"Our best advice: Don’t try to force what worked on other platforms on the Switch. You might need to change your approach to get the most out of the hardware."
- Virtuos discusses the process of porting big, third-party games to the Nintendo Switch.
Geek.com recently published an interview with Virtuos, a video game outsourcing studio known for porting big third-party titles like Dark Souls: Remastered, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, L.A. Noire, and many more.
This is a great interview for developers interested in learning a bit more about how Virtuos goes about porting titles to the Switch, and what to consider when porting their own games to the console as well.
When asked about how much Virtuos knew about the Switch's hardware before working on its first project, the studio mentioned that Nintendo offered up a prototype of the console first to get acquainted.
"Nintendo had already introduced us to the hardware, and let us see a prototype before we began working on any projects so we knew quite a bit," the studio explains. "It was only a few months after this that we began our work on L.A. Noire. By that time, we were already familiar with the hardware manuals and early versions of the SDK."
Developing games comes with many challenges, and so does porting one over to the Switch. Compared to other consoles, the Switch comes with a handful of features to be considered when developing a port (like handheld vs. docked performance, technical trade-offs).
"The power differences posed a challenge, but nothing that can’t be overcome. GPUs are highly scalable, while CPUs can be a little more tricky," Virtuos says.
"For example, when in handheld mode, we try to take advantage of the small screen by reducing post-processing workload and other rendering optimizations."
"Other challenges usually come from the games themselves, and the unique ways they were put together," the studio adds. "A typical example could be bringing an older 32-bit game to a 64-bit platform, where you need to carefully plan your initial development stage so that you get to something playable as soon as possible."
As far as giving advice to other developers, Virtuos stresses the importance of being flexible-- what may have worked for one studio might not work for another.
"Common areas to focus should be data compression, forward vs deferred rendering, vertex processing and a scalable threading model."
"Teams should also start considering Lotcheck requirements from the beginning, especially for features that involve multiplayer or something non-standard, in order to avoid surprises during the final phase of bug fixing."
Interested developers should be sure to read the entire piece over at Geek.com, it's well worth the read.