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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Five Gestures For Wii Marvel Alliance

The Wii version of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance will be based on five distinct gestures of the wiimote:

Mike Chrzanowski wants you to try to break the Marvel superhero game he's working on. Just try. He expects you to fail.

Flick your wrist to shoot Spider-Man's webs and shake your hand to spin Thor's hammer. Five gestures trigger the moves of any one of the pantheon of Marvel heroes included in this fall's "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance." The Nintendo Wii game is published by Activision and developed by Vicarious Visions in upstate New York, where the tall, long-haired Chrzanowski serves as an associate designer.

Five moves do it all, from hurling Captain America's shield to throwing a Wolverine-clawed uppercut. Shake the Wii remote. Jab it forward. Lift it up. Press it down. Or cut it sharply to the side, left or right. On an Xbox 360, the same moves can be triggered with a press of a button or a staccato press of a few. If the Wii controls sound imprecise, well that was a problem a few weeks ago. But on the day of the interview, and the day the game comes out, there will be no — OK, almost no — fooling the Wii.

"Now in some cases people will do something that's not going to work right, and in that case they're probably going to have to adjust the way they do it," said Chrzanowski, a black Wii development controller in hand. "But that's a rare case."

He wasn't talking idly. He said a system developed by a Vicarious colleague, Jesse Raymond, a few weeks ago has been crunching the data of dozens of players who have tested the game on the Wii, analyzing the results of requests for players to do 10 swipes in a row or 10 stabs in a row, recognizing which moves the current version of the game fails to recognize as the intended gesture, tweaking the code, checking the pool of data from the gesture trials again for any new misunderstandings, repeat and recode, again and again. The result? "Within a week it went from being 60 to 70 percent reliable to 97 percent reliable," Chrzanowski said.

Like he said, don't expect the Wii to get confused.
-- GameFile: Fooling The Wii, 'Marvel: Ultimate Alliance,' 'StarFox Command,' Bob Marley Video Game And More

This is kinda interesting, methinks. Already some Wii versions of ported games will have a fundamentally different control setup which could rather deeply effect the gameplay. If Ultimate Alliance is following the X-men Legends model, then it's pretty significant - because you're taking a complete button masher and forcing the player to perform (repeatedly) something more drawn out. I'm guessing the basic attacks will still be button based, but using the powers will be gestured and that still a big shift.

Also, this could change the player's setup. With the current setup, you have to assign powers to available buttons ... so you're limited to what's free (usually 2 buttons). Now you'll always have five possible motions (although it sounds like specific heroes will only use a subset of them?)

Food for thought. Even if the Wii turns into an embarrassing usability failure ... it sounds like it will be fun to wave the Wiimote around.

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Thomas said...

I see this as what people tried to do with the DS at first (and still, frankly). The stylus was used to replace buttons. "Oh, instead of having the player press a button to switch weapons, we'll have them used the screen for no good reason."

This isn't actually any less fun. But gamers are so performance oriented, anything that's less efficient is annoying.

But there'll be Wii games like Trauma Center, where the remote is used for something that the buttons can't do. It may just take a couple months to get those games out.

Josh said...

And I think the DS provided an important role for the Wii - it proved you can make "weird" hardware accessible. I was pretty suspicious of the DS when it arrived and doubted that anyone but Nintendo would really take advantage of it.

And OK ... to a certain extent that might still be true :) But at least the DS has proven itself to be more than a mere gimmick, so the Wii is under less pressure to do so.