had “about 4 hours Swift experience, so feel free to correct anything I say that’s wrong.”
Murray, previously an engineer at internet services automation startup IFTTT and now a co-founder at a recently launched “learn to code” online school Fullstack.io, has a special interest in better understanding Apple’s newest language – he says their company will soon be teaching a “Game Programming with Swift” course.
However, there’s no plan to actually attempt to release this umpteenth version of “Flappy Bird” on the iTunes App Store, we’re told. Rather, writing a clone of this particular game is now becoming a “rite of passage for trying out any new game framework,” Murray explains. “Flappy Bird has this great balance of being relatively simple to implement but fun to play when you’re done,” he says.
News of the Swift-powered “Flappy Bird” clone is now making its way around the web, popping up everywhere from gaming sites like Kotaku to more mainstream-friendly media sites like Mashable. The story resonates because it illustrates how quickly an experienced developer could pick up the new language, which, in addition to its many improvements and speed advantages, is said to also be easier for new developers to learn than Objective-C (its predecessor).
Apple’s hope, of course, is that learning Swift will be quicker and more painless for those who may have been put off by Objective-C in the past, while also catering to first-time iOS developers, including students.
In his brief time spent with Swift, Murray seems to agree that the new language has a good chance at achieving this goal of lowering the barrier to entry for new programmers. That’s thanks in large part to something called “Playgrounds,” he says, which lets you edit your code then watch how your app changes, in real-time.
“One feature I’m particularly excited about is Playgrounds,” says Murray. “I’ve been looking for a tool to teach programming for a long time. Earlier this year my co-founder and I released Choc, a browser tool a lot like playgrounds. Playgrounds seems like it could be the teaching tool I’ve been looking for.”
As for how long it actually took the developer to code his “Flappy Bird” clone in Swift? Well, it wasn’t four hours, but it wasn’t long, either.
Looking through his log files, Murray tells us that it was actually closer to nine hours to go from an empty folder to a playable demo. But, he points out, that included a dinner break and putting the kids to bed.