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Students Create DS Game to Scoop Dev Prize

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the nicely-done dept.

Programming 29

VonSnouty writes "We've heard a lot about how Valve's Portal was originally a Digipen student project, and Microsoft is also looking to tap the amateur scene by opening up its dev environment, XNA. But creating a prototype for a DS game? That's ambitious. A team of students in Scotland has just won a prestigious competition doing exactly that though, albeit using a Wacom tablet and a PC. The gameplay is an innovative mix of Pikmin, Pic Pax and Mario, and sounds pretty cool."

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fp (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16024063)

making ds games sounds hard..i wonder how you would make a game with a tablet? unless it was just a bunch of drawn-up screenshots

Re:fp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16024149)

I take it you don't quite understand what a Wacom tablet is...

development kit (2, Informative)

stsp (979375) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024075)

From TFA:

Go on, somebody give him a development kit.

Here you go [devkitpro.org] .

Excellent! (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024178)

My group at Tech's trying to do a DS Port too, although it probably won't look as fancy since we're just aiming to make a drawing program out of it.

Glad to see we're not the first.

Re:Excellent! (1)

dslauson (914147) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024647)

Why would you be "glad to see you're not the first"? Is it not a desireable thing to be the first to do something innovative?

"Whew. I sure am glad somebody beat me to the punch. That would have been aweful if I had done it first".

Re:Excellent! (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 8 years ago | (#16025186)

Why would you be "glad to see you're not the first"? Is it not a desireable thing to be the first to do something innovative?

I can see situations where it may be conforting to not be first, if only for the confort of knowing at least one other person in the world shares the same brand of mental illness.

Am I the only one who's walked into an empty conference room and wondered, am I first or was the meeting moved and nobody told me?

Re:Excellent! (1)

dslauson (914147) | more than 8 years ago | (#16068809)

Walking into a conference room is not exactly a feat of innovation.

They could have used a real DS (5, Informative)

stsp (979375) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024253)

From TFA:

Nintendo machines are traditionally hard for established companies to get a foothold on, let alone students.

Well, I'm a student, too, and I'm working on the port of Linux to the DS. And no, we do not have an official development kit. We use gcc and tools supplied by the homebrew community.

And there are countless others who are developing games and other applications, too. I'd say most of them are students. See here [dev-scene.com]

Another difference to what TFA describes and the homebrew scene is that the homebrew scene is largely open source.

Since the team couldn't actually get hold of a DS development kit, Metalheads was made on a PC using a Wacom tablet in place of a touchscreen.

Doh. They obviously haven't informed themselves well before writing the game. They could have written it for real hardware and tested it on real hardware. See here [devkitpro.org]

Re:They could have used a real DS (1)

kwayle (767043) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024679)

However this was written for the Dare to be digital Competition. http://www.daretobedigital.com/ [daretobedigital.com]

Much easier to write it on a notebook and be able to take screenshots/videos to show the judges and not to mention sticking it on a projector rather than to get them all to crowd around the one ds that you've flashed so you can run your own code on. So maybe they though about it a lot more than you give them credit for.

Re:They could have used a real DS (1)

stsp (979375) | more than 8 years ago | (#16025064)

Much easier to write it on a notebook and be able to take screenshots/videos to show the judges and not to mention sticking it on a projector

Point taken.

rather than to get them all to crowd around the one ds that you've flashed so you can run your own code on.

It could still be argued that a game designed for the DS should be presented on a DS nonetheless. The judges should take the time to give the game a spin on a real DS if they could.

And you don't need to modify (or flash, as you put it) the DS in order to run your own code. You just need extra hardware which costs about 75 Euros. See here [dslinux.org] for more info on this.

Well... (3, Informative)

JMZero (449047) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024304)

DS development is quite pleasant and easy to get into. It's about $80 in hardware (for a flash GBA card - $40 more if you can't find a proper Wifi card to run WifiMe) - or free if you're satisfied with emulation (which you probably shouldn't be). The hardware has a few tricks, but so does every platform. The information on development is extremely easy to find (try "Google") - there's plenty of tutorials, samples, and what not to get you started.

The game itself looks ambitious and was probably a fair bit of work - but claiming he can't do it on the DS without help is decidedly unambitious if you ask me. Of consoles for homebrew, the DS has to be one of the most well documented/easiest platforms you'll find.

Re:Well... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024919)

It's about $80 in hardware (for a flash GBA card - $40 more if you can't find a proper Wifi card to run WifiMe)

Actually it's not 40 USD more, and WiFiMe works only with DS systems from before 2005 Q4. What you see is what you need [jk0.org] :

  • DS Lite: $130
  • MAX Media Launcher: $25
  • GBA Movie Player: $25
  • CF card: $15
  • CF writer: $14
  • Set of precision screwdrivers: $1
  • Paperclips and cellophane tape: Steal them from the office

Mario? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16024335)

'The gameplay is an innovative mix of Pikmin, Pic Pax and Mario, and sounds pretty cool.'

From TFA:

'As for the game, Metalheads, Millar describes it as "almost a merging of Pikmin, Lemmings, Abe's Oddysee and Flashback."'

Myth (3, Informative)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024535)

You know, it's not actually that difficult to get into DS game development at all. The only significant hurdle is finding someone to pay to do the actual cart manufacturing. It's not god-awfully expensive, but it's more than I had originally expected; I wish I wasn't NDA bound to not give a number, but you can work out an upper bound with some common sense, and I'll just say "it's near that upper bound." If you can convince the people at Nintendo that you're not just going to turn around and sell the SDK, they'll usually sell you one for much cheaper than the price they quote on http://warioworld.com/ [warioworld.com] . If you'd rather take the simple route and jus get going, the homebrew SDK [devkitpro.org] is free, is GCC, and is quite easy to use.

Re:Myth (1)

CheechWizz (886957) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024605)

Just out of curiousity, did you show nintendo a homebrew demo of some sort to get the SDK? Or did you take another route?

Learn Allegro and OpenGL and make a demo (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024960)

On warioworld.com, Nintendo has suggested learning to develop with "an API" (I recommend Allegro and OpenGL [sourceforge.net] ) and then either 1. using your demo to get a job with a licensee or 2. leasing office space in which to put your SDK. Nintendo doesn't license to developers in home offices.

Re:Myth (1)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 8 years ago | (#16031111)

I took another route, but that route does work. You show it to publishers, not Nintendo.

Re:Myth (1)

Flaming Death (447117) | more than 8 years ago | (#16024981)

Erm complete BS. You not only need cart manufacturing, you need a license from Nintendo. You _need_ a devkit (with compiler/linker and binary signing tools) and you _need_ a marketing/packaging company. Unless you have a million lying around, this is _well_ beyond your average homebrew and indie effort.

In fact, the license from Nintendo is one of the most expensive components - and usually why you go through a licensed publisher to get the appropriate licensing. The marketing and manufacturing of the cart is also higly expensive - Nintendo and other manufacturers also require a minimum run of 10,000 units.

To actually do all this from scratch, is pretty rare. Usually happens when people with lots of stock options leave Nintendo or EA and startup their own little studio. Btw - the NDA for Nintendo doesnt bind you to not giving the price per cart - last time I checked its not even posted on the devsite (warioworld) - just checked again, nope. Devkits, and components are, not manufacturing carts for sell through.

There is no Myth here - access to game development is not easy if you are not well financially backed, or/and dont have good association with Nintendo (usually via publishers). First party titles especially, you need to be good friends with Nintendo.

And to all the nuggets that say homebrew is 'easy on DS with GCC' - you obviously havent tried to do it yet, have you. Debugging IPC anyone? riiiight...

Re:Myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16025536)

Yeah, only everything you mentioned is mostly about publishing/selling the game, and not the actual development. Developing for the DS (or the GBA) IS easy. I have arleady done that.

Re:Myth (5, Informative)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 8 years ago | (#16031160)

Erm complete BS.

Yeah, I do this for a living, thanks.

You not only need cart manufacturing, you need a license from Nintendo.

Which they will happily give to anyone who can afford manufacturing. Takes about a week. Ask Sandy Hatcher at NOA for details.

You _need_ a devkit

No, you don't. The devkit is built on CodeWarrior. Nintendo allows GCC and RVCT binaries instead. There is no requirement to use any official tools except when working with the Wifi Connection. Of course, since in context I was talking about an amateur, this doesn't actually matter.

(with compiler/linker and binary signing tools)

Uh, developers don't get signing tools; if they did the signature would long since be leaked. We get DSes that don't make the signature check in the first place, instead.

and you _need_ a marketing/packaging company.

There is no requirement to have a marketing company, whether or not it's good business sense, and Nintendo handles the packaging whether you want them to or not.

Unless you have a million lying around, this is _well_ beyond your average homebrew and indie effort.

Actually, the minimum run of demo carts is currently 1700 units. You can have your game manufactured for roughly the price of a Honda.

In fact, the license from Nintendo is one of the most expensive components

There is no fee for the license at all. It's the SDK which costs money. Warioworld tells you it's $10k, but Nintendo almost always cuts a major break on the price.

and usually why you go through a licensed publisher to get the appropriate licensing

Wrong. It's about the price of manufacturing, like I said.

The marketing and manufacturing of the cart is also higly expensive

Marketing costs on a AAA game are generally in the neighborhood of $300k. Manufacturing is generally closer to $5m. Please stop pretending to know things you don't actually know.

Nintendo and other manufacturers also require a minimum run of 10,000 units.

On the DS it's 1700. On the GameCube it's 450. On the Gameboy Advance it's 500. These numbers are publically available on warioworld.com [warioworld.com] . On the Playstation 2 it's 2000. On the XBox it's 1500. On the XBox 360 it's 2500. On the PSP it's 3000. Please stop pretending to know things you don't actually know.

To actually do all this from scratch, is pretty rare.

True. So what? We're talking about a few guys making a demo on a machine, not how to publish. Way to get off on a tangent about nothing.

Btw - the NDA for Nintendo doesnt bind you to not giving the price per cart

Yes, it does. I suspect you don't actually have a copy, but in case you do, look at page six line 34. Why would you pretend to know something like this?

last time I checked its not even posted on the devsite (warioworld)

Correct, because it's a protected trade secret, and they give different prices to different developers, which is why the NDA forbids you from discussing it.

Devkits, and components are, not manufacturing carts for sell through.

This is true, but of course, has nothing to do with a few guys making a demo on hardware.

There is no Myth here - access to game development is not easy if you are not well financially backed

No business is easy without money. The game business isn't any different. What you're failing to comprehend is that investment just isn't that hard to come by. I got into the industry on a demo I wrote in three weeks of my spare time, by shopping around for some investor who wanted into the game industry and believed in my product. It took me about a month to find him.

I don't understand why you're trying to tell me about my job, when neither do you know anything about it nor does it have anything to do with what I said.

or/and dont have good association with Nintendo (usually via publishers)

Nintendo has a good association with anyone with a wallet. Quit feigning industry knowledge. It just doesn't work on the buddy system like you heard in some magazine.

First party titles especially, you need to be good friends with Nintendo.

Er. If it's a first party title, you have to be Nintendo. That's what first party means - made by the system developer. It doesn't matter how good your relationship is with them; if you're not them then nothing you made is first party.

Maybe what you mean is "second party," where Nintendo publishes the work for you - Sony loves to do this. However, if you read around on Warioworld, you'll notice that they say over and over again "we do not second party publish ever." And, in fact, if you look through your games, the last game they ever second party published was during the early SNES era.

Again, please stop feigning knowledge.

And to all the nuggets that say homebrew is 'easy on DS with GCC' - you obviously havent tried to do it yet, have you. Debugging IPC anyone? riiiight...

IPC was removed a year ago, and was never particularly difficult. And yes, I've been using Mute's tools for seven years. Please stop feigning knowledge you don't have. Just because you're not able to develop on the machine doesn't mean it's not easy. Look inwards before you look outwards; lots of people are using it as their first development machine quite successfully.

Second party (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16055544)

Maybe what you mean is "second party," where Nintendo publishes the work for you - Sony loves to do this. However, if you read around on Warioworld, you'll notice that they say over and over again "we do not second party publish ever." And, in fact, if you look through your games, the last game they ever second party published was during the early SNES era.

I always understood that second party was when a software company develops exclusivly for a certain hardware company and is even allowed to use trademarks from the hardware company.
In the N64 era Rare was a second party and on the Gamecube Retro studios is one.

Re:Second party (1)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 8 years ago | (#16070704)

Nah. The reason for the confusion is that Rare was semi-owned by Nintendo, and so a lot of developers who were angry that Rare was getting good-buddy support from Nintendo accused Nintendo of second-party publishing Rare preferentially, when they wouldn't do that for anyone else.

We Need A New Mod Category (1)

Petersko (564140) | more than 8 years ago | (#16068513)

We need to be able to mod "+1 Owned The Parent".

Re:Myth (1)

J. T. MacLeod (111094) | more than 8 years ago | (#16025376)

I suppose two questions I would have for you would be...

a) How difficult would it be to transition from the homebrew SDK to the official one? Would it be worth doing any real work to begin with before transitioning?
b) Is the official SDK significantly better to be worth using?

I might also suggest anonymous posting for those NDA issues. But if I actually signed my name to one, I might feel a bit more bound to respect them.

Re:Myth (2, Informative)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 8 years ago | (#16031191)

a) How difficult would it be to transition from the homebrew SDK to the official one? Would it be worth doing any real work to begin with before transitioning?

Well it's like transitioning from OS/2 to Windows. It has the same general list of stuff, targetting the same general hardware, but the names of API functions and the order they want arguments in is different. It's not challenging, but it's a big hassle.

Would it be worth any real work? Depends. If you follow GoF Strategy Pattern [tri-bit.com] and wrap dealing with the SDK, then you can pretty cleanly replace your stubs and not worry about becoming bug central. If it's a system you haven't done yet, then yes, it would be useful to do it in the homebrew SDK just to learn the machine. If the game industry is new to you, having a functional demo on real hardware makes getting investment much easier, so it might be useful for those reasons too.

If on the other hand you're a pro gamedev from a different platform, then you won't have a hard time getting money, the machine's gonna be stuff you already know, and so for them, no, it's probably not worth the hassle, and just wait a week until Nintendo sends you a kit.

Different strokes for different folks. For non-pros, the homebrew SDK is a minor miracle.

b) Is the official SDK significantly better to be worth using?

Well, you can't sell games make in the homebrew SDK at Walmart. :D In response to your real question, yes there are a few things that the real SDK does significantly better - the homebrew SDK doesn't do NiFi at all, for example, and its sound stuff is acceptable whereas the real SDK's sound stuff is quite nice. What you really want to know is "is the homebrew SDK good enough?" On almost every front, yes. WLAN is still a hassle, but thanks to my bounty [tri-bit.com] which led to Steve's work [akkit.org] , the Internet is within your grasp using normal TCP and UDP.

The homebrew SDK is just fine. Give it a try.

gameplay is an innovative mix of ... (1)

phunctor (964194) | more than 8 years ago | (#16029417)

I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Pic-Pax (1)

PhotoBoy (684898) | more than 8 years ago | (#16029516)

I should point out that it's Pac-Pix not Pic-Pax. As it's one of my favourite DS games I thought I should mention it! :)

Console development is not a challenge anymore. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16031343)

In 1985, or even as late as 1993, developing games for a console was a real challenge. There were very restrictive constraints placed on the programmer. Memory was one of the most significant. The NES, for instance, had what amounted to 2 KB of Work RAM. The SNES provided the developer with a whopping 128 KB of Work RAM. The processors of such systems ran at between 1 and 3 MHz.

But look at what somebody developing for the Xbox 360 has at their disposal: 512 MB of RAM, and a PPC CPU with 3 cores running at 3.2 GHz. The CPU has a 1 MB L2 cache. The Xbox 360 has 512 times more RAM in its L2 cache alone than the NES had in total.

It was actually a technical challenge to write an NES game, let alone one that worked well and as intended. It took a lot of talent, a lot of time and effort, and a lot of expertise.

What these kids did may have been a good effort, but there's nothing remarkable about it. The technical difficulties they faced were likely none.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating a return back to the hardware and development techniques of the NES. I think we should just look at things in perspective, and see who faced the real challenges. Anybody who has programmed a console game in C# on hardware as powerful as the Xbox 360 has not done anything of serious note, at least from a technical standpoint.

End Run Around Digi (1)

crowspeaker (705554) | more than 8 years ago | (#16067060)

Interesting. My daughter is planning on attending DigiPen. One of their very public statements is that no game developed as a student project could be sold as a commercial game. Wonder how they are circumventing that? Are they hoping that the all of the publicity will force DigiPen to be magnanimous? Or is the project just so far removed from its original state that the developers can claim it's a new work?
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