Slide To Play Q and A: GameDock

We’re fans of the iCade, so when we saw the Kickstarter campaign for a product called GameDock it immediately caught our eye. It’s a dock that you can plug your iOS device into, and it lets you play iCade-compatible games on your TV with a controller. We chatted over e-mail with Chris Jorgensen, the owner of Cascadia Games and co-creator of GameDock. Read on for the goods.

Slide To Play: What is the GameDock, and how did the idea come to you?

Jorgensen: I think the combination of developing a retro platformer for iOS (Cavorite) and playing on my old SNES for inspiration was probably the seed of the idea. If you recall, game cartridges could augment the console hardware (like Super FX) to keep games evolving without a new console. But with a phone, I figured the “cartridge” could be the core of a system, with no need to ever update the “console.”

STP: Have you been in touch with the people at ION Audio, the makers of the iCade? Do they support your project?

CJ: We haven’t been in touch, no. I have no idea if they’ve heard of the project or what they think of it, though I am curious.

STP: GameDock controllers have two action buttons, while the iCade supports eight. Why did you choose controllers with only two buttons?

CJ: We debated about this one. But ultimately we both felt very strongly about going back to that 8-bit era. It has a certain nostalgic charm and it keeps the focus on retro games. With that said, we’re considering our options. If the demand is there for something different and it’s feasible on our part, we’ll look into a change.

STP: One of the unique features of the GameDock is that it will support two players at the same time. Do games have to be specifically designed to take advantage of two controllers? How many games are in development that will work with two controllers?

CJ: Yes, just like games have to be updated to support iCade protocol, they have to be updated for two-player support. Right now there are four projects I know of that should have this feature around the time of launch. Considering that the hardware isn’t publicly available yet and the audience will be very niche at first, I think that’s a pretty good number at this point.

STP: You announced a dashboard app that will let you launch games for the GameDock without having to get up and touch your iOS device’s screen. How does this app work? Does it automatically display all GameDock-compatible games on your device?

CJ: It’s not 100% automatic. We’ll pre-populate it with a list of games that will work with the GameDock. If a game is in that list and on your device, it will show up in the app’s dashboard.

STP: Broadly speaking, only a small fraction of iOS games are iCade/GameDock compatible. Are you petitioning companies like Sega, Capcom, and other makers of classic titles to get on board?

CJ: We’re pretty far from that point, but that’s the ultimate goal. I think if all of these iCade-compatible devices form a big enough ecosystem, there may be game companies that are interested.

STP: You mention on the website that the GameDock works with “most” iCade-compatible games. Which games don’t work, and why?

CJ: The big issue right now is that there are no standards for how to map iCade buttons (i.e. action buttons, pause button, etc). So some games’ mapping may not be ideal for our gamepad. To solve this, we’re reaching out and working with several independent developers to ensure a good number of games will work well at launch.

STP: What’s your plan if Apple releases a new iPhone with a different dock connector?

CJ: We feel confident that there will be an adapter if this happens. If not, we’ll consider our options and determine how best to integrate a new connector with GameDock.