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Designing Games for Nintendo's Handheld Platforms:. The transition from GBA to DS. Abstract. Games for traditional handheld platforms have always presented the designer with a set of challenges and opportunities quite different to those that the console or PC designer must face.

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Designing games for nintendo s handheld platforms l.jpg

Designing Games for Nintendo's Handheld Platforms:

The transition from GBA to DS.

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Abstract

  • Games for traditional handheld platforms have always presented the designer with a set of challenges and opportunities quite different to those that the console or PC designer must face.

  • The Nintendo DS, with its unique display and input possibilities, adds yet another set of challenges of its own, while offering developers a chance to pursue the holy grail of game design: innovation. The hardware itself seem explicitly designed to goad us into taking bigger risks and trying new things.

  • How, then, do handheld developers approach this enticing new piece of hardware? What are the expectations? The rules? Where are the pitfalls?

  • How does the development of a DS game, specifically the creation of its design, differ from that of a GBA title, or a console title for that matter?

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Overview

  • Introduction

  • Nintendo

  • Handheld Platforms

  • GBA

  • DS

  • Traps

  • Strategies

  • The Design Process

  • The Development Process

  • Summary

  • Q&A

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Introduction

  • Who am I?

  • Who do I work for?

  • What do we do?

  • What have we done on GBA, and where are we currently at with DS?

  • Why talk about this now, before we’ve got all the answers?

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Nintendo

  • What values and qualities are associated with a Nintendo game?

  • Who plays games on Nintendo platforms?

  • Where do independent, third-party developers fit in to Nintendo’s plans?

  • What does all this mean when you sit down to design a game for a Nintendo platform?

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Handheld Platforms

  • Some specific design considerations, when developing for a handheld.

    • User interface

    • Game structure

    • Visual presentation

    • Use of audio

  • The diversity of situations in which handheld games are played.

David Hewitt AGDC 2004




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GBA

  • Constraints.

  • Expectations.

  • Haven for ports and “classic” gameplay…

  • …but also a place for neglected genres to flourish and grow once again.

  • Emphasis on gameplay over both innovation and “wow” factor.

  • First party releases and licensed product.

  • Who plays GBA?

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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The DS is Announced

  • Top responses:

    • What? Two screens? You mean like Donkey Kong?

    • If one screen is fun, then two screens means *twice* the fun! </sarcasm>

    • Huh?

    • Um.

    • LOLROFLMAO!

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Introducing the DS

  • A picture says a thousand words.

  • With Photoshop, however, you can say even more…

David Hewitt AGDC 2004












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Introducing the DS, Take Two

  • Tech specs (in designerese):

    • Ability to do some 3D stuff.

    • Two screens.

    • Stylus and touch screen control.

    • 4 face buttons.

    • Microphone.

    • WiFi connectivity.

    • Game sharing.

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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DS

  • Constraints.

  • Expectations.

  • Is there place for ports and multi-format releases?

    • Modular design.

    • Linked settings and stories.

  • Emphasis on innovation.

    • Can this go to far?

    • Is this the expense of gameplay depth?

    • What are the risks involved in re-inventing the wheel?

  • First party releases and licensed product.

  • Who will play the DS?

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Traps

  • 3D or not 3D?

    • No analog stick. Control is key, and must be designed around two types of fundamentally 2D control input.

    • 2048 triangles.

    • Camera control.

  • Touch screen use.

    • When, where and how?

    • More importantly: why?

  • What’s the second screen for?

  • Quick – how many thumbs does the player have?

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Strategies

  • Minimising risk.

    • Technology.

    • Design.

  • Prototyping.

  • Looking beyond console and handheld gaming for inspiration.

  • Modular design.

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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The Design Process

  • GBA

    • Points of reference.

    • What is the game like?

    • Okay, so how is it different?

  • DS

    • Points of reference.

    • How does the game stand up, on its own?

    • How does it use the hardware? Does it justify being on the DS?

    • Where’s the familiarity?

    • Where’s the newness?

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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The Development Process

  • GBA

    • Legacy from 16-bit console development.

      • Tools.

      • Production pipeline.

    • Scheduling.

    • Implementation.

    • Testing.

    • Quick ramp-up. Known quantities.

  • DS

    • Pre-production.

    • Looking ahead at scheduling, implementation and testing.

    • New tools.

    • New pipeline.

    • Flexibility, experimentation and the ability to make mistakes.

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Summary

  • Look further afield for inspiration. Break habits. Leave your comfort zone.

  • Find ways to prototype, test and evaluate.

    • Play your game as early and as often as you can.

  • Strike a balance between novelty and substance.

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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Q&A

  • Fire away!

David Hewitt AGDC 2004


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