1-1. What is NIFF?
Currently, the development process for creating 3D game applications generally follows a flow in which a graphics designer uses a commercially available graphics tool to design characters. Then a programmer corrects the data output from the tool and incorporates it into the game. However, at this stage, attempting to have work proceed efficiently while handling larger quantities of data, developers are faced with a variety of problems. Most of those problems are cases in which there is no support in the graphics tools, or where the graphics cannot be applied to the game without going through some complex procedure.
The reason that these kinds of problems occur is quite simple. Most of the current graphics tools were originally created for movies and there is still a great deal of development required before they can be applied to game applications. Of course, there are also tools which have been created with an eye toward game development, but the characteristic general-purpose quality of the tools cannot be discarded. When a tool is targeted for a specific game system, it is impossible for it to support all game systems.
The fact that graphics tool developers are not necessarily game professionals is one source of a variety of problems. The process and data configuration for efficiently creating a game application are the know-how of development manufacturers, and it is impossible for graphics tool developers to know about these things.
To deal with these problems, Nintendo has incorporated an intermediate format system. Data which can be supported on the graphics tool side of things will be left to the producers of the various graphics tools, then output as NIFF (Nintendo Intermediate File Format) data. To what extent data which should naturally be in each graphics tool can be output in the NIFF format is an item which cannot be supported except by the producer of the graphics tool.
Since data which has been converted into a NIFF file exists as data which does not, for the most part, exist in the graphics tool, editing of the NIFF file and converting it into data configurations that will match the various types of game systems are things that fall within the know-how on the game applications side.
At Nintendo, the game system and the data configuration are considered as being different, depending on the game. Consequently, an optimum general-use format does not exist. However, since there is a system and a data configuration which are of course used as a standard in the creation of 3D game applications, a single framework is presented for editing a NIFF file, how to convert the file, and how to utilize it in the game system. The file format that Nintendo proposes as the intermediate format for this purpose is NIFF.