Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Fiidback

So, we got a few more people around to play with the Wii - taking turns because we haven't found any extra controllers. Some representative comments (not mine).

  • "This looks like something from 10 years ago."
  • "Why didn't they finish the game?"

The latter alludes to the Wii Sports game shipped with the console. The little dudes, which are already the simple "booger" design, don't have any arms. And in some of the games, no legs or feet either. (They do in the Mii design window, so if it was a design consideration, it wasn't applied consistently.) And although they're 3d models, sometimes they look 2d. Etc etc. When you hit the ball in the baseball game, the runners don't even bother getting off home plate unless they actually get on base. The catchers don't bother to throw the ball to get an out, the result is just reported.

The bigger problem, though, is certainly the control. As described in The Design of Everyday Things, the key factor in people learning how to use controls is feedback - you need to know why things onscreen happen in response to what you're doing. For the Wiimote, such feedback is woefully in short supply. Lacking that, it takes a while to figure out how to adapt to what the system expect.

For instance, when bowling, the ball does some extra spinning to the left. Why? Is it the tilt of the controller? The spin? It's hard to do controlled experiments to figure out exactly which aspect of your motion is affecting what. Same thing for pitches in the baseball game - what exactly differentiates a screw ball from a curveball when you're wiggling the controller?

Also, inherent to trying to map the position of the controller to the game play are some real fundamental problems. Watching someone playing Boxing and comparing their movements to those onscreen is an pretty jarring. Presumably as you learn how fast the game can track, and what they can tell you are doing, you can keep it in sync better. This was also an issue with the EyeToy games, but those weren't the default, integral controller for an entire console.

Another flaw, at least with Wii Sports, is the limited control altogether. Since you're waving the magic wand, that limits what effect you can have. In Tennis, you swing the racket, but all player positions are computer controlled (including yours). Running/catching in baseball is all computer controlled, you just throw or hit the ball. In general, there's not much you can do.

And the continued safety warning screens, plug in the extra controller, now unplug the extra controller (some games use the Nunchuck attachment, and some games require it be disconnected, for safety presumably), all become an exercise in obeying the system. In a peculiar way, it's reminds me of those old Choose Your Own Adventure books, or Dragon's Lair, with simple branching points.

The best advice from the game: "Why don't you take a break and do something else for awhile?" Thank you Wii. Thii.