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iPhone dev cheers short development, quick patching at GDC Online


Vijay Thakkar is the technical director at Newtoy, the company responsible for iPhone hit Words with Friends, as well as a former developer on Star Wars: Galaxies and at the late Ensemble Studios. He took the stage at GDC Online 2010 this morning to run a panel about how to embrace mobile gaming, and while extolling the virtues of Apple's mobile platform and its constant online connectivity, he took aim at the traditional game industry's long development times and buggy releases.

Thakkar railed for a bit on a bug found recently in the latest title of his "favorite gaming franchise ever," Metroid: Other M. When the save-breaking bug appeared in the game, Thakkar recounted, Nintendo couldn't use the Wii's internet connectivity to patch the game. Instead, Thakkar pointed out, the company had to "ask players to 'send us your memory card.'"

"That's awful," Thakkar added. It's 2010, he said, developers should have ongoing access to update and patch their games when necessary, and he pointed to the iPhone as a platform where games could be released and patched quickly. "At Newtoy, we've completed full games in less time than it took me to design systems for older triple-A titles."

This agility means that developers can not only fix bugs quickly after launch, but they can also prototype new ideas ridiculously fast (Thakkar said that Newtoy had created one internal test game in just two workdays). Plus, this business model lends itself to filling in and growing features according to player demand after release -- something that a lot of big, lumbering developers haven't figured out how to do yet.

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