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Sunday, June 18, 2006

MechAssault DS - Making a 3D game on DS


Some tidbits of interesting DS information from the diary of the Sara Guinness, Producer of MechAssault DS.

1) LOD: this delightful acronym stands for Level of Detail and refers to making multiple sets of the same asset (i.e., “LODs”) – each with different levels of detail in their geometry and/or textures. The high detail stuff is drawn close to the player and the lower detail stuff is drawn far away. The trade off is that instead of storing only one set of something in RAM you have to store multiple sets, but if you find the right balance you can have a heck of a lot more going on in the player’s view at any given moment.

2) Streaming: when you can’t fit something into RAM, embrace streaming. The DS lets you stream off the cartridge into the game and we ended up doing this with terrain geometry, voiceover, music and for a long time, terrain textures. Streaming also brought up another challenge for us during development. We began the project with the assumption we’d be using a 512 Mbit (64 MB) cartridge, so
our memory map was crafted under those constraints. Later Nintendo announced the 1Gbit (128 MB) cart was available but there was a catch. Isn’t there always?
This larger cart’s transfer speed (the speed at which data transfers from cart
to RAM) was 25% slower than the 512 cart. Yikes! These are the kind of
unforeseen things that always come up in development, but they’re still scary.
So we had to do some analysis about whether we still could stream all these
things fast enough in the now smaller pipe. Turns out we could…..and using a
combination of technical tactics, Design and Art were able to make their 3D
visions a reality.

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