Tuesday, May 03, 2011

MovieBob's Disturbingly Not-As-Insane-Sounding Wii2 Theory: Revisited

Being right about something in the realm of technology-speculation happens to me so rarely I'm actually a little scared when it looks like it might... happen, I mean. So right now... I'm actually a little alarmed...

Awhile back, when we first got word that Nintendo's yet-unamed, supposedly E3-bound Wii successor was going to have an iPad-esque touchscreen incorporated into it's controller, I was struck by a crazy notion: What if the touchscreen IS the controller - as in, the WHOLE controller?

The "big idea," as I imagined it, was that instead of having one controller with a pre-set arrangement of buttons that each game needed to be mapped to, it'd just be a blank touchscreen upon which each individual game would generate it's own specific, tailor-made set of "virtual buttons." Think about it: A six-button arcade setup for Street Fighter, SNES-style setup for platformers or retrogames, etc.

One HUGE problem with that idea: "Virtual buttons" SUCK, and for a very specific reason: You can't feel them. There's no texture, no tacticle-resistance, no "feedback." At least, not on any of the virtual-buttons we've used so far...

Check out this story from The Escapist, which details some new Wii2 rumors including a Swedish site's report that the controller's touchscreen - whatever else it is - is utilizing a form of HAPTIC TECHNOLOGY, which basically means "artificial feedback." Haptic Touchscreens, something Apple and Toshiba have been experimenting with and/or demonstrating, use an electrically-charged "film" on the screen surface to make different areas of the display "feel" noticeably different to the user's fingertips. The practical application is obvious: You can make the "clickable" parts of a website, options-menu or even a virtual keypad feel distinguishable to the touch. Theoretically, that could ELIMINATE the one drawback to virtual-button game-controls.

Now, realistically, it'd probably still have physical analogue sticks and shoulder-buttons, but otherwise... yeah, until proven wrong (which is probably what'll happen) I'm stickin' with this insane theory: Wii2's controller, to some degree, will be built around virtual-buttons on a touchscreen, and that aspect - "one controller that becomes ALL CONTROLLERS!" - will be central to the marketing.


Dave said...

@Bob: With regard to your comment about no tactile resistance or feedback on virtual buttons, that's not entirely true. The Blackberry Storm 2 has a touchscreen that "clicks" down like a button (it depresses down just like a button, as opposed to the iPhone or iTouch, which just has a regular ol' touch screen).

As far as this haptic touchscreen you speak of goes, it's unnecessary for a game console, and seems a bit too expensive to mass produce.

It would seem more likely that different parts of the plastic on the surface of the touch screen are just textured differently, or - much like the "touch keyboard" concepts (see here http://www.tiptoptens.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Touch_keyboard-300x207.jpg ) probably have raised indentations in the plastic so you can type without looking (like on the F and J keys, which allow you to type without looking at your keyboard).

It's much cheaper and far more cost-effective to do for mass-production.

I could always be wrong, but I doubt that Nintendo would use such a technology - in part because it's extremely expensive to mass-produce.

It seems like a weird fan rumor more than anything else right now.

However, I do think it's more than likely that the Wii2's controller might have some kind of screen interface a la the Sega Dreamcast's controller, which was a very novel concept that hasn't really been used since. I would expect that - similarly to the Dreamcast's memory cards and the Chao minigame thing - a removable memory storage unit with a screen could be used in conjunction with Nintendo handheld devices, which is something Nintendo was doing way back in the days of the N64 for the purposes of sharing information (see Pokemon Stadium).

THAT would seem more likely than anything, especially if Nintendo is doing this in conjunction with the financially-troubled Sega. Back in 2000, there were denied rumors that Nintendo was buying out Sega. It may be either that is exactly what's happening now (see Sonic as a secret character in SSBB) as well as possibly Konami (Konami and Nintendo go way back, and MGS is reappearing on Nintendo systems, starting with Snake in SSBB) or that former Sega and Konami employees now work for Nintendo, or some other partnership.

So yeah....... that seems more likely than anything else, as far as I'm concerned.

blockmangamer said...

Yeah, I agree. "Touch" buttons are NOT as reliable as real buttons, anyone who carry/own a touchscreen keypad smartphone will agree (myself included).

Even if the "felt" technology is implemented successfully, it's still no substitute for the real thing cause it'll still be lacking one subtle yet crucial factor....cushion. Try tapping your thumbs on the wall/flat surface for a minute and see if you're thumb isn't discomfortly aching in pain.

Right now, I see the Super Wii (yeah that's what I dubbed it) controller acting more like the lower half of a DS (touchscreen, d-pad, buttons, and all). Possibly, transitioning away from buttons altogether in their next installment but that's a whole other can of worms.

ZAENGO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ZAENGO said...

im sticking by what i said before. this is dumb. it wont be a "controller that can turn into any controller" it will be a FUCKING. TOUCH. SCREEN. anolouge sticks and shoulder buttons buttons or not, its still a goddamn touchscreen. i really hope youre wrong, because if youre not, im pretty much finished with nintendo. until they quit it with the fucking gimmicks, and give me some cool shit to play like they used to.

Adam said...

I believe Nintendo has confirmed that aren't done with actual physical buttons, which honestly I'm kind of glad. I can get behind motion controls done well, but this whole proposed setup sound complicated and expensive.

Aiddon said...

Iwata said awhile back that they like real buttons too much to get rid of them. That sorta throws that theory out the window. That being said, haptic tech COULD make for an interesting evolution in gaming technology once the price of it goes down low enough to mass-produce. I am getting sick of people thinking they need to use every single button on a controller (Dante's Inferno for example). It is Nintendo though and they've proven that when they do something radical it's anything but a gimmick.

Danny said...

One problem - are nintendo really going to charge you about $150 just for a controller?

Chris Cesarano said...

I'd be more excited if it weren't for how imperfect the Wii's controls turned out being. Granted in the hands of the right developer they were excellent, but most games experienced a lot of problems that warranted something like the WiiMotion Plus.

While your theory has a lot of positive qualities, there's a lot of things that can go wrong with it. Half-assed "texture" coding by third parties being one of them, and everyone blaming Nintendo for it as an example.

Making the buttons in any way you want also brings up a lot of usability issues. Users like consistency in their devices, and it is a pain in the ass enough when grenades are mapped to a different button in one FPS than another. Having to relearn the "controller" in each game is going to be frustrating and force new gamers to learn over and over again something they aren't used to.

Personally, I'd prefer nothing more than the ability to play something like Pacman Vs. again. That was a seriously under-rated game on the GameCube and I'd love to play more games like it.

Philbo said...

(I know what I'm about to say doesn't matter at all to Nintendo but anyway...) If this is correct, expec tthe Wii2 to get even less respect as a gaming console than the Wii. The reason for that is the reason that PC Gamers stick to wired mouse and keyboard, and gamers all over the country pay ridiculous sums for broadband: LAG.

Even the best Smart Phones have a noticeable lag when trying to execute numerous functions or button presses at once and this is usually while typing; imagine what kind of technology would be necessary to have a wireless lag-free touch screen countroller that can execute button presses while constant interrupts are being sent by the d-pad/analogue stick.

Too expensive.

fabulocco said...

In all honesty, I am quite skeptic about this touch screen business... To me it makes no sense to add a screen to a console controller (And also the tactile thing, that a touch screen lacks)

Think about this, the main screen of a console is the television. Adding another screen to a controller is ridiculous for a simple reason on this instance: You cant see both screens at once. Think about this, even if the game requires you to look at your controller just every now and then, it's counter intuitive, and in my mind would not add a lot to the experience. Add that with the fact that the console will be backwards compatible, it means wii-like motion controls.

Now you have to look at a screen in your hands as you fling it around. Great.

Blue Highwind said...

@Blockman: Super Wii is a perfect name for it! I swear to god my willingness to buy this product would go up three fold if they named it that.

Dave from canada said...

@ Danny

They charged 250 dollars for the 3ds, why not?

The controller isn't the issue (barring their idiotic hatred of buttons on the analog sticks, nintendo controllers have always been well designed). The lack of HDD is the issue. If there was to be any palpable proof of just how bloody out of it nintendo is, this is it. The single best advancement of the past 2 generations of gaming has been the HDD. This essentialy means that the wii 2 won't have big rpgs or open world games, and won't have nearly the feature set that a modern console should. It won't even have the very thing that made the modern retrogaming craze that is pretty much the only reason anyone bothers with a wii anymore possible.

Joe said...

The only practical reason for a screen in a game controller I can think of is for local multiplayer games where you have information you want hidden from other players. RTS, turn-based strategy, maybe even football and card games. Possibly FPS if they make more games with local multiplayer but that sounds like more trouble than it's worth. But are these genres of games generally popular among console gamers?

swordmasterxg7 said...

"What if the touchscreen IS the controller - as in, the WHOLE controller?"

And THAT'S why you don't work at Nintendo.

Chris Cesarano said...

"But are these genres of games generally popular among console gamers?"

Depends on how you define the console gamer. The bro gamer? Then they just want guns and explosions.

However, if a game is marketed right (read: outside of gaming news and websites and actually on the television) then you can make gamers fans of anything.

For example, a touch screen can be used to keep certain input commands a secret during a Pokemon Stadium sort of game.

Nathan said...

yeah, gonna go with the "keep buttons" side on this one. the tech you're talking about is way to experimental and would be a gross violation of Nintendo's steadfast "the hardware must be profitable at launch" rule. but as for the touchscreen, i'm psyched. this is a concept they've been trying to make work since the Gamecube, and it's great to see them finally pull it off(hopefully). i can't wait to see what Kojima, Suda 51, and Atlus do with this tech.