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Wii - it changes everything


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Prologue (The prologue is an endearing anecdote about how we got a Wii. It has nothing to do with the game system itself, so you can skip past it to the main article if you choose.)

 

The last time I bought a game system... I think it was 1999. I bought a Nintendo 64 for the boys. I chose it because it used cartridges instead of disks which have a notoriously short life expectancy in my house. The game system came with Donkey Kong 64. Over the years the kids have gotten and traded games. We have gone through a dozen controllers (how the sealed mechanisms inside the buttons can break like they do still puzzles me). We even got a new power pack.

 

During the summer of 05 my wife and a couple of the kids spent a week with my sisters in New Jersey. They came back with a "burning need" to upgrade to the Nintendo GameCube. Now, I am if nothing else a cheapskate. And the problem with disks coming to untimely ends in my house has, if nothing else, only gotten worse over the years. Even out cartridges need help. To get them to play the kids first hold them to their mouth like a harmonica and rapidly blow across the contacts, they then jam it hard into the slot and pound it once with a fist. Then and only then is the power turned on. This process is repeated until the game starts. Skipping any of these steps and it will not work - ever. So the last thing I need in the house is a game system that relies upon undupable disks - God only knows what rituals they will require! But I have to divert the burden of saying no from myself, so I came up with a challenge and I made an official proclamation that... "When the kids beat Donkey Kong 64, I would buy a new game system, even a GameCube."

 

So for about a week there was a flurry of activity. Each of the boys had a game going. Each working his way toward the end. But just as I had figured, none of them was interested enough in a new game system to be bothered with earning it by even playing a game they enjoyed. When I was a kid I would have made it through in the first weekend. Over the past year I have been egging them on about the challenge, and watching as each of them plays for a while, and then becomes distracted with something else.

 

As Christmas approached this year I overheard conversations about game systems, and why even bother asking. Dad is too cheap or Dad won't even let Santa get one for the house (my favorite). Meanwhile I am looking at the Wii and saying to myself, that looks really cool! So I figures the time was ripe for a real surprise for the kids and I plotted to get a Wii for Christmas. There is nothing I like more than a good surprise gift, so I hesitated to tell even Shannon about it. But I wanted to make sure she didn't have some alternative plan and since I was spending most of out budget on the Wii, I needed to include her to prevent double secret spending that would spell financial disaster.

 

We ended up with four boxes. One was the game system, one was a storage box thing that came with two controller covers and subscription to the games by mail. And the other two were additional controllers. I wrapped each in matching paper and marked for each to be opened by a specific kid. I then put them all in a big box and wrapped it. I was all giddy with Christmas surprise. The kids were completely in the dark and were going to be ecstatic!

 

So Christmas morning we go through our tradition of opening gifts in turns. The little guys were sad because they had not seen anything from Santa. Until there was only the one box left. Eye's lit up. Everyone helped shred the paper off the box to find... a box. They ripped off the tape and found four more wrapped presents inside. They quickly passed them to the correct persons and we did a count down from ten... nine... eight... (the excitement in the air was tangible) seven... six... five... (little fingers started to cheat into the seams for grip) four... three... two... (everyone had stopped blinking, breaths were shallow and fast) one... and the air was filled with shredded papers.

 

I scanned around the room, beaming, ready to experience the sheer joy on their faces.

 

I looked first at #1, his mouth had dropped open. He looked like he might need first aid for shock. Perfect.

 

Then I looked at #2. He had a confused look on his face. He looked at me and said, "Wii? What is that?" The kid is almost 16. I really expected him to be a little more in touch with current game consoles. Oh, well. One out of two wasn't bad.

 

Then I looked at #4. At four years old he is really interested in toys, not games. He had no use for the packaged remote control, handed it to his brother, #3, and moved on to a toy in his pile. Oh, well. On out of three is not too bad. I can still get 50%.

 

Then I turned and looked at #3. His face was contorting, not with joy, but with abject disappointment. First the face, and then the noise. That sorrowful deep from the chest whining cry. "AAAAAAA!!!!" along with real tears. "I don't want a Wii!! This is the worst present ever!" It took a long minute to let him understand that the Wii plays GameCube games, so it was the same as getting a GameCube, only better, because it plays Wii games too. He was not exactly happy, but he had stopped crying. Oh well, one kid was happy. Another successful Christmas!

 

About the Wii

 

The Nintendo Wii is perhaps the greatest innovation in gaming since the creation of the genre. And it is all in the controllers. All game systems use controllers to enable game play. Some of them look like a real world controller, like a steering wheel or a joystick. Others use buttons or pads as the game controls. Computer games are often played with a mouse and/or keyboard. But all of these controllers keep you sitting. All the motion is done with your fingers, and your characters are simulated players who do at you tap, press, click and point.

 

The Wii gets you up and moving. And it is REALLY COOL.

 

The Wii system comes with a single game called Wii Sports, along with a Remote and a Nunchuck controller. The purpose of this game is both entertainment, and a tutorial on how to use the controllers. The five games are Boxing, Golf, Bowling, Tennis, and Baseball. Each of them uses the controllers in a different fashion, showing off the great potential of the game.

 

The Remote Controller uses bluetooth technology to communicate with the Wii console. The console can have four remotes running at a time. An led on the remote tells you which controller it is. The controller also has a speaker and a rumbler that give you audio and tactile feedback in real time. There is a four way directional pad on the top front of the controller. Under it is the A button. Then below there is - (home) + going across. And finally a 1 and 2 at the bottom (one above two). On the back side of the remote is a trigger (the z key).

 

At the tip of the controller is a IR node that communicates with the console's directional sensor. This clever device is is a small strip about ten inches long with an IR receiver at each end. It is set centered with your TV. It uses triangulation to know where you are pointing your controller when it is pointed toward the screen. In the main menus this puts a little pointer on your screen that moves as you move your controller. It works like a mouse pointer. When you go over a button on the screen it rumbles the controller so you *feel* the edge of the button.

 

The Remote also has a motion detector in it. It is probably more than one and seems very sophisticated. It can sense change of direction in three axis, and is plenty sensitive.

 

The Nunchuck controller tethers to a Remote with cord. You hold one in each hand (the Nunchuck goes opposite your normal hand). It has the same motion sensors as the remote, along with two buttons on the front and a directional controller for the thumb.

 

Gameplay!!

 

I only have the five sports games, but they do well to give an idea of what is so different about this game. I will take them one at a time...

 

Bowling Gameplay is simple. On screen is a your personalized Mii (3D character that you use for all the games). It is standing in front of an alley. The character is translucent. You use the directional controller to line yourself up. When you are ready you hold the controller pointed straight up and the character holds the ball up in front of him. Hold the z trigger in and the character begins his approach. Swing your arm back and the character swings his arm back. Swing your arm forward again and the character swings its arm forward. When you release the z trigger the character released the ball down the alley.

 

Now, you can do all of this sitting in a chair, but you find yourself standing, and not just moving your arm, but approaching the screen. All you really need to do to control the speed is flip your wrist up, but you find yourself flinging your arm up as you release the ball. Then you realize that as you are flinging your arm, you are twisting your wrist causing the ball to hook. Or you are releasing the ball to late and actually flinging it down the lane causing it to take traction later and roll straighter. Or you release it too early, and it never gets any speed. The have is every bit as skill demanding and complex as actually bowling. And the reality of it is so compelling that it just draws you in. I bowled a couple of games over 200, which I have never done in real bowling. But I am averaging about 170, which is exactly like I bowl in real life.

 

It has some "training games" which teach you different skills. They include picking up spares, power bowling with up to 91 pins, and bowling around obstacles.

 

Tennis This sounds simple enough. Swing right to left for a forehand, and left to right for a backhand (if you set yourself as right handed). Of course timing is everything. Swing too soon or too late and the ball goes to the side. Swing downward and the ball might hit the net. And even though I cant determine that it ever happens, you find yourself swinging REALLY HARD to try and really whack the ball, even through a flip of the wrist will to exactly the same thing. The game is always doubles, and you can play one to four players. There are subtleties with buttons that make an extra hard serve and such, but I have not figures that stuff out yet.

 

The skills games include returning balls until you miss, then you return balls into a target behind the far court, and then you play against a wall with targets that you destroy when you hit them. If you don't pay attention you will be leaning left and right, then jumping to get at stray balls. (Will InfiniteNow take this bait?)

 

Baseball Stand like the TV is the pitcher, and you are batting. Hold the remote in both hands and watch for the pitch. As you are standing the bat fidgets as you fidget the remote. Point it high or low. Twirl it. What you do it does. When the pitch comes swing. Like tennis, timing is everything, only this is much harder. How you angle your swing will affect your hit, and when you swing hard you hit hard. Everyone in the house is sore from swinging for the fences.

 

When playing you alternate pitching and hitting. When pitching you use button combinations to throw different pitches. Otherwise you swing your arm to throw the ball. I am not very good at the baseball. In many ways it is the chintziest game. You don't get to do anything but pitch and bat, all the base running is automated, and the they don't animate the fielding, just the initial catch of the ball and then it tells you what happens.

 

Golf Now this is the game that I am good at. The game only plays nine holes. The first three are beginner, then intermediate, then advanced. All you really need to do is swing the remote. When you swing it your character takes practice swings. You can aim your shot, and how hard you swing determines the distance. There is a gage for determining the power you need to use. The pin placement changes with each game, and it randomly generates wind. So even though it is the same 9 holes, it plays differently each time. To hit the ball you hold down the A button to step up to the ball. Then when you swing you hit the ball. It plays very much like other video golf games, but this is the only one where you fidget with your stance, and use body english to try and get the ball to break just a little more on the green... YES! In the cup!

 

This is the only game where I consistently beat the kids at both the skills challenge and the game itself. The skills challenge is putting, where putting it in the hole is zero points, otherwise you score your distance from the cup. The next is chipping onto the green. Same scoring system, but if you fail to stop the ball on the green it is 100 points. Third is use of the driver and iron to drop the ball onto targets for points. I played a round at nine under last night for the nine holes. And I would have had ten under but I lipped out a putt on 4, Dammit!

 

Boxing This game is exhausting. I mean it will wear you out. It is the only one of the five that uses Nunchuck controller. You hold the two controllers out in front of you. Both of them straight up. If you tip them both to the left your character leans and steps to the left. If you lean them both to the right he leans and steps to the right. And if you do other things with them all sorts of things happen. Tipping, twisting, tilting, and how you hold them in relation to each other is all the motion that it takes. But I swear, before you know it you are throwing hay-makers. I worked up such a sweat that the kids were ready to call an ambulance. I have not had such a workout in forever.

 

Progressive When you play you use your Mii. The character you build to represent yourself. And all of your scores and games are associated with your Mii. One of the things I have noticed is that the gameplay changes with the experience of your Mii. In the baseball, the first few games that you play everything you throw is a strike. But as you gain experience the dynamics change so you begin to throw balls as well. All of the games to this in one way or another. It is all still new to me, so the way it all works is a mystery. But it serves to keep it challenging as well as fun for people of all skill levels. It only becomes more demanding if you continue to win. The challenge eventually levels off with each Mii's established skill level, so the more expert you become at the game the more challenging it will become for you.

 

So why is this such a big deal? Because for the first time in video games, aside from some driving games, you actually play the sports. I am physically sore. Not just my thumbs from gripping the remote, but my arms, legs back... everything. When you play these games it gets you moving, and gets you involved. All of them CAN be played from a seated position, but dammit, they draw you in. No matter how you try and resist it you find yourself whipping your arms, twisting your wrists, taking measured practice swings, stepping into pitches as you swing. One bit at a time you become consumed by the games, forgetting that you are playing a video game. And I for one think it is fantastic.

 

I can only imagine how the combination of technology used for this game system will translate into other virtual reality utilities. The usage is so simple, so elegant. It is beautiful.

 

Bill

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I still say, at this early moment, that the Wii will be a huge boon to the Physical Therapy industry. Once Wii elbow starts occuring.

 

When young kids start throwing around punches, repeatedly, without being taught good form, you will soon discover pain and inflamation.

Elbows do not heal well.

a Rotator cuff is a terrible thing to wear out early.

 

However, the activity of its use, as opposed to the normal 'Sit and Play', does bring about a curiously good involvement of strenuous activity.

 

Too early to tell....

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Congrats Bill on the Wii:)

So tell us, after having a chance to play the game, have #2,3 and 4 become more enthusiastic?

 

Standard game controllers give my hands fits. I have very much been looking forward to the motion control based controllers. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a Wii on a store shelf anywhere.

 

I appreciate your in depth views of the games:)

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Congrats Bill on the Wii:)

So tell us, after having a chance to play the game, have #2,3 and 4 become more enthusiastic?

 

Standard game controllers give my hands fits. I have very much been looking forward to the motion control based controllers. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a Wii on a store shelf anywhere.

 

I appreciate your in depth views of the games:)

#2 loves it, but still spends most of his day playing PC games. #3 likes the bowling and the golf, but only wants to play for a little while at a time. He prefers cartoons. But #4 (being 4) just wants to watch movies. He takes a turn once in a while, buy he just doesn't get it.

 

Store shelves will be a matter of luck for a little while. There is always eBay if you can't wait. It is increadibly fun. And I am getting more exercise than I have in years.

 

Bill

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Don't confuse effective with fun. It is a different type of skill. The current games are optimized to make you skilled with the existing controllers. Your characters are slaved to the commands they receive from the buttons, knobs and such. The Wii changes those optimized buttons into simulated arm and body actions. So you could have a gun that you actually aim at the screen, instead of panning with a mouse pointer. And if you want to throw something, you make a throwing motion. Too slow and it lands short, too fast and you over shoot. It is not just a matter of point and click.

 

Hold the contollers over your head and your character crouches. Hold them low and you stand tall on your toes. In the middle you are standing normally. The possibilities are endless and totally new.

 

But it also means that you can't play for as long at a time that way. It really wears you out. I can't wait to try the boxing with wrist weights on. Now that will be a workout!

 

Bill

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I went to a party the other day, which consisted of mostly... well... party things. But then came the Wii....

Someone suggested that we play it since my friend had recently bought the system. I was actually pretty excited even though I have a personal vendetta against Nintendo (more on that later perhaps :)), because the idea of such complex gaming interaction was fairly intriguing.

 

I anxiously picked up the controllers and started playing, and I have to say I was rather dissapointed.

I started first with the "sports" package that came with the system. Tennis was my favorite, and I managed to play that with little trouble.

After that, I moved on to a game called RedSteel. This is where the real problems started. The controls were clunky and it was too hard to figure out how to control everything. The graphics were so-so.

 

The Wii is an interesting concept but leaves much to be improved. I suppose the Wii is a good system for some, but it just isn't my cup of tea.

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MB, I would suggest taking some more time to learn to use the controllers. They are a whole new beast. And yes, they seem very random until you know what you are doing. Tennis is perhaps the easiest to control. Swing forehand or backhand. The others begin to take more touch and understanding.

 

Here is #3 boxing. I didn't know he had it in him! Looks like Charlie knows when to get out of the way.

post-2294-128210094013_thumb.jpg

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Well I got a 360 for christmas :) The controllers for the Wii while very cool and innovative IMO are just a novelty at this point, I dont see how you could play a FPS with it as effectively as with a traditional controller.
I'm thinking FPS will be quite awesome on the Wii, A remake of metroid prime would be killer *if* they work out how to make the interface.

 

I think the main problem is that developpers are walking into totally new territory here. It will take a while to take command of the controlls properly but once that's done the launch titles will seem like the clunky things they are.

 

...Here is #3 boxing....

That's a big TV. Wow...I really wanna play duckhunt on that.

 

Speaking of, you check out the $$ cards for your Wii, and the wireless internet hookups for it? You can download a lot of old games onto the Wii. Like good ole GoldenAxe

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I can't imagine anything more fun than a light-saber duel on the Wii console:lightsaber2:

 

For fps's, I agree with BD. Effective<>fun. I think playing Call of Duty 3 is just going to be a blast. I loved the scene in the commercial showing how the person playing nailed the enemy soldier with the stock of the gun.

 

How well the controls work in each game really is up to the developer. Hopefully lots of developers will catch on quickly and take it to new levels.

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TBD’s review reinforces my enthusiasm for the Wii, which I plan to purchase in the next 90 days or so. Because the Wii is such a new (though I hate to use the overused term, I can’t only call it a) paradigm, I expect that there may be a lot of shortcomings and disappointments in its first couple of generations of games. When a killer game finally arrives, however, I think it will be, as the working name for the Wii implied, revolutionary.

 

I’m biased in favor of the Wii. My favorite video games over the past years have been either PS2 games that fully supported the Guncon2 (essentially only Capcom’s “Gun Survivor” series) allowed free movement with a thumbpad, and realistic marksmanship with the gun, PC and console driving games that support a wheel and pedals, Flight and sci-fi PC games that support a proportional joystick (eg: Descent, Red Baron, Wing Commander, and conventional keyboard and controller games with very mechanical movement and aiming controls (eg: Turok), which have tended to be unpopular and poorly received.

 

In short, I prefer games that allow free movement and require aiming. Button triggered move sequences and “lock on” shooting features, popular standards in video games, diminish my enjoyment of a game. So, the first time I saw the Wii controller in its Nunchuk configuration, I was delighted.

 

I’ll be interested to see the gaming popularity of the Wii vs. PCs and more conventionally controlled console. I suspect that many people will like the Wii so strongly they’ll want never to use a keyboard or PS-type controller (I consider N64, Xbox, and both the Xbox360 and the PS3’s to be simple variants of this type), while many others will forever prefer PS-type controlled games. How this schism in gamers/consumers will effect the future and fortunes of the Wii, PS2 & 3 and Xbox & Xbox360 exceeds my meager powers of predictions.

 

PS: readers of this thread might find the year-old (back when the Wii was called the Revolution) 4615 poll thread interesting.

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Descent and WC where both excellent games :)

 

Agreed, once the programers adapt the only way to go is up! Perhaps I will pick it up at a later date.. For now the 360 and PS3's graphics look like they will out-strip that of the Wii's, and even though its not everything, I am a sucker for pretty looking games.

 

Do you think we could see a gyro-controller for the PC in the not to distant future?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Finally got one of my own:)

Holy cow these things sell fast. Can't wait until I can get a second remote:)

The news channel is awesome, and I love the controllers. The technology was definately there so I would be surprised if Sony and MS (and PC makers) didn't pick up on this.

CoD is not as fun for me as I thought. Not because of the controllers, but identifying targets is a pain. However, I have only tried it once, so I suppose I need to give it some time.

 

I must say, I have never been so immersed into a game as I have playing the Wii games. The fact that you swing your arm to swing a sword, or tennis racquet just really does it for me:)

 

I still want a light saber dueling game though;)

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