Designing games for iPad poses challenges

April 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Consumers will be scrambling to get their hands on Apple's new iPad when it comes out Saturday. However, there has been a behind-the-scenes scramble to design games for it.

iPad game designer Dana Nelson has been keeping a secret for six weeks and it has not been easy.

"It was top secret; I think some people guessed, but I couldn't confirm or deny what I was doing exactly," she said.

Nelson and a team at PlayFirst have been working in stealth mode, creating a brand new game for the iPad. It is called Diner Dash: Grilling Green.

Ordinarily, it takes one engineer and one designer working for nine months to create a game for an iPhone. For the iPad, 16 people were told to get a game done in 42 days.

"Failure really wasn't an option; we knew we had to hit the ground running right from the start," PlayFirst Mobile Game Director Chris Williams said.

A board filled with color-coded index cards tracked tasks for engineers, artists and graphics people. They could have just taken an existing game and blown it up for the bigger screen -- most early iPad titles will be just that. PlayFirst's is one of the few built from the ground up. That meant working almost around the clock.

"Evenings and weekends were given up; we had six weeks, we had to get stuff done," PlayFirst Art Director Chuck Eyler said.

To make sure the job got done, the team was expanded to include support in Ireland.

"They would be finishing their day when we were starting our day in the morning; we had that hand-off so the development was going on around the clock," Williams said.

One of the biggest challenges was that they had no iPad for testing out the game. Those who download it Saturday will be the first to experience it.


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