Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Wiil U stop with the bad controller ideas?

This year's E3 had a lot of stuff that didn't really interest me, but one thing really stood out: The Wii U is not a good idea.

I hate to sound apocalyptic (wait, no, I love it) but the honest truth here is that the Wii U just doesn't look very good. It's gimmicky as hell, and not in what I would call a good way. The Wii was often criticized for being gimmicky, but at least the idea of motion control was itself very interesting, and could be used in cool ways. Melee combat like in No More Heroes and Skyward Sword, ranged combat like in Red Steel 2 or Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. Even something like a flashlight in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. But let's look at what the Wii U brings to the table. In fact, I'm gonna show a nice infographic showing everything that's wrong with this.

Does that make it clear? Green features are things I like the sounds of, yellow are ones that I think are largely pointless, and red are ideas that I think are bad. I'll go through them.

What is with those analogue sticks. For proper balance you're going to want to be holding your gamepad at a slightly upward tilted angle, not entirely vertical or entirely horizontal. This way you can look at the screen without your gamepad getting in the way. The Wii U, however, is gonna be awkward to do that with. If you want to use both sticks at once (say for looking about in an FPS) you're gonna have to shift both your hands up a bit, changing your weight distribution. This will make gravity pull the controller downward.

Then you're gonna be applying all your forces to the top of the gamepad, meaning the bottom is gonna want to swing around. So unless they make the buttons really loose (which would make them more prone to breaking, and would not respond well to twitchiness) you're gonna have to grip it extra hard to press buttons properly. It's certainly a lot more awkward than a usual controller.

That pretty much murders any hardcore shooters in the foot. If it's generally harder to play the game on the Wii U, then nobody is gonna buy that version. But it's okay, Nintendo. It's not like any of those are popular right now.

And it's not like any failed console put a screen in the middle of their controller. Nintendo... I get what you're trying to do. Really, I do. There's some really neat stuff I'm seeing from some of the trailers that came out at this year's E3. That zombie game, with the inventory and cameras and stuff on the smaller screen? That's cool. It'd be neat to look at your inventory while the game keeps going, and then the player could be aware of zombie attacks and the like by watching with their peripheral vision. I dig it.

Well, except I also don't dig it. I'm gonna have to swap between looking near and far a lot. That's fine for me, but what about anybody who is near or far sighted? This will make it very hard for them to play your games, because they may have to have their glasses on half the time, and have their glasses off the other half. So they'll call up inventory, put down their controller, put their glasses on, pick up the controller, choose their option, put down the controller, take off their glasses, pick up the controller, and play again. That's a lot to ask someone to do.

Also, this is a wireless controller. So let's talk about the big issue I'm seeing: Battery life. I know it doesn't bug some people. The iPad boasts ten hours, and you really shouldn't be playing video games for ten hours straight.

But let's not forget that battery life degrades. Even if this is boasting as many hours as the iPad, that life is going to go down if used every day. My iPod Touch currently only lasts maybe an hour or two of video, even though it's touted as lasting six hours. Yeah, it's three years old, but why should we settle for gradual obsolescence? And the fact is that a controller with a touch pad built into it, that's constantly communicating via bluetooth as well as doing a bunch of stuff, is going to eat battery life like a hog.

Meaning I'm gonna have to charge this thing every couple of nights and and just hope the battery is ready next time I come to play it. And if not, that's just gonna leave me pissed off.

I know Skylanders sold well, but... honestly I don't need this scanner thing. You're making me pay extra for a stupid extra feature I'm never going to want to use. No! Dont' say I will. I DON'T. I want to play games, not engage in augmented-reality action figure shenanigans. And yeah, I know it can also be used for some credit cards, but you know what Nintendo? I don't like you tempting people to waste tons of money on DLC or mediocre downloadable titles. There's a point where making a transaction becomes too easy, and I think that's crossing it.

It prints money and credit cards!

And going back to hand placement... seriously I think this looks awkward as hell to hold. I get cramps from holding my iPod Touch in a game controller manner, and I can only see the same happening here. And this leads into my next point, which is...

How am I supposed to effectively hold this thing while touching it? Okay, so if I want to hold this thing to press a few buttons, it's kinda bulky and awkward. If I want to move the analogue sticks, it's bottom-heavy and misbalanced. If I want to touch the screen... I have to take one hand off it, either moving the other hand around to the back to hold it as I touch... or grip it for dear life with one hand while I carefully dab at the screen with the other. Either way, swapping between these control elements is awkward. Even more awkward than the DS's touch screen could be.

Why does it still need to sense motion? I can't say much about this, aside from: The Wii remote has a good shape and makes sense for a lot of hand-based controls, however the WiiPad doesn't seem like it will make much sense for motion controls unless you're specifically trying to beat people with books in your game.

However, I do like to control my TV. We currently have three TV remotes in our house, and it would be rather annoying to need to drop the WiiPad to go change the volume. Thus I think it would be a pretty cool idea to be able to press a button, turn down the TV volume (or turn it up) and then press that button again to return to play. A lot smoother transition.

The social gaming features are a nice touch. Since we already have a ton of features, adding a mic and camera may seem like feature bloat. However, there's an honest truth that in this day and age, people like playing games with eachother. Personally, I think that's great, and I love the idea that the controller has a camera and microphone so you could video chat while playing, it you want to.

The biggest concern in this regard is that the angle will be weird, and it will probably result in you staring up eachother's nostrils. But hell, if it means getting to be a little closer to my fiancee while playing co-op online, I'm all for it.

Overall the controller is my main complaint about the WiiU. When you're in a world where the consoles are all so similar in hardware, that you need to invent new hardware ideas to make them different, it's a shame that Nintendo decided to go in a weird direction with their next-gen system. It could work in interesting ways, but it also looks like it'll just be really awkward. But hey, at least they're not just ripping off the other consoles. They're admitting that aside from hardware uniqueness, and exclusive titles, their home console no longer has any reason for existing. So they're at least trying, I'll give them that. And it's a good thing too, that they didn't announce a product which would make the main selling point of their console completely pointless.

It's a good thing they didn't do that at all.

1 comment:

  1. I think that Nintendo is definitely pushing to make their console more like the DS. Big complaint I would have is the Altered Reality / Extended Screen with the Gyroscope. Using it as the Right Analog Stick would be annoying (I would think of it like rubbing your belly in a circular motion in one hand, and tapping the top of your head with the other; disorienting and perhaps vomit-inducing). It's a gimmick-in-a-game, or a gimmicky-game at best (like "Face Raiders" for the 3DS). Game developers would soon realize that nobody would want to use it as a main game mechanic, and it would hopefully be tossed aside.

    I think the Touch Gamepad as a stationary controller might work. Supposedly the controller weighs about the same as a Xbox 360 controller (approx. 1 lb.), and if there were contours at the back of the tablet, it might allow your thumbs to pull in closer to the analog sticks and perhaps even allow you to reach your thumbs to the edge of the touch screen in the middle. I would do this with the DS. However, the gamepad is obviously much longer horizontally. To play devil’s advocate to that … they might as well add buttons to the edge of the screen, like what they do at ATM machines that don’t use touch screens (which would only emphasize the awkwardness). It wouldn’t be as good as the classic gamepad, but I think people could adjust.

    Nintendo’s idea to take a concept for a portable, and bring it to the home console to “spice things up” seems like a waste of time to me. I would just get a 3DS. At the end of the day, it isn’t the un-originality of game controls that make a game bad. It’s bad mechanics, repetitive gameplay, uninspired level designs and a horrible story that makes games bad.