UGAC – Handheld Environment - Rules


Throughout the years, we have had every type of challenge that you can imagine, with topics ranging from characters to levels, from high poly to low poly. Most recently, we had a high poly level challenge, and due to its success, we have decided to continue the “level building” theme into the current challenge. Only this time, contestants will be asked to create a environment for an handheld system. Therefore you (the contestant) will have to deal with the constraints involved in the development of handheld consoles.

This challenge will be very open in the sense that we will not impose restriction against the participant’s creativity. Simply put, you are allowed to choose your game genre and type, and freely go about the creative progress. Some examples are:

The track in the Ridge Racers game on the PSP platform.
A level in Super Mario 64 for the DS game platform.
A fighting area of a Fighting game.
A Dock in an FPS game.

The decided polycount for this challenge is generous for those used to working with low poly limits, and at the same time provides an challenge to individuals who have grow accustom to working on high-poly models. What makes a good level designer is knowing when and how to use polygons wisely in a game environment. Choosing from having a larger, less detailed level; or a smaller, more detailed level; also, as an side note, keep in mind the limits when it comes to texturing your objects. There will be no option for large texture sizes and normal maps! When it comes to designing your level chose whatever style you want, and let your imagine go wild. You are allowed to use some of those polys for props such as plants, trees, tables, crates or whatever assorted props you want the main character to encounter in the level.

*Poly Limit:
45,000 total triangles LIMIT
-32,000 triangles before instancing
-13,000 triangles during instancing

*Texture Limit:
We are handling Textures differently during this challenge, taking a less restrictive approach. After talking to various Developers, the general conclusion is that the PSP (and other handhelds) can easily handle processing multiple 128x128 textures, which are often used while creating main characters and levels. The DS on the other hand has an harder time processing such large textures, and therefore Developers focus mainly on 64x64 textures. How you decide to use your texture sheets is up to you, though you can not have a single texture sheet larger than 128x128.

Try to base everything on this design focus.
You want to have ALL of your textures to be used per load time within a 2mb frame.
(THIS is the only texture requirement)

Please follow this format when creating your entry thread.
UGAC –Handheld Environment- (insert game genre) - (your CGTalk username)

UGAC –Handheld Environment– Sci-Fi Racing – BobJoe

Inside the thread; post your name, game genre, handheld system, and your game concept that your level will be based in.

Name: BobJoe
Genre: Sci-Fi Racing
System: PSP Handheld
Concept: POD Racers- In the future, the futuristic sport of pod racing hits the main stream catering to an wide audience, with its fast pack action, and its deadly race courses.

Posting guidelines will be in the submission thread. This thread will be up shortly after the beginning of the challenge. So if you finish your project early, you can post it before the final week of the competition. Finished models only, DO NOT post WIP in the submission thread!

Competition ends April 8th
Good luck!
-Daren Loney

[color=lime][EDIT #1]
[/color]The Submissions thread is now up. [LINK]

For more detailed information;
View this challenges PDF Rule Book.


Nice challenge ,ill join this one . I have 1 question, does before instancing mean unique object and the 13k after instancing mean copies like barrels or crates? :S


This sounds like a lot of fun! I can see having a go at this will increase my respect for handheld level builders 1000% (which is already pretty damn high to start with).
Look forward to seeing all the great work here!!



With the 2mb load limit, do you mean that we can have a bunch of 4 bit textures instead of a few 32bit textures (as long as they are up 128x128 in size)? If yes, then people will start to learn more about optimizing their palettes :smiley:


A 45K poly limit seems high for a typical DS level. Also, there is no mention of draw limits. The DS is very restricted in what it can draw. For example you can have no more than 6144 verts or 2048 triangles in a frame. If you have more you will get rendering artifacts.
You have to account for polys getting clipped at the edge of the screen, so you can assume more like 1600 polys max in view at any one time. So without any characters in your scene, you can use 1600 polys in view at a time.
If you are to have any characters visible in your game then you should knock your environment limit down to 1000 polys a frame, NOTE that is front facing polys!!

Yes it`s a challenge :slight_smile:


this sounds interesting.

i hope it will be judged on functionallity within the home system, and not be biased because of the PSPs better specs.

i’m interested in going for the DS’s specs, if your using the 1k (viewed), with a clipping limit on your view, is it possible to do a basic fog on the DS? also how does it work with opacity?


You got it!

I too look forward to seeing all the great work here. CGTalk has some great low-poly modelers. It should be interesting to see how people go about optimizing their palettes…

You bet. Just keep in mind the 2mb limit.

Yes. After talking to many developers, I came out of the experience with two radically different numbers when it came to what the PSP can do and the DS can do. The only way to do this challenge (without having two different categories) was to find an middle ground for both systems. The DS can max out around 50,000 with heavy optimization, but they all recommended not to go above 45,000 to leave processing power for other objects in the scene. The PSP on the other hand is more like the PS2, and from what I am hearing, it can max out at 80,000 (and that is with the PSP’s under clocked processor.) And most developers said not to go above 60,000, if you plan on keeping an smooth frame rate, and to have lots of nice effects on screen.

     The guidelines we ended up with were an balance between the two

And yes, it is a challenge, especially I you wish to shoot for an DS model.
Which (if the case) be sure to optimize all your images as best as possible, and try to not shoot for anything over 64x64…

Yes. Which system it was built for will be taken into account. That’s why it is asked for contestants to tell which system they plan for in their fist description post.

Also, yes the DS can handle basic fog. It just takes a lot of work on the side of the programmers to make the magic happen.


Basic fog on the DS is fine, its built in, but there is no vertex opacity. Since most people on the challenge will not have a devkit handy I guess youve got to have a bit of leaway. Also DS does have a triangle and quad primitives built in, but rememeber those quads have to be planar, otherwise they will draw wrong and you`ll get rendering drop out.
I guess this challenge is more about working in low low poly than something that will definately work on a DS, or even PSP.
Whats always satisfying is trying to get the most out of the restrictions you have.

Good luck all


This is all “fictional” right? I mean no one will be able to actually put whatever they make in whichever game?


Looks like a very interesting challenge im in
expect story/ideas soon


oh i am so gona try this out… can’t wait to create a PSP version of the level that i was going to build later for a next gen MOD.


I just finished this psp art test last night, im down for another try at a different genre :D. I like the idea of a race track, wipeout style!


great contest, if i just can remember those fantastic game ideers i had that stranded after the first sketches. lol


what are the constraints on developing art for handhelds apart from your poly limit…??? never worked on a handheld project…


I can’t believe this, I just tested out a model with 128x128 texture map, why is it that I can see square pixels on the mesh
this is going to be a heck of a challenege, texture is so not me


the PSP has about 32 megs of ram but due to other things you get stuck with about 30

Anything you can stick in the “video” ram you want to usualy we stick the map and all of the textures we intend to use and if possible any animated models we can

the extra 30 megs well I’m not reeely sure… dont take me for a scholar on this, I could be wrong, I’m just the level designer.

right now I’m working with Id Software’s Quake 3 engine. So far on our test engine (Which was NOT developed with Sony’s Official SDK) the unofficial SDK builds actualy work quite well

farthest we’ve done was about 20 textures about 15 - 128^2, and 5 - 256^2 we managed to maintain a constant 60FPS with that and about 25,000 triangles being rendered at that time.

a big thing to consider the older firmware versions of the PSP has a problem with the LCD’s refresh rate, it appears asif its only hitting about 10 frames per second which allows most games to do 30 frames and look no different from those games running at 60.

so for that you can push it all you want. the 45,000 tris limit for us is only per viewable instance…


heheh just wait till you do some 64x64

The only thing i can tell you is to leave 2 pixels in between the uv lines to prevent the edges on the uv blending with other edges(messy result and hard to select for texturing)

The only thing im still trying to figure out is that instancing thingy?


Instanced Objects are objects that are repeated throughout the level or scene.
Example: Crate, Tree, Barrel

You get the Idea.


hooray! i’m in, just brain-storming right now for ideas…


Good to hear!
Look forward to see what your imagination cooks up!