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Sonstiges: Developer Diary - The Creation of a 3DS/Switch Game

Michael Grönert, am 26.12.2016, Seite 3 von 15

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Part 3: The requirements
What is actually needed to create a video game? And how can I develop one for a Nintendo console? Who is even allowed to do so? If these questions are on your mind, today's diary entry is just right for you because this time I would like to address these first hurdles and steps of a game developer.

Times are changing. In the past, it was much harder to create a game. Appropriate tools were rare and lots of basic knowledge in programming was required. Today, there are a lot of programs for creating games which are advertised as not requiring programming knowledge and being easy to use. And this is really true! Even as a newcomer, you can quickly created a mini game using drag 'n' drop by following a tutorial. But soon you'll reach your limits or rather the limitations of the software. One such software is the GameMaker by yoyogames which I don't want to omit since I myself worked with it for a long time and I think that this IDE (integrated development environment) is perfectly suitable for learning the basics and can also produce decent cross-platform applications.


I can tell and teach a lot about GameMaker but even with its cross-platform abilities, the 3DS and the switch are not (yet) supported by it. So instead I would like to take a closer look at the IDE I’m using now and just refer you to an older article of mine on the topic of GameMaker.

Currently I'm working with Unity, also a software for developing cross-platform games. For a long time the costs for Unity discouraged me from buying it but now the price model has changed. Now you have to pay only if your software makes a certain amount of money in a year. Its 3DS support is quite a recent thing, too. Perhaps you saw the collection of logos of companies involved in Nintendo Switch game development - here you also can find the logo of Unity. While I’m developing specifically for the 3DS now, later I would like to set the Switch as the primary goal. It is beneficial to optimize the game for the weaker platform and lower resolution first because getting it to work on stronger systems later down the line is much easier than the other way around. Should everything go well, the game finds its way to both consoles.


Unity is a program that offers a lot of functions and tools to simplify the creation of a game. There is a 2D and 3D editor in which levels and worlds can be created. It has its own powerful engine and sophisticated libraries for programming. In terms of programming languages it features C# and Javascript. I don't want to get into which languages are best for game development. There even are languages that were specifically invented for video games. You should definitely not be afraid of higher languages and do not choose the IDE based on the language but rather the language based on the IDE you want to use. A good programmer does not need to master a language to use it. There is a lot of documentation and tutorials on the internet to help you out cobbling something together and if you do it for a while, you also get to know the language better. A piece of advice from me: If you already know something, do not restrict yourself to just that field of knowledge and be prepared to learn something new! And those who are new to the field should not let themselves feel intimidated by everything. There are many good tutorials for Unity. I definitely recommend not to start the big dream project, but first a few other small projects - reprogramming simple games, for example.

Should you now feel the urge to download a free copy of Unity, be aware that you can't just program games for Nintendo consoles with that. No, you need to get a special version of Unity from Nintendo including the required SDK (Software Development Kit). However, getting this has become very easy lately. Before, there were quite a few requirements that could not be met by everyone. For example, you needed proof of a "successfully" published game before you could apply as a developer at all. Today, everyone can get a developer account for Nintendo as long as they agree to certain terms and conditions. Depending on your age you may require help from a legal guardian that's just how every business works. What's definitely necessary, though: You have to have a good grasp of the English language. You may be able to get by if you know Japanese, too, but unfortunately you can not expect all the contracts, instructions and documentation in every possible language. If you would like to look at the whole thing a bit more, you can do this here.

Some of you may now ask themselves: How do you get such a game on the device? You can't just put in on a SD Card and get going, after all. Otherwise there would be tons of pirated copies on the internet that everyone could use with ease. No, for this some hardware is necessary which you can also find and order on the previously mentioned page. There are lots of different devices which are not exactly cheap. Here, the hobby-programmer should think over exactly what he is actually going to do. Although I'm sure the prices might interest you, I will not reveal too much outside of the Nintendo developer portal. Still, if you want a reasonable solution you should not let a four-digit price tag deter you. Maybe you also know someone who already has an important device so you don't have to buy everything yourself. Of course there is ways to get your game on an already owned 3DS, even without these tools. But I don't want to get into details here because these processes, as you can imagine, are associated with actions that would also allow the illegal use of third-party software. It should also be noted that as an official developer you must renounce any kind of "homebrew", meaning you can't publish anything in the hobby developer scene for the respective consoles and certainly not with the material Nintendo provides you with.

And with that I want to wrap up this diary entry. I hope you could catch a few new insights and please don't feel intimidated by the few hurdles mentioned above!

Do you prefer to read this diary in the developer's mother tongue? Then click here to read this diary entry in the original German language!


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