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Iwata Asks: GamePad development details

by rawmeatcowboy
17 October 2012
GN Version 4.0
- Yamashita worked on overall software
- he also worked with Iwamoto on doing firmware for the GamePad and software for connecting GamePad to Wii U
- GamePad isn't for processing games
- instead, it sends various signals to the console, which sends things back to GamePad
- Ito worked on system design, as well as details on sending/receiving images on the GamePad
- Mae worked on wireless communication tech
- Ibuki worked on industrial design
- Nintendo used 3D printing to get prototypes for the GamePad to get a good feel for them
- some models were carved by hand
- clay was used for some model design
- Iwamoto worked on software for controlling the GamePad
- there were language and time difference issues within the team that caused issues during development
- Nintendo would phone out to NoA and have conversations that would last until 1 in the morning
- making a controller that conveyed images quickly and without lag was a challenge
- the team worked hard to tackle latency issues
- Nintendo worked with various companies to get past these latency issues
- the process involves doing a series of actions, compressing Wii U images, sending them wirelessly as radio waves, receive and decompressing them on the GamePad and then displaying them
- images were broken down into smaller images to reduce delay
- Generally, compression for a single screen can be done per a 16×16 macroblock14. And on Wii U, it rapidly compress the data, and the moment the data has built up to a packet-size15 that can be sent, it sends it to the Wii U GamePad.
- data would come in rapidly in small portions, which made it difficult to put them together and deliver quickly
- wireless communication issues also cropped up due to users holding the GamePad and moving it around, because of the Doppler effect

Doppler effect: This is a phenomenon observed when wave frequencies differ due to relative speeds between an observer and the source of electromagnetic and sound waves.

- even the amount of water in the human body can interfere with radio waves
- distances you can use the GamePad from will vary, depending on your setup
- it may work through walls, depending on materials used
- a metal TV stand may deflect radio waves, making for a less usable range
- biggest wireless issue was the sending after compression for CG
- the team needed more bitrate than they originally thought to make nice-looking images
- first image test was a static image
- then the team moved onto moving images, like a moving cube and a grid that flew towards you
- the moving grid caused such an issue that before E3 2011, Nintendo had an emergency meeting to figure out how they could tackle the issue
- it took Nintendo roughly a year to iron out these issues
- Nintendo would hold phone calls twice a day to figure out how to tackle this issue
- Nintendo also found image issues when bringing screens from TV to GamePad when trying other tests out
- at E3, Itoi and Yamashita were working with dev teams to discuss this issue
- the issues were most notable with fade-in and fade-out
- the noticed this same issue with Mario when coins would fill the screen
- Nintendo worked with Broadcom to tackle these problems
- there were big changes during the GamePad's development at least 3 or 4 times
- original design was flat without grips
- changes were made when the team tried playing Super Mario Bros. (NES) with the GamePad and they found it was difficult
- the team started from the beginning to make it better
- Iwata and Miyamoto lobbied for the changes
- the grips that were added weren't finalized until the very end
- they were more flat, square shaped
- the dev team took a survey to see which style worked better, but the votes ended up divided
- a design that wouldn't tire players, was most comfortable in all size hands is what won out
- various designs were carved by hand
- these designs were tested and proved to be too hard to hold
- the team also worked hard to make the controller light
- the chassis protects the screen, which was originally going to be made of aluminum and magnesium
- the team eventually decided on a resin chassis to slim the controller down
- the controller, at 500 grams, is as light as it can be without causing durability issues
- the team worked harder on this controller than any other
- it was so rough that old employees told new employees that it's not usually this hard to work on controllers
- Nintendo had to work on getting the NFC, the TV control button, and the geomagnetic sensor to work together
- the dev team was actually shocked that Iwata announce NFC tech, as devs were just tackling it at that time
- there are times when the GamePad will display images faster than the TV
- the team feels the camera can be a completely new input method for games
- the idea for a camera was originally abandoned
- talk then came back to capturing still images, then processing 5FPS video, then the team aimed for 30FPS
- camera has to perform compression/decompression twice, but does so with little delay
- when you draw, the touch input goes to the console then returns as an image on the GamePad