Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Nintendo and its crazy controls

For two years now we have been enjoying Wiimote waggling with the Wii, and for four years the screen pokery of the DS. Both have introduced new ways to control games that go against the tried and tested button pressing of every console since time began. The results of this can sometimes offer a truly unique and pleasant experience, but other times it makes you replace the stylus/Wiimote with a hammer, and go to town on the fiddly little consoles. There are also those games that sit in the middle of public opinion along with Marmite and Bill Oddie, where everyone decides if they love it or hate it. Zelda: The Phantom Hour Glass for example is entirely motion controlled. Nintendo decided that the conveniently placed d-pad should not be used like they are in every game ever to move the character, but instead pointing the stylus was the way to go. In fact, touching the screen controls pretty much everything in the game.

Whilst things like this are innovative and fairly original concepts, it does keep you on your toes about what those who are mad enough to build their dreams at Nintendo have in store for us next. Will we in the future see some kind of combination of waggle stick and touch screen? Lord knows how something like this would come about or be feasible unless we all suddenly mutate to have more limbs, but the real question is, will Nintendo ever go back to button mashing, joystick waggling games?

A hybrid touch/motion control scheme for a game might actually be possible, but not in the way that would combine the current Wiimote and stylus waving. Such a device would be unwieldy and has the potential to cause psychosis and cripple unwary beta testers. As this guy has proven, it is possible to set the Wiimote up to track your individual finger movements on a screen in a similar fashion to those cool monitors we all wish we had that feature in Minority Report. If such a system could be implemented in a game, it could lead to many interesting possibilities.

With a system like this, we could have a much more sensitive and responsive version of Wii boxing. Fight not going your way? Poke your opponent in the eyes, go for a cheeky hair pull or maybe even disrobe him (if you are that way inclined). It could also be implemented well in a real time strategy game. Just imagine selecting units with your finger tips and pointing at the screen telling the where to go. Perhaps certain hand gestures could be used to suggest actions like movement, attack, bombard, flay, burn, eat, massage…. well, maybe not that one, unless we have another Leisure Suit Larry forced upon us. Another idea is that instead of having your God’s hand as a cursor in Black & White, you actually use the hand on the end of your wrist to throw villagers and stroke animals, just nothing below the belt.

Unique control schemes are a bit of a mixed bag. The NES power glove for example was basically a standard controller with a calculator interface mounted on a cleaning glove that gave you as much control as a Segway piloted by a worm farm. You can not really tell how well something will work until it is in your hands. The latest idea for a way to control games is using the Neural Impulse Actuator which reads the spongy mass inside your skull and somehow translates this to the game. This creates many more interesting ideas for games, not to mention a very worrying thought of what happens if they bring out another Leisure Suit Larry with this in mind…

Note – To anyone who may frequent this enough to notice if I miss a Wednesday (thank you by the way!), there may or may not be an entry next week due to a two week work placement at PC Zone. I will update with my happenings on this venture if I am allowed to do more than make tea.

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