A quick note about VAST on Apple TV 4 versus Apple TV 4K. Over the Summer of 2017, I developed most of VAST’s core gameplay systems and prototype level on the Apple TV 4 (which came out in 2015), operating on the bet that ATV4K would be announced in October 2017 and would be slightly more powerful to push twice as many pixels from 2K to 4K. Then, VAST would be right there ready to go for the newer device. When ATV4K indeed came out last Fall, I was surprised to see it wasn’t just slightly more powerful, but tremendously more powerful.

ATV4 is, after all, two years old by now, but its chip (a mobile chip) is even older than that. In terms of its ability to run games on par with triple-A consoles of today, it just barely squeaks by with passable, though extremely limited, indie titles. However, ATV4K is using a more recent and powerful chip as an iPad Pro, which is powerful enough to perform substantial graphics work at solid frame rates (probably for Apple Pencil drawing purposes) on a much larger display.

At that point on ATV4 during prototype development, adding even one new wall texture to VAST (when it then only had about five) would make the game exceed ATV4’s memory capabilities and crash. The best at which I could get VAST to run was about 30fps with no post-processing effects at all. But once I got the ATV4K, I was blown away with the results. It could run VAST at a steady 60fps with post-processing and at 4K, with more memory for more textures and VFX!

The difference was night and day. So much so, that it became completely clear to me to outright drop support for ATV4 altogether and officially only support the ATV4K.

But upon submitting the game to Apple and getting it approved, Apple listed its Compatibility, to my surprise, as just “Apple TV”. As far as Astrogun is concerned, this is not accurate, and we wish Apple was more specific. Furthermore, in our sales charts, we can’t tell what Apple TV generation people are buying the game on– just ‘Apple TV’. Apple TV what? Apple TV 1?

Apple Compatibility Support

To my further surprise, the game somehow does run completely on Apple TV 4. This shouldn’t work, as there are a lot more textures now than back then, but somehow it does. I can only guess whatever was causing it to crash out was actually more related to the Unity game engine, an issue which Unity must have somehow fixed on their end with incremental patch updates that I keep VAST in sync with. It may be related to the fact that the final VAST app is a compiled binary and not just simply built and running from the Xcode Project. Either way…

While I would ordinarily be happy that the game actually runs on an older device, I’m not, because, apart from it running at all, it doesn’t run as well. As I expected. Performance on an Apple TV 4 is dramatically lower, though passable, than on Apple TV 4K. And a large part of having a console platform at all is avoiding issues exactly like this. This is even more strange since Apple does designate specific device generations with iPhone and iPad on their store for iOS apps.

While the game can be played and beaten, the lower framerate makes the controls more laggy, which makes the game far more difficult.

This directly impacts gameplay balance. And since Apple provides no way for me to exclude ‘Compatibility’ from anything younger than Apple TV 4K, some customers are going to get the game on ATV4, and find it is terribly frustrating with lower framerates and sluggish controls. Adding Axis Sensitivity adjustments to the forthcoming Options menu is on the to-do list, but it is unclear when against other priorities. To help make the game more comfortably playable on ATV4, where it shouldn’t even be anyway, this could sort of fudge things in the right direction, take it or leave it.

The ability for developers to communicate with Apple in a productive way about how their games are published is virtually non-existent, so we have no real way to get Apple to clarify its own compatibility designators on the App Store.

So be advised– VAST is meant for Apple TV 4K and Astrogun recommends you only buy and play the game on such a device. There’s no harm in getting it on ATV4 as a preview until you can get an ATV4K or later, as your purchase will automatically carry over to the newer device. Just know it won’t be the baseline intended experience. Currently, if you are thinking about getting an ATV4K but don’t have a 4K TV yet, you may be interested to know that getting one for your 2K TV will actually make VAST run at a rock-solid 60fps there! It should also improve the performance of all of your other Apple TV games too.

Until Apple provides some way for us to specify that the game is truly only compatible *as it was designed* for Apple TV 4K, I thought I would make this post to explain the matter to our customers. Overall, buyers of the game seem generally happy with it, so this App Store labeling isn’t a huge deal, but it certainly has the potential to cause confusion.

Author Xander Davis
Categories Apple TV
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