a) What is the best IDE to go for, which will require me to do minimal coding, and the app will be ready with just some drag-drops and event handlers?
To be completely honest, you'd likely have to say a little more about the app you wish to make in order for anyone to give you an idea about whether any particular game development suite or ide is going to be suited towards towards creating that game. There are quite a few options, some of which won’t meet your needs and some of which might be overkill.
Just as an example...gamesalad is aimed at doing minimal coding via drag and drop game creation and thus given what you’ve said it might fit your needs. But without a little more info on your app I couldn't tell you whether it was appropriate or not.
IMHO…you'll be best off just furthering your trials of the various options to the extent where you actually try to put at least a part of your game together. This will tell you much more about what the best solution is for your needs than any subjective answer on a forum.
b) Will this IDE allow me to create
- iPhone app on my windows box - if not, how much is the minimum cost to get it done?
- android app on my windows box
I think there is one solution that does allow you to create an iOS app on your windows box. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of it and even a google hasn’t helped. I wouldn’t actually recommend it anyway because every time people have discussed it on another forum I subscribe to - the feedback has been generally quite negative and this has been from professional game developers who I trust.
So…if you wish to develop on windows you’ll likely be targeting Android first and then porting it to iOS at a later date, or developing for both targets side-by-side. You’ll naturally want to have a solution that supports both platforms well then.
Again, I’ll be up front with you. If you really want to target iOS you should just get a Mac and an iOS device. Why?
Well, first…if you want to create a game for both platforms it’s best to trial the platform specific support for each solution. However, in your case because you do seem to want to stick to Windows based development I really would suggest you evaluate the full workflow of developing on Windows for Android and then switching across to Mac/iOS. Bear in mind you may wish to evaluate switching targets regularly as you might in a scenario where you develop for both platforms side-by-side and/or you may want to consider evaluating for the workflow of developing the game in its entirety on one platform, then porting to the other.
If you really do want to avoid getting a Mac now and cannot evaluate this 'feature', I would personally just stick with a known entity like Unity for now. This might be overkill for your app though.
Incidentally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing everything for Android in a Windows environment. But bear in mind that even if you don’t evaluate the multi-platform support now you’ll still need a Mac and iOS setup eventually regardless.
c) What is the total cost involved including hardware, licensing and publishing?
- considering iPhone as the only target
- considering iPhone + Android both
4GB Mac-mini (So mac-mini @ $599 + 2GB of extra RAM OR Mac-mini @ $799 which already has the RAM)
SDK licensing @ $99.
Minimum iOS hardware (8GB iPod touch) @ $199.
Read: you can get in to iOS from scratch for about $1000
That is a minimum but also sufficient. I wouldn’t recommend going for the $599 mac-mini without getting the extra RAM - do not be tempted by this..yes it will work, but you need the extra RAM to get sufficient speed from the development environment for your workflow.
The iPod touch is also a minimum but also quite/more than sufficient unless you want to target specifically or optionally support a tablet or you’re using features that would only be in a phone (such as GPS).
To add Android to this I assume you already have a windows box given your comments about sticking to that OS as your development host. So your cost here is really going to be the cost of a tablet or phone (the SDK is free). A decent-ish tablet will run @ $399 although there are deals to be had here and there. A phone can be much less or the same (mine was $150 although I don’t use it for development as it’s Android 2.2 and not very powerful – I stick to the tablet devices instead). Bear in mind performance and features vary somewhat wildly and you'll likely at least want something supporting at least Android 2.3 at this stage.
If you are looking to develop cheaply on tablet you could also consider a Kindle Fire. Some people do use these for development, although they require a small modification to .ini files on your PC to work for that (takes about two minutes) and personally I don’t think they are the best for development. As such I would only recommend this for the lower end apps, but some people do indeed development more than lower end with this. Cost of Android SDK is free.
If you want to make it even cheaper, then you could try not buying any hardware and using the emulators/simulators. This would also reduce your iOS SDK cost too. You could try this, but I would generally advise that you’ll likely (depending on your game) meet the limits of these very quickly and end up needing the target hardware either way. You would obviously need an IDE or SDK that supports this if you took that route. Again, I would steer you away from this in general…I only mention it because it has some validity as a solution if you have a limited budget. If you are interested in this, I would at least suggest you consider it only an interim solution.
Some people might say you need a more powerful Mac. So…I’ll mention that incidentally, I am developing an fps game via porting a PC engine to both iOS and Android. I’m doing something that would generally be considered higher end and I am using the $599 mac-mini with extra memory and an iPad 2 for iOS and a Windows 7 PC with a Motorola Xoom and a Kindle Fire for Android. Prior to the company buying the tablet hardware I actually developed for iOS using my own iPod touch.
Bear in mind...all costs quoted here are based about getting a development environment set up. If you're doing all the work yourself, there will be no other development costs unless you have to pay for an IDE. If you need others to do some work, there will be additional costs to pay those people.
It also doesn't cost anything to put an app out there for sale but bear in mind that your app may need a cash spend to assist it have even some small success. Therefore publishing can include costs for marketing and promotion, which still don't offer any guarantee. What you spend on this (if anything) is really up to you though.