Wii’s Weakness

Before I get in to this post, let me say that despite my skepticism about the Wii, I did hope that when I finally got to play, controller(s) in hand(s), it would feel perfectly natural, and everything Nintendo claimed it would be.

Well, after spending about a half hour with Monkey Ball, I must say I am somewhat crestfallen. Played the single player standard game for a bit, and it felt okay. Not spectacular, but I could (mostly) control it. Then I played some minigames. I’m hoping that the minigames are just bad games, with poor use of the controller. With almost no exception, the minigames were hard to control, and there seemed to be no direct relation between the motions you were doing and what was happening on screen.

This is when I realized the Wii’s weakness: People expect more from the games than in most cases they can actually do. And it’s not unreasonable, it’s a natural extension of the built in reflexes that Nintendo is trying to capitalize on. When I play, and moving the controller is how you play, the reflexes to do certain things are there by default. When they don’t work, when the game doesn’t support them… it makes the controls feel broken.

This is absolutely a player problem, but I have a feeling I will not be alone. You get in to a groove of moving the controller, and then you want something to happen on-screen, and you move the controller in an intuitive fashion… and nothing happens. Or the wrong thing happens.

Ultimately, for developers to really get the most out of this console, everything that a player will attempt to do probably needs to be supported. And I know that’s a tall order… but I don’t know what else will work.

I hope that ultimately other games will make a better impression. I’m still hoping to try out Zelda at some point. I’m hoping it doesn’t feel as broken as Monkey Ball.

Sigh.

One thought on “Wii’s Weakness

  1. Aubrey

    “I must say I am somewhat crestfallen”

    You might say that you have… EN WII? Ha. Hahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

    But you’re right. This first round of games is a learning experience, both for developers and players. All the non gamer people we showed it to definately found it accessible, but no-one found it involving. Wii sports is actually fairly shallow.

    Your real world movements are indescreet, so the game can do a couple of things with that interaction:

    1) Express the raw data feed in a pretty raw way (like the idle Baseball bat in Wii Sports). This has a problem – moving big physical objects around in the game world makes them look like polystyrene. They have no weight. But you add weight, and you lose the direct connection between your input and the onscreen reaction. You’re also effectively doing “telekinesis”, moving objects around indirectly.. it’s the difference between flying a real plane and a remote control one – not insurmountable, but still a barrier to entry.

    2) Reduce every movement into fixed gestures. Also problematic: You lose all the indescreet subtlety of the movement – affordance is not upkept. I tried doing topspins and slices in Wii tennis – didn’t work too well. Triggering descreet verbs is better done with a button press. Button presses don’t imply that there’s more expression there than there is. They’re just on/off. (See FightNight 2004 where the analogues become punches – but pre-animated punchs). Button presses are also instant, while gestures only trigger the corresponding action after the fact.

    I think the answer is to find mechanics which best feed off the indescreet movement of the controller. aiming a cursor is fairly successful, I think, so shooty games are not a problem. Abstract style games are going to do well with the issue of affordance, since abstract games don’t need to upkeep the real-world-physical metaphor (the “weight” issue).

    Christ… let me at that open dev environment. I gots some highly compatible ideas.

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