Game Development Reference
With a handheld game, all of these possibilities are, no pun intended, in play.
The handheld game player may be fully engrossed sitting at home on her couch, or
she may be just killing a little time while waiting for something to start or end. Her
attention may be purposely split. She is well aware that her game experience may be
interrupted at any time—perhaps quite unpredictably—and expects the game (and
game story) to withstand this sort of thing. She may not expect or appreciate very
complex game or story elements that, if interrupted, are difficult to re-engage with at
a later time.
Roundabout versus direct. The leisurely approach a console gamer may take to
her game playing—stopping in a 3D level to admire the artwork, going back to get
that extra collectible item, replaying the level with a different character—may be less
likely to be taken by the handheld game player.
Someone who's squeezing in a little gaming time while waiting for something
else to happen might be more likely to be looking for something simple, direct, and
achievable in just a few minutes, with a tangible reward for doing so. Narrative
clutter that gets in the way of this kind of simple goal may not be appreciated and
may in fact interfere with what the player is trying to get out of the game.
17.3 Additional Considerations: Cartridge-Based Games
Until recently, all handheld gaming systems lagged very far behind their console
cousins in terms of raw computing power, memory, and storage capacity for game
Even console games in the mid 1990s could process thousands of 3D polygons
per frame, while storing on their optical discs hundreds of megabytes of assets—
including graphics capable of rendering expansive-feeling worlds, and hours of full-
motion video and game audio.
Handheld systems of the time, with their relatively low-powered CPUs, limited
graphics rendering capabilities, and cramped, cartridge-based storage media, were
forced to rely on the use of early PC and console game development tricks such as
pre-rendered sprites, severe color palette restrictions, and 2D tiling. Most significant
from a narrative perspective, handheld games were unable to present full-motion
video (FMV) or more than a few seconds of voiceover (VO) audio. This required
handheld game writers of the time to be supremely inventive and scope-conscious
when planning the delivery of story content to the player.
The technology for providing a console-like game experience in the palm of one's
hand was realized in 2004 when Sony first released the PlayStation Portable (PSP),
considered to be the first optical disc-based handheld gaming system. Its powerful
CPU, combined with Sony's proprietary UMD disc format, promised gamers the
potential to enjoy the experience of a console game virtually anywhere.
However, it may be that for handheld gaming, it's not all about high-power
CPUs, eye-popping graphics, or home theater-type audio. For at the time of this