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sanman

Physical Motion-based Gaming (Wii)

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Regarding the subject of motion-based gaming, as introduced by the innovative style of the Nintendo Wii, I'd like to ask about the benefits and challenges of this novel style of gameplay. I own a Nintendo Wii myself, and my favorite game is Wii Boxing, which I play regularly about 4 times a week, working up a good sweat each time. Recently, at a friend's house I had the chance to play Wii Jogging, which comes with the Wii Fit. This is another game which immediately hit it off with me, right off the bat. I enjoyed the experience of jogging through a scenic virtual park trail, while jogging on the spot with the wiimote in my pocket. Again, I liked this idea of getting a cardiovascular workout as opposed to being a couch-potato and thumb-jockey. Fine, fine, I won't dispute the critics who say that such exer-gaming is no substitute for real sports, except to say that Wii is a first-generation product which will see further improvement iterations, and also to say that exer-gaming is better than no activity at all. I would love to see Wii Jogging combined with the Line Rider game concept, whereby you could jog through a variety of user-created scenic backdrops, which others from the wider user community could make and post online for you to download and enjoy. This would be an example of user-created content (aka. Web 2.0) enhancing your incentive to exercise. I recently read that the Pitfall game will be resurrected for the Wii. Also, the latest Indiana Jones movie is coming out, and there may be a game made for that, too. I think it would be really cool to wield the wiimote like a bullwhip, for some satisfying gameplay action. I would love to try that. And speaking of melee-type weaponry, I would love to see a sword-and-shield game using the wiimote and nunchuk. I have only heard of a few swordfighting games for the Wii -- Ubisoft's Red Steel and upcoming Red Steel 2, No More Heroes, Bleach, Samurai Warriors: Katana, and Lego Star Wars which apparently has a Wii light saber feature. Also, I think Mushroom Men allows you to fight your opponents with a club. I'd really be interested in knowing about any other promising titles coming out that will make good use of the Wii's motion interface.

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I really wish devs out there would start using the full potential of the Wii Remote, rather than shafting the actual motion-sensing to a substitute for a button press. After playing Mario Kart Wii, you have to think, if the remove is sensitive enough to sense slight turns on the Y axis (pitch?) then how come there aren't more 1:1 games?

Although the Gamecube/classic controller is an option for MK:Wii, I played through-and beat- the entier game with the Wheel, and it's oodles of fun. Easily one of the best uses of the 'Mote.

The problem with doing 1:1 things, like sword/shield, boxing, ect. is unless it's coded extremely well, there will be bugs. And bugs are annoying. Lets pretend some dev team manages to put 1:1 style motion sensing into, oh, I dunno, a Fantasy-style game. You go through the motions to cast a spell or something, but for one reason or another, it doesn't work! And then you get killed, or whatever, and you have to restart...I have Medal of Honor: Heroes 2, and although it's a pretty rare occurance, sometimes the IR gets all screwy and goes everywhere.

I hope Red Steel 2 is good, the first was butchered by horrible controls, but they should just jack them from MoH. I like the idea of a customizable Wii Fit-style game, would be neat to explore user-created worlds with the Balance Board and WiiMote. I hope one day some team throws together an adventure game using the BalanceB and Nunchuck/Mote...would be neat as heck. I love Wii Sports, but there's too little to do, unless friends are over.

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I'm all for ideal motion for gaming input devices, but I don't want to see it go in the direction of targeting fitness. It should be used to improve the simulation experience. However, if the most effective input device just happens to increase fitness, that's fine.

Personally, I don't enjoy swinging my arms around to do simple gaming activities. I exercise normally so that I can be incredibly lazy when I'm gaming. Once the technology reaches the level of full motion body suits that can fully interact with a game world, I'll become a little more interested.

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Original post by IronWarrior
I really wish devs out there would start using the full potential of the Wii Remote, rather than shafting the actual motion-sensing to a substitute for a button press. After playing Mario Kart Wii, you have to think, if the remove is sensitive enough to sense slight turns on the Y axis (pitch?) then how come there aren't more 1:1 games?


What exactly do you mean by 1:1 games?

The WiiMote is not all that accurate. It's probably possible to achieve quite a lot, but you have to bear in mind that most people are still only on their 1st or 2nd Wii title and won't have had much experience with getting the best out of the unit. Things will improve.

They also often have to write a game that works across multiple platforms, so Wii support may not get as much attention as it would for a Wii-only game unfortunately.

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I do think that the Wiimote is being underused but I think there are certain limitations to it that cause problems at 1:1. For slower precise motions I think it is great (i.e turning a steering wheel for Mario Kart) but for faster motions the detection seems to fall over (swinging the golf club in Tiger Woods Golf) which is why I think they use the gesture based systems.

I reckon the balance board can also be used in more serious games (like a hoverboad, skateboard etc.) with the wii-mote. The only problem is that a consumer would have to buy a board to truly enjoy a game.

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Without a doubt, the Wii if not being used to it's full potential. Part of the problem lies with developers doing waggle games targeted at non-gamers. Medal of Honour, while not great as a game, shows some promise towards a better future. After like a week of Metroid Prime, playing with a joystick on Halo felt very slow, so certainly in the FPS market there should be some decent title with online.

Nintendo should do what Microsoft are doing with XNA, I, and I am sure most people, have a few games that only the Wii can make.

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Original post by thk123
After like a week of Metroid Prime, playing with a joystick on Halo felt very slow, so certainly in the FPS market there should be some decent title with online.

In all fairness, a joystick just isn't suited for aiming. However, as far as I'm concerned, nothing can measure up to a mouse for ranged combat aiming. Except perhaps a virtual and accurate simulation of wielding a gun (pointing a plastic gun at the screen isn't a substitute for this). Aiming is one of the few things that we actually have an excellent input device for. Or at least we do on the PC.

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I've never understood why there isn't 3000 sword fighting games on the wii! You would think that would be the most naturally-made game for the system. There's not even decent shooters for the Wii. It's all so odd. All developers seem to do is make a game for the PS2 then port it over to the Wii. Honestly, I was fine with the graphical capability of the (original) Xbox. So why can't I have pretty Ninja Gaiden style graphics with awesome sword-slicing fun? Why???

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I'm not sure about the specific sensing capabilities of the controller, but I sincerely doubt that it has a true sense of its position in 3D space relative to the screen. The camera on the front can use two reference points to measure distance and roll and to act as a pointer, right? Then it's got an accelerometer or two to detect changes in motion on one or two axes, and it can clearly spot the "steer" action, as Mario Kart (And Excite Truck before it) demonstrated, although that might be a repurposed accelerometer detecting gravity. I'm sure someone knows better than I do, but it's clearly not psychic.

If it could accurately detect its position, attitude and velocity in real-time, there'd be some tech demo-type game out there exploiting that by now. Even the most off-the-wall uses, in Wario Ware for instance, are fairly simple technical tricks.

And I'm not too worried about the learning curve. Remember the analog stick on the N64? Took some getting used to, but we've pretty much got that one figured out, right?

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"I'm not sure about the specific sensing capabilities of the controller, but I sincerely doubt that it has a true sense of its position in 3D space relative to the screen. The camera on the front can use two reference points to measure distance and roll and to act as a pointer, right? Then it's got an accelerometer or two to detect changes in motion on one or two axes, and it can clearly spot the "steer" action, as Mario Kart (And Excite Truck before it) demonstrated, although that might be a repurposed accelerometer detecting gravity. I'm sure someone knows better than I do, but it's clearly not psychic."

Pretty sure it can't detect it's position in 3d space, just motion.

"What exactly do you mean by 1:1 games?

The WiiMote is not all that accurate. It's probably possible to achieve quite a lot, but you have to bear in mind that most people are still only on their 1st or 2nd Wii title and won't have had much experience with getting the best out of the unit. Things will improve.

They also often have to write a game that works across multiple platforms, so Wii support may not get as much attention as it would for a Wii-only game unfortunately."

I mean 1:1 as in your motion controls something. It is a pretty broad term, but I'm refering to games like MK:Wii, where when you move, the car moves. Or when you move, a sword/bat/whatever moves. Something that doesn't just use Waggle-to-win tactics, but where the direction you move matters.

I have no real experience with anything technical with the Wii, but the Ball Levels in Mario Galaxy (you control a Ball holding the WiiMote as a joystick) were pretty precise, and it's in all four directions. Also, if you play Wii Sports Baseball, you can twirl the Bat around slowly while waiting for a pitch with the WiiRemote. Not ultra-accurate, but better than most of the weak uses it gets.

Yeah, the Wii really is gimped as far as X-Platforming goes...not strong enough to use the X360 or PS3 graphics, so it can't get those ports, and the PS2 isn't strong enough to get a game that fully pushes the Wii, so for anything that is on the PS2 and Wii, the best graphics and engine it can get is anything the PS2 can do.

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Quote:
Original post by thk123
...

Nintendo should do what Microsoft are doing with XNA, I, and I am sure most people, have a few games that only the Wii can make.


You could always use a WiiMote library to at least prototype the game on the PC with an actual WiiMote. I've been tinkering quite a bit with this myself and though it's great fun to toy around with it, the data isn't accurate and complete enough to do really amazing things, imo.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I'm not sure about the specific sensing capabilities of the controller, but I sincerely doubt that it has a true sense of its position in 3D space relative to the screen. The camera on the front can use two reference points to measure distance and roll and to act as a pointer, right? Then it's got an accelerometer or two to detect changes in motion on one or two axes


The camera can indeed gauge the distance ('depth') from the screen (because of the 2 led arrays), as it can be used to calculate roll and pointer offsets. It has a 3D accelerometer (so 3 axes) and the nunchuck also has one of these builtin.

The main problem preventing the 'psychic' uses, is that it has no real data on position (barring use of the camera) or even orientation. It can measure accelerations, but it's hard to figure out whether the acceleration comes from the user madly swinging it around or just from the gravity, which could be pulling on the WiiMote from either one of three axes. I thought about integrating the acceleration to get a better idea about position/velocity, but I doubt it's accurate enough for that and I'm not sure how useful this would actually be.

So, I guess it's safe to asume most developers just use estimates/heuristics/tricks to see if the WiiMote is doing something roughly similar to what they'd consider for some action.

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Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
So why can't I have pretty Ninja Gaiden style graphics with awesome sword-slicing fun? Why???


I feel your pain [smile] It's tragic, but for the same reasons mentioned above. The accelerometer is only useful in determining the orientation of your sword when you're holding the WiiMote absolutely still (through the gravity vectors). As soon as you start swinging it, additional acceleration vectors are added and there's no way (at least afaik) to sort out the orientation then with the single accelerometer.

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Original post by remigius
The main problem preventing the 'psychic' uses, is that it has no real data on position (barring use of the camera) or even orientation. It can measure accelerations, but it's hard to figure out whether the acceleration comes from the user madly swinging it around or just from the gravity, which could be pulling on the WiiMote from either one of three axes. I thought about integrating the acceleration to get a better idea about position/velocity, but I doubt it's accurate enough for that and I'm not sure how useful this would actually be.


You're right, it's not accurate enough.

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So, I guess it's safe to asume most developers just use estimates/heuristics/tricks to see if the WiiMote is doing something roughly similar to what they'd consider for some action.


Yeah. As developers become more used to the limitations, they will get better results from it.

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Original post by IronWarrior
Yeah, the Wii really is gimped as far as X-Platforming goes...not strong enough to use the X360 or PS3 graphics, so it can't get those ports, and the PS2 isn't strong enough to get a game that fully pushes the Wii, so for anything that is on the PS2 and Wii, the best graphics and engine it can get is anything the PS2 can do.


That's not really the point I had in mind... it's perfectly practical to use the same engine across Wii/PS3/360, if your assets scale accordingly. And there are other platforms like PSP to consider. The problem is that work done on the Wii control system is work that does not benefit the other 2 platforms. Therefore, for a game released on 3 formats, it's essentially 3x as costly in development terms.

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Original post by IronWarrior
...
Also, if you play Wii Sports Baseball, you can twirl the Bat around slowly while waiting for a pitch with the WiiRemote. Not ultra-accurate, but better than most of the weak uses it gets.
...


Really this seemed fairly accurate to me, and is the most impressive thing I've seen with the remote so far.. Quite possibly accurate enough to be used properly in a game?

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Original post by WavyVirus
Really this seemed fairly accurate to me, and is the most impressive thing I've seen with the remote so far.. Quite possibly accurate enough to be used properly in a game?


I think the catch here is:

Quote:
you can twirl the Bat around slowly


As long as you move the WiiMote slowly, the accelerations from your movement are small compared to gravity vectors, from which the orientation is derived. So basically, a game can ignore small auxiliary accelerations (ie pretend it all comes from gravity) and still compute your bat position fairly accurately. When you're swinging the WiiMote a bit more eratic though, it quickly spazzes out.

If you really want to use it like this in a game, you'd have to make players move the WiiMote slowly. Additionally or alternatively, you could monitor the combined acceleration vectors length and quickly take a sample when the length is close to 1g (so when you hope it's not influenced much by aux movement), to get the gravity vectors.

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Original post by IronWarrior
Yeah, the Wii really is gimped as far as X-Platforming goes...not strong enough to use the X360 or PS3 graphics, so it can't get those ports, and the PS2 isn't strong enough to get a game that fully pushes the Wii, so for anything that is on the PS2 and Wii, the best graphics and engine it can get is anything the PS2 can do.


Yeah, but I'm not worried about the Wii competing with the X360 or PS3, graphically.
My concern is this: (original) Xbox > Gamecube > PS2 && Wii > Gamecube > PS2.
So I would figure that the (original) Xbox and the Wii have similar graphical capabilities. But yet we keep seeing PS2 quality graphics on the Wii.

Also the WiiMote can tell when you are moving it from up and down or from left to right or even from back to forward, can it not? I would think that would be enough accuracy to get a decent weapons-based game going. Or no?

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Sort of. Remember that when you move the WiiMote from left to right, the following happens:

- acceleration in the left->right direction
- a period of zero acceleration on average, but which could actually be small amounts of acceleration in either direction
- acceleration in the right->left direction

And when you move it from right to left, it looks like this:

- acceleration in the right->left direction
- a period of zero acceleration on average, but which could actually be small amounts of acceleration in either direction
- acceleration in the left->right direction

Exactly the same operations, just in a different order, separated by perhaps several hundred milliseconds.

It has to infer the velocity from previous changes in acceleration, but they are not very accurate, and there are many changes during the motion itself as your hand does not maintain constant velocity. (And even if it could, the Wii can't easily tell the difference between an object moving at constant velocity and an object at rest.)

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Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
Yeah, but I'm not worried about the Wii competing with the X360 or PS3, graphically.
My concern is this: (original) Xbox > Gamecube > PS2 && Wii > Gamecube > PS2.
So I would figure that the (original) Xbox and the Wii have similar graphical capabilities. But yet we keep seeing PS2 quality graphics on the Wii.


Quote:
That's not really the point I had in mind... it's perfectly practical to use the same engine across Wii/PS3/360, if your assets scale accordingly. And there are other platforms like PSP to consider. The problem is that work done on the Wii control system is work that does not benefit the other 2 platforms. Therefore, for a game released on 3 formats, it's essentially 3x as costly in development terms.


I really don't mind the "worse" graphics on the Wii, but the thing is that developers just don't think it's worth it to make a Wii version, when they would have to transfer everything backwards, rather than just porting in between the 360 and PS3. Also, the Wii is roughly twice as strong as the GC, so it CAN do better than the PS2. Also, there's new graphics tecniques that are used on it (probably not a whole lot, though) that the PS2 doesn't do.

Not sure what you mean about "use the same engine across Wii/PS3/360..." I'm not a coder, but if you use the same engine for the Wii (weaker than PS3/360) than the HiRes systems, aren't you quenching their ability? Or do you mean use the same engine, but modify it for the Wii's use? That wouldn't quite work for things like graphics, since some 360/PS3 game's artistic looks revolve around new graphics capabilities not possible on the Wii. A quick example is Resident Evil 5, which has a feature in it that ajusts lighting and contrast if you leave or enter a shadowy area. Also, games like The Force Unleashed are built around the special physics engines they use.

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Original post by IronWarrior
Not sure what you mean about "use the same engine across Wii/PS3/360..." I'm not a coder, but if you use the same engine for the Wii (weaker than PS3/360) than the HiRes systems, aren't you quenching their ability? Or do you mean use the same engine, but modify it for the Wii's use?


If the engine is available on multiple platforms, all this is already taken into account. Features can be switched off and on.

Quote:
That wouldn't quite work for things like graphics, since some 360/PS3 game's artistic looks revolve around new graphics capabilities not possible on the Wii.


The idea of an engine is not to be capable of doing anything you like on every platform, but to be able to make a game that runs on multiple platforms. Therefore, the fact that the design of some games relies on a specific look that isn't practical on certain systems, doesn't mean that cross-platform engines are useless. This is why most people do indeed use such engines.

Quote:
A quick example is Resident Evil 5, which has a feature in it that ajusts lighting and contrast if you leave or enter a shadowy area. Also, games like The Force Unleashed are built around the special physics engines they use.


Neither of these things are 360/PS3 specific. They're just easier and/or more efficient on those platforms.

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And yet if you are simply porting a game from one platform to another, via that common engine, you might not be able to take advantage of the unique control interface the Wii offers. Because in my opinion, motion-control is not merely just a feature to switch on, but something to design the entire game around, from the ground up.

For instance, I could see Wii jogging's motion-based running feature being useful in a variety of games where you character has to run around a playing field / battlefield. Perhaps you could stick the Wiimote in your pocket to capture your up-down jogging motion, and meanwhile hold the nunchuck in hand to steer your running direction. (I liked the preview trailer for that game Mirror's Edge, and it would cool to use the timing of your actual running motions to control your free-running character onscreen, via the Wiimote)

It's too bad that Wii Jogging only comes with Wii Fit, and not as WiiWare.

Regarding swordfighting, while I'm not sure if the Wiimote can capture classical broadsword types of swinging motions, I would think it would be able to capture the Zorro-style fencing sword motions. Fencing itself would be a great addition to the Wii sports portfolio. But I could see it being used in various action-adventure games as a melee feature.




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Original post by Kylotan
If the engine is available on multiple platforms, all this is already taken into account. Features can be switched off and on.


You can't really just switch models "off an on" to lower-poly. There are programs that reduce the triangles, but they're usually used for making level-of-detail versions of a model.

Quote:
The idea of an engine is not to be capable of doing anything you like on every platform, but to be able to make a game that runs on multiple platforms. Therefore, the fact that the design of some games relies on a specific look that isn't practical on certain systems, doesn't mean that cross-platform engines are useless. This is why most people do indeed use such engines.


Agreed, which is why people sell engines and they're used on multiple platforms. But if a game is run on the Unreal Engine on the PS3/360, and the company wants a Wii version, chances are they won't just be able to switch an enormous amount of stuff off on the engine. Usually, they'd just either hire a new company to do the Wii/PS2 version, like for The Force Unleashed, which usually turns out a weaker product.

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Neither of these things are 360/PS3 specific. They're just easier and/or more efficient on those platforms.


Yes, but you have to put in twice as much work to recode just for one platform, rather than both the "High-End" ones. And if you decide that you want a PS2 and a Wii version, 99% of the time they're exactly the same game with some changes, which really limits the Wii's power.

I don't even remember what my original point was anymore, but what I was really trying to get across was that most devs don't want to go to all the effort of making a Wii-specific version, because you need to remodel EVERYTHING (unless there's some awsome triangle-killer program that is used to lower the poly count a TON) and modify remove some of your features from the engine.

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Original post by sanman
And yet if you are simply porting a game from one platform to another, via that common engine, you might not be able to take advantage of the unique control interface the Wii offers. Because in my opinion, motion-control is not merely just a feature to switch on, but something to design the entire game around, from the ground up.


That was my whole point, a few posts up.

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Original post by IronWarrior
Quote:
Original post by Kylotan
If the engine is available on multiple platforms, all this is already taken into account. Features can be switched off and on.


You can't really just switch models "off an on" to lower-poly. There are programs that reduce the triangles, but they're usually used for making level-of-detail versions of a model.


And that is exactly what you use. And you can use smaller textures. This isn't difficult - this is already widely done.

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Quote:
Neither of these things are 360/PS3 specific. They're just easier and/or more efficient on those platforms.


Yes, but you have to put in twice as much work to recode just for one platform, rather than both the "High-End" ones. And if you decide that you want a PS2 and a Wii version, 99% of the time they're exactly the same game with some changes, which really limits the Wii's power.


No, typically you don't put in twice as much work at all. You write one piece of software to run across all the platforms you're running on, with slight differences. Most of those differences are already taken into account by whoever wrote your library.

Quote:
I don't even remember what my original point was anymore, but what I was really trying to get across was that most devs don't want to go to all the effort of making a Wii-specific version, because you need to remodel EVERYTHING (unless there's some awsome triangle-killer program that is used to lower the poly count a TON) and modify remove some of your features from the engine.


Sorry, but that's simply not true. (I've actually worked on a game that was developed simultaneously for Wii and PSP.)

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