Saturday, November 27, 2004 5:32 PM

Mandatory DS Firmware Updates

The general consensus is that the Nintendo DS has some problems. Most of these aren't major problems - they're small. They're just as small as they are easy to fix. Since we can't make these changes ourselves (hint, hint) we're going to have to ask Nintendo to do it for us. Here goes:

Nintendo, please release a firmware update for these DS design problems - the DS needs a firmware update for XMas this year - and here's what is on most player's wishlists:

1) Go directly to dashboard on startup

A little fix. The GBA startup screen flashed momentarily and then the game came up. This was acceptable. The DS startup screen flashes, then must be tapped to transition to the DS dashboard. This is tedious. If the clock functionality of the DS is to be useful then make it quicker to access. Besides, do we really need to see the epilepsy disclaimer every time we start the machine?

2) Dashboard clock and calendar

Still small, but irritating. The top screen of the dashboard has several major problems:

A) Analog style clocks are a pain. Please make a digital readout. Why, oh WHY did you leave this strictly analog? I thought you were aiming for the twenty-something demographic, not the 1920's demographic...
B) If you can't alter the calendar, then why show the calendar? Either add appointments to the calendar or simply display the date as text beneath the time. Showing the entire calendar merely invites the comparison of the DS to a PDA - which it could easily be if anyone saavy game developer had your permission.

3) A Pictochat "lobby"

This is the biggest complaint of the bunch - currently the DS lacks any functionality as a real communicator because unless you're in the same Pictochat chatroom, there is no way to detect other players. The DS should boot directly into a Pictochat "lobby" which acts as the default dashboard screen. This lobby should display the usernames of players that come into range of your DS and be capable of receiving direct messages. Without this - physical interaction is still necessary to initiate interaction and a massively cool feature goes half-realized.

4) An persistent dashboard

The DS currently needs to reboot to switch between programs (including Pictochat.) This means that if a person is currently playing a game, or any mode besides the same chatroom as another player then interplayer contact is impossible. The DS should be able to switch seamlessly between games and the dashboard - receive invites and messages while the machine is otherwise engaged or even in sleep mode.

My recommendation is that the START button (pause for nearly all games) should default to a closable "inbox" panel which allows the player to return to the main menu, placing the game in a sleep state if they wish to switch games or answer a message. Because such incoming messages stand to interrupt gameplay - when received they instead might cause the hardware LEDS to blink. Saving the screen for it's primary purpose. Like this....

These hardware lights are visible even when the unit is closed and make a logical choice for "alert" messages. A firmware update for a machine like the DS might be without precedent - but so is the DS itself and these simple fixes would alleviate 95% of user software objections to the DS.



At 6:46 PM, Blogger Darkain said...

"Please make a digital readout."
if you look above the calander, there is a digital readout of the time (24 hour time), followed by the date (month/day)

"The DS should boot directly into a Pictochat "lobby" which is also the default dashboard screen. "
this HAS to be optional, or else the DS will not be aloud on airplanes at all. right now, ther DS does not use any wireless functionality, unless in a specific wireless mode such as in pictochat or a multiplayer game. or else the wireless is turned off (you can check this by the flashing power light)

outside of this, i agree with most of the other things you have said here.

one other thing i would love to see is coloured pictochat.. and from what i can tell from decoding the pictochat binaries, is that it should easily be able to handle up to 16 colours w/o any modification to the protocol at all.

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Brett said...

I'm with you, bro - the 24 clock is good to have, but we've got this big beautiful screen up there taken up by 2 poorly chosen information graphics. I'm being a little bit of a bitch, but I can't flex on the importance of this.

As for the airplane theory - wouldn't it meet airline standards to include an "Wi-FI OFF" switch either by hardware or software? I kind of figured that if they hadn't done this already it must because of battery life - manageble though that would seem to be. People can be trusted to turn their cellphones off when asked - why not they're DS's?

Pictochat does look like it could be 16 color from the great stuff you've been chasing over at - why not? My secret hope is that a drawing application might be in the wings...


At 1:39 PM, Blogger theo .:. said...

Actually the biggest problem is that wifi eats up battery power. I agree with what you are saying and I would want the DS to be able to notify me of another DSs in the vicinity but to do that you have to have the wifi active in stand by mode. Seeing as Nintendo is very proud of their superior battery life to the PSP, that is prob why that feature was left out.

However it might be possible to send out packets every 5-6 seconds in standby mode and that way if you are in a location you have a good chance of finding someone else without killing your battery. Plus I don't know if I would want another microwave device in my pocket broadcasting all the time.

Do you think they have built in a way to reload the firmware over 802.11 ? If they haven't any update might be a lot of trouble or even practically impossible.

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um.. howabout, no? These are in no way MANDATORY.

1) The epilepsy warning is due to a lawsuit against Nintendo, check out their very recent 1st party games for the Gamecube, they have that warning too (eg. Pikmin 2).

2) You can't read an analog clock? As for the calendar, this isn't a freaking PDA, it's gaming machine. Get over it.

3) Alright, this is the only one that has merit. But even then, it's not MANDATORY.

4) The reboot is a minor annoyance, but one that many sure can live with. It doesn't take too long to boot, 2-3 seconds. Wow, I'm wasting so much of my life waiting for it to boot!

-satoshi (satoshi1 on

At 12:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't know how to read an analog clock you should step away from the computer and go back to 2nd grade when they taught you how to read a clock. Just because someone has gotten used to reading numbers instead of having to use some SLIGHT thought to figuring out what time it is instead of knowing which is the hour or minute hand doesn't mean it's mandatory!

At 9:18 AM, Blogger Brett said...

Satoshi & AnonyMouses,

Mandatory is strong wording. The DS will continue to function without these changes. We can use the machine successfully without these changes. I do not intend seek legal recompense for lack of reaction on the part of Nintendo....

Can you honestly say that my changes wouldn't improve the device? Not "I can live with an analog clock," or "a 3 second restart isn't so bad" - would a vast majority of users like it better? Is it technologically feasible? That's my mandatory - the edict of good, thoughtful product design.

Everything I mentioned is a design flaw which a company of Nintendo's stature should have caught.

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thing that should be added is the option to set how much time the power button should be pressed before it shuts off. It only takes about a second before it turns off now, which I think is a little too short in case an accident happens.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Brett said...

The power-button idea is a great one. I'd also like to ADD that in pictochat - the "send" command should be redundant to the "UP" d-pad key instead of the "START" key. The current config is only one-handable for lefties. Pictochat could be hunt-n-peck free with this addition.

At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The power-button idea is a great one. I'd also like to ADD that in pictochat - the "send" command should be redundant to the "UP" d-pad key instead of the "START" key. The current config is only one-handable for lefties. Pictochat could be hunt-n-peck free with this addition."

The d-pad is used to find and hit buttons on the keyboard without utilizing the touch screen. One-handed for lefties? I'm a righy and I can use the thing one handed (another hand supporting the system, of course).


At 1:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Ideas brewing here. It's good to see the DS communities springing up. All that truly matters to me is finding other DS players without having to know them physically first. This seems to be the 'brush off'topic of the year, but what the hell is up with DemaSked?
-Jive3D / NYC DS Obsessee

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Frag2DaDef said...

You need to be able to choose what button set you play GBA games with: X and Y, or A and B... The A and B set are too far down on the system to play comfortably....

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would lOVE to set L and R for the GBA to X and Y

.......GGX and Street Fighter.

-Spike o

At 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, we put up with the dark non-lit screen in GBC, then a bigger non-lit screen in GBA, then a marginal front-lit screen in GBA-SP, and now we finally have a big, beautiful backlit screen. But what did Nintendo do? They increase the resolution, but didn't scale it for GBA games, so it's SMALLER!!! Please, we've waited long enough.

Please please please scale the GBA games to full screen. Thanks!

At 5:51 AM, Anonymous Bingo 324 said...

I think all these updates would be good. I also think that the same should be done with a DS Lite. I own one of these and I think seamless application switch etc. is an excellent idea. As you must know, there are two hardware lights on the DS Lite too. That would be great for pulsing when you get a message. The power button is on the side, next to the stylus "rack". I think another switch should be below that - a Wi-Fi controller. With four positions.

Position 1: WiFi OFF. Disables use of WiFi or Wireless from ANY application.
Position 2: WiFi STANDBY. Only activates WiFi when it is needed.
Position 3: WiFi ON. WiFi is ALWAYS on.
Position 4: Setup. Takes you to the WiFi Setup screens.

Great ideas, boys! (and girls!)


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