Hey U – Give Me Real Controls

The Wii Remote & Nunchuk was last generation’s innovation in violence – still strong today, still better than the competition. This was the method of controlling the last true console Resident Evil experience the world would know: The Umbrella Chronicles.

For the previous console cycle, there’s a seldom-stated lesson Capcom briefly learned (see RE4:Wii) then immediately forgot (see their “HD” games): if you’re pretending to KILL in a video game, do it properly. It’s just a shame we don’t have to pretend anymore: modern games, such as Capcom’s premiere action series, have gotten so smart that they play themselves (step aside Super Guide). The games don’t hesitate to handle much of the excitement on their own, and work hard to convince us that quick-button-context-flashback-retrospection-cutscene was an artistic achievement (“Best QTE of 2012,” is there such a thing?). Opponents of violent gaming love to point out how video games “teach kids how to kill”, but I know that’s rubbish cuz most games suck at that, especially as more games suck at being games. It’s supposed to be like watching a movie, right? Why not an effing GAME? Thru these last couple generations of analog masturbation, popular shooters have more or less surpassed “REALISTIC EVERYTHING” – nevermind the gameplay. And in a (not really) fun twist, “more realism” cheerfully graduated to “more Hollywood”; new gameplay became movies that look like gameplay. “Wow, it’s like playing a game,” – thanks, my confidence in the new generation is at an all-time high.

Before proceeding, I want to be clear that the major ideas in the blocks of text below don’t necessarily apply to every genre or gameplay mechanic. Many of our favorites are derived from things like tennis, team sports, board games, gambling, mazes, vehicles, boxing puppets, and Donkey Kong – there’s no reason to mess with certain core elements. However, TANGIBLE VIRTUAL VIOLENCE has a raw, engrossing quality that the majority of the Industry has not been interested in embracing for some time; fluid human movements seek the spillage of human fluid, yet they insist gamers don’t like movement and just seek Mountain Dew. Trapped in the game industry’s electronic erection contest, the prestigious computing “arms race”, we continue enduring their fake war: fake gameplay and fake value. Cash and companies continue to perish in the high-priced struggle to show violence; rarely do we see genuine imagination towards playing violence. It doesn’t have to be this way; we can still search for decency. Aim off-screen and raise your real arms to rediscover what’s in front of you: the gameplay in your hands.

/wii joke

The Nunchuk Plus is a tablet upgrade for your Wii Fit System – finally, you can graduate to Carnival Sports HD and other great sequels to Wii’s 3rd Party offerings.

It has all of the controller features that Nintendo’s shrinking fanbase asked for in 2007, when they thought the Wiichuk scheme was already reaching its limits despite being superior to everything the Sixaxis learned overnight:

  • Nintendo naturally updated the motion sensors to provide the additional accuracy the Wiimote already had.
  • They made it wireless because children aged 20+ committed suicide via strangulation following the revelation that Link was right-handed in the Wii version of Zelda: Toylet Princess.
  • The classic D-pad was added because an online survey of teenage boys said holding the Wiimote sideways was a “gimmick”.
  • Finger-based touchscreen display was implemented as a response to Sony’s Next Generation Portable.
  • Speakers, mic, camera, voice and video chat were added so that 2005’s “Revolution” controller rumors would finally come true.

There’s nothing weird or impractical about this scheme provided you don’t use it for shield-bashing or playing motion Punch-Out!! Non-gamers are already aware of the comfort of simply resting the Nunchuk on their laps (or elsewhere) in most Wiichuk games; the Nunchuk Plus is no different, except it’s like Remote Play, but relevant.

What about the “non-chuk” hand? Well, Nintendo and its launch partners expect you’ll often LET GO of one side of the Nunchuk Plus to use the touchscreen anyway, so it shouldn’t be a problem for regular people; gamers, maybe. Holding a Wiimote in the other hand won’t prevent you from sticking out your index finger to use the touchscreen. Better yet, in a ZombiFit context, feel free to set your Wiimote/water bottle down as if you were REALLY digging around your workout bag. PHYSICAL IMMERSION. Holy shit. It’s just like ignoring friends/guests/traffic/muggers/molesters/everything to finger your smartphone.

Easily access your spare leotard, donuts, and cigarettes.

“I’m sorry, Nintendo, but this gimmick requires too much effort. I’m concerned that if you won’t allow 3rd Parties to release mature titles, I’ll just give up gaming.”
Hope you run for the exit. Is that too much effort?

Really, the Nunchuk Plus Wiimote Plus scheme is (well, SHOULD BE) a viable option for various titles. Aside from gyro aiming, I’m still waiting for a game to provide close-range throat-stabbing or twist-knife-in-the-liver maneuvers enabled by Motion Plus (stealthy assassin murder simulators, ahoy), but the childish norm is “aim” + punch/poke/swing, or “aim” + QTE/cutscene; a lame press of a button. Very funny. It’s painful knowing that most developers’ imaginations are stuck in the same place: struggling to use some innovative-but-difficult-to-shoehorn-multiplats “Nintendo thing”.

Only talented risk-taking developers can succeed at exploring new dimensions of real fun and real interaction.

Putting smiles on fat faces; that new Wii Fit. The Nunchuk Plus has massive potential to invigorate or create other genres, not just last-gen zombie parties. Think of different roles and activities that could inspire interaction with game information in ways we don’t expect from mainstream shooting. For starters, a lot of DS/3DS concepts could carry over, but we can still push these ideas further: “Google Earth” style navigation and info tagging in your playing field; freeform object creation like ceramics or sculpting; unmanned robotic bomb disposal or other UAV assistant; customizing magick spell trajectories in [whatever] RPG; constantly monitoring security cameras as a thief/prisoner/assassin/survivor while being hunted by [you name it]; taking photos during Style Savvy’s virtual runway presentations in real-time; or being the fucking ZaKa TV CAMERAMAN in Grasshopper’s Michigan: Report from Hell – but all that was probably covered in a Project Dolphin Coffee article written by nobody. I actually want to address the problem that the “real-life” component of “virtual” gunplay has been reluctant to advance for more than a decade, ever since character movement and camera control became separate inputs.

A new Unfake Engine is not the answer; a VR headset with a port of Doom 3 is not the answer – emphasizing “graphics” and “displays” continues to dodge the issue.

To my misfortune, many still insist that serious characters and effective gunplay are best conveyed thru a pair of sticks (alternatively, a mouse on a desk – DON’T FORGET YOU ALSO NEED A DESK – a mouse needs a structural surface to support it just like your own ass). From conventional inputs we derive on-screen movement: to NOT behave like a person with eyes, neck, arms, and waist, but instead become a gun welded to a camcorder mounted on a tripod with wheels of an office chair. Over-the-shoulder? Same problem! No problem! Just weld Chris Redfield to the previous apparatus for dramatic effect; today’s first-person and turd-person shooters demand heroes of the highest caliber. Spinning a camera and strafing your enemies while holding the trigger to empty your magazine (then reload and repeat): that’s (not) aiming, that’s (not) professional, and that’s (not) good use of the rifle “expertise” you acquired after [annual shooter] made you a gun nerd (…).

Why don’t existing shooters respect the feeling and challenge of aiming? Racing games somewhat respect driving via steering wheels… The notion of “gunfeel” in games seems increasingly impotent when you notice sticks and mice are the primary hardware answering to your fingertips. Try taking a step back and start with – work with me – the feel of a gun; the feel of a sword; the feel of a wheel, flashlight, frying pan, and so on. NO, acting out your gameplay is simply inconceivable in the all-important Western market – but it’s OK if it’s Kinect Star Wars, so concentrate funding, marketing, and developer “talent” there. The Industry knows best.

[catching my breath…] Right. It’s been frustrating to see gameplay opportunities go nowhere for years while some obvious mechanics remained oversimplified and tailored to an audience that has difficulty demonstrating a minimum level of finesse from the waist up.

2006 and on: Game journalism leading the way. These experts inform you about exciting advancements in gameplay.

Or not.

It’s becoming clearer now: the whole “by gamers, for gamers” ideal is at the center of this circus. With the Industry’s clientele in mind…

Isn’t it great that the instant you let go of a mouse or an analog stick, the game keeps your aiming orientation where you last left it? It aims without you! Let’s summarize that: GRITTY MEN ON TV, and TRAINING WHEELS FOR GAMERS. It might be out of necessity to make first person shooters braindead (“guided”) the way they are since the controls are limited and initially difficult to learn. There’s a risk of making those games “too hard” and preventing players from completing the intro stage without automating the AI and objectives, putting an end to some Western publisher’s mega-seller empire. Why, that would be unacceptable. Here, have some aim assists, and cinematic bullet time, and regenerating health, and cinematic vehicle chases, and Olympic-class strafing, and cinematic crate explosions, and no-trouble-seeing-everything cover mechanics, and cinematic melee QTEs, and on-screen achievements for doing all the preceding things 17x, and…

…That’s why you’re still a kid. (Im)mature games and developers still treat you like kids. The game industry is dependent on the expectation that your thoroughly researched demographic doesn’t “grow up”. “Keep doing it becuz it works” and “cuz it’s fun” are delusioned excuses fueling years of bullshit mechanics and content. The first game was “fun”, so the continued support is a matter of course for a mature, sophisticated, art-loving audience; you can tell, cuz publishers and players just love to throw money away. Constructing flashier corridors and scripting new explosions and charging top dollar before the first patch is terrifying yet routine – there isn’t a new game to be made because a certain demographic eventually becomes the developers they always admired, making the games their little hearts desired. The chicken and the egg make the same shit omelette.

Anyone accidentally reading this: stay out of that demographic – grow up.

Optional Exhibits:

Wii Gun Calibration – More Guns and Gameplay

Non-game or true FPS? Here’s more examples of calibrated “1:1” aiming using a pistol shell, submachine shell, and my new Perfect Shot Gun. Six years later, it’s still amazing that the Wii Menu pointer works out-of-the-box and game-specific calibration takes about 4 seconds; only few consumers had the courage to fuss with expensive motion cameras that did everything “better than Wii” as long as you only used it to dance. 2006 tech still shines.

One big difference from the old video is the footage of the in-game cursor lined up thru the shotgun’s sight post, using The House of the Dead 3’s calibration screen. Forgive me while I’m holding my digi-cam to the gun and the stock to my collar while trying to keep it steady, wishing I had 5 hands. Be assured that the cursor follows the sight posts fine when you avoid the screen margins, and always be mindful of the slight Wiimote lag (mostly due to how well the software processes Wii IR pointer data, rather than the “input lag” issue present in HDTVs that suck). The audio is also a little crap; I didn’t realize my game volume was too low for my little camera.

As for the nameless manufacturer that designed and supplied CTA Digital with 3 generations of Wii shotguns: the Perfect Shot Gun finally gets it right. It’s the finest gun shell to date, even if it’s only good for a couple games that are the only good games for this sort of thing anyway (CTA Digital does not sell this revision, BTW; it was a completely generic product I got from DX.com that didn’t even arrive in a retail box; at least shipping was free). This non-gun ISN’T going to improve your performance in RE Chronicles, Call of Duty, or those shitty hunting/barnyard games that came with their own zappers, but it’s a great fit for advanced software like Ghost Squad and The House of the Dead: 2&3 Return. Whoever worked on these two ports: they had real talent. I included The House of the Dead: Overkill footage because I think people would be curious, and to contrast Grubdog’s intimate encounter with the Extended Cut / PS Move edition. The nice things about in-home Wii pointer shooty tech compared to its arcade counterparts: I think the Wii results are more reliable and accurate, and my living room doesn’t need maintenance service to fix busted blue/pink guns and color-bleeding monitors. Just wish there are talented devs brave enough to take the “guided” feature out of these games.

On a separate note, these gentlemen asked for Kickstarter money to help develop another rifle-themed FPS controller that’s compatible with everything and almost good for nothing at the same time. If you bother designing the product to look and feel like a gun, users will expect it to WORK LIKE A GUN (disappointment comes next). Easy test: 1) AIM IT LIKE A GUN. 2) HIT THE TARGET. Just how do you fuck up… Duck Hunt? Well, the software and the hardware should’ve been designed with each other in mind, so it’s not entirely their fault; blame the Industry’s favorite standards of software quality. The weird “tilting” actions suggest the gun has yet to work in a meaningful way that makes sense for shooting, highlighting the Industry’s lack of solutions to address existing FPS cameras – designed for limited conventional controllers – that are still at the heart of the problem. Whoops.

Regarding Post-it notes:
Overkill’s calibration function is broken – the cursor is slow and the “corner crosshair” detection is shit. This Post-it idea was a simple way to mark and compare HotD 3’s calibration screen to Overkill’s calibration screen (use the crosshair axes to locate the centroids). As it turns out, Overkill’s crosshairs don’t match up with HotD 3’s (no surprise there). However, using the Post-its instead of Overkill’s crosshairs managed to give me the most reliable and repeatable calibration I’ve ever had in this game, but it’s still lousy and the gameplay shows (and full-auto isn’t that fun, especially when the frame rate sucks and the sound effects are weak).

Other Resources:
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz FPS Videos
Wii Sniper Rifle Video – Gameplay Montage

Wii Gun Calibration video (DivX)

4 thoughts on “Hey U – Give Me Real Controls

  1. I had drafted a longer, angrier version of this post just before Pietriots.com re-launched a couple years back (happy burfday). It was a massive ranting checklist of anti-industry assaults and volcanic negativity. Because we are approaching an exciting new Nintendo system launch with additional control methods and an “even” technological platform where 3rd Party products will compete with Nintendo’s games (for a couple months) more obviously and directly than ever, I present you with the positive version today.

    Go Vets.


  2. Ok, now a serious reply. Pro Daisy’s wall of text pretty much exemplifies my biggest hope and biggest fear of the WiiU; control options for pointer controls (Gamepad’s gyro can sort of function like one, ZombiU showed this off) and on the flip side third parties going the easy, sucky route. Its pretty bad when Nintendo themselves are somehow doing it in Nintendo Land, because Nintendo Land is the experiment factory similar to Wii Sports/Resort, but on a grander and more interactive scale.

    I think he just made my “Post of the Year Award” when we do the Pietriots Best of 2012. Pro Daisy, congrats.


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