Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bursting the Wii Controller Bubble

I know a lot of people have high hopes and dream about the possibilities the Wii controller represents. I have reserved excitement because those Wii ads with GAP Models hiding behind sofas, rolling around and generally looking goofy are obviously not people playing any games. I need to see this stuff working otherwise I don't believe it. And this I have unfortunately learned over the years the hard way by following the work of Various Designers.
Many people have envisioned a true sword fighting experience with the Wii across continents and very real possibilities for applications for Serious Games to do with training. Well I am about to deflate a few bubbles slightly because the Wii Remote isn't what you think it is.

What everybody seems to think that the controller will do is choreograph motion made by the player directly into the game, and this does happen on pointer games that require infared input with the controller bar, but games that use accelerometer data don't which is a surprise to a lot of people. What Wii games do is recognise the orientation input from the remote and translate that into in-game commands. So in a sword fighting game you can swing from the right, swing from the left, block and thrust, but you can't actually sword fight with the in-game sword choreographing every motion made by the real world remote.

Actions like swinging a bat in a Wii game are event triggered just like they are with a traditional gamepad's button press, analogue input through a stick or even an analogue trigger. The player performs a motion and the game activates the corresponding in-game event.

This is mentioned in Ryan Garside's bit-tech Preview where he talks about how quick wrist flicks respond to stronger arm motions than real strong arm motions like those with ball bowling. Matt Casamassina's IGN Blog mentions this too. He praises WII Sport's Bowling game, allowing the player to control when the ball is released and the ability to spin the ball, but I have watched videos of the game being demonstrated and it isn't possible to aim the ball in any diagonal direction direction. So again choreographed motion captured motion of the player bowling the ball isn't there. Motion is not translated directly into the game as you would think, but is instead a rasterized interpretation of the action being preformed.

So not what a lot of people had assumed, but still nifty. And Nintendo isn't marketing the Wii at hardcore gamers anyway so you got to give them a lot of credit for that. My Mum wouldn't buy one but someone else's Mum might.