The 3DS’s hardware limitations


Video games today are popular than ever before, this causes large companies to invest money and time into developing them, and some companies go a step further and develop platforms for games to be made for. The PC is a huge gaming platform, able to accomodate any game due to the vast amounts of proccessing power behind today’s top-end hardware, but other platforms don’t have this. Consoles are an example of such that they aren’t able to do what PC does and increase their processing power or memory capacity, they are stuck in time at the moment they were developed. Due to this, they have limitations that a developer needs to take into account when developing a game for the desired system as a certain amount of polygons can be rendered per second which will limit the visual fidelity if the game is designed to render at 30 hertz. The Nintendo 3DS is no exception as its hardware has it fall far behind other consoles of its generation, being the lowest in terms of processing power, RAM, and storage. Though due to it being a mobile gaming platform does result in this.

In this blog I will be looking into the New Nintendo 3DS console and talking about its limitations:

Top Screen:         800 × 240 px(400 × 240 px per eye in 3D)
Bottom Screen:      320 × 240 px QVGA
CPU:                Quad-core ARM11 MPCore & Quad-core VFP Co-Processor @ 268MHz
GPU:                PICA200
FCRAM:              256 MB
VRAM:               10 MB
Storage:            1 GB internal flash memory (Micro SD card slot < 200 GB)
Game Card Capacity: 1-8 GB

For developers, the specs are far lower than any other system out on the market that is in the 8th generation of consoles, which means the visual fidelity will either be low, or a lot of optimisations will need to be made to make it look good.

When developing on this hardware, the dual screen is a concern as any testing will need to be done in 3D mode as to avoid a drop below the chosen FPS since rendering is done twice for the 2 screens. Luckily, Nintendo packed this new 3DS with a quad processor as opposed to the dual CPU that was in the original, this allows for more Maths and other stuff to help with the loss in performance from the extra rendering time.

The RAM is surprisingly large for what type it is as FCRAM is built with the philosophy of lower latency being more advantageous to larger capacity, which is good for performance but not so good for the potential capacity it could have had had it gone with regular RAM. VRAM is another important factor for the asset size, being limited to 10MB at once will most likely cause visual fidelity to be lowered below what the designer wanted it to have, which makes AAA quality visual almost imposible, though Capcom was able to achieve this with Resident Evil: Revelations which looks astounding for what it is on.

Resolution is another factor to keep in mind, it may be small which will help with performance, but it means there is less screen real-estate and lower picture quality. A fallback on this is that the developer will be unable to display as much information as they initially intended, something that is important to conveying meaning to the player.

Card capacity is another concern as the 8 GB of storage on the largest of the cards will make the contents of the game not as large as other consoles of its generation. Long RPGs with a large amount of cutscenes cannot be achieved on the system which may make real-time animations a must, but those also need to be stored in the card, requiring the unique audio files and animations to probably take up the bulk of the storage. Animations, cutscenes, and audio files for story-related content can be avoided for the old-school JRPG story-telling devices such as text and very few visual representations of the characters.

The new 3DS is something of a wonder when compared to its old counterpart due to the increase in hardware specs, but they are definitely a happy welcome that many developers will be able to utilise to bring better experiences to their players. Thank you for reading.



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