Game Development Reference
writing, the dominant handheld platform continues to be Nintendo's cartridge-based
Because of the DS's relatively low-powered CPU and modest storage capability,
there are additional considerations a writer must take into account when developing
content for it.
Compared to a console game or the PSP, the DS as a platform is limited in terms of
CPU and graphics rendering power. More importantly for narrative considerations,
the ROM budget is only a small fraction of the gigabytes you see on consoles or even
the PSP. By small fraction we mean around 20%, and in many cases less than 10% of
consoles and the PSP. (The exact figure depends on the ROM size for that particular
After all the game art, animation, and audio assets are on the cartridge's ROM,
there is generally little to no room left over for extensive VO or FMV. These sto-
rytelling components are the bread and butter of most game writers, and without
these important tools you'll find yourself falling back on GameBoy-era storytelling
tools like the still picture and the caption. In other words, you might be asking your
players to (gasp!) read if they want to experience the story content. More on that
Schedule and Budget
Even more potentially constricting than the hardware limitations of the DS when
compared to a console game are the development schedule and budget. The budget
in particular will tend to conspire with ROM storage limits to rule out the inclusion
of extensive VO or FMV.
The inclusion of any FMV in third-party DS titles is less than common. Any
FMV you do get will probably be re-purposed from the console version of the
game—assuming there is one—or from other pre-existing footage, since the devel-
opment of original FMV is enormously expensive (and therefore extremely rare).
Additionally, the development team will probably have little to no available time
to compensate for this FMV shortfall by developing in-game, engine-driven cutscene
content, because it requires time-consuming custom scripting and animation, which
the schedule and budget will generally not support.
The news generally isn't much better on the VO front. If your DS title is a
companion SKU to a console version of the same game, you might be lucky enough
to get “piggybacked” onto their VO recording session, allowing you to record unique
lines for the DS game. However, if there is no console SKU, you are probably out
of luck with regard to voiceover, because VO casting, directing, and recording are,
again, inordinately expensive.
The shorter schedule for a DS game (usually about six months versus 18+ months
for a console game) also tends to put a rush on the narrative content develop-
ment, usually in concurrence with the very short pre-production phase and probably