Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Denied Once More

I was tremendously happy to discover a spare copy of Mario Kart Wii in Sainsbury's today. I've been wanting a copy ever since discovering the joys of dirtbiking dinosaurs back in Oxford.

Of course, this being me, it turned out they didn't have a copy after all, they'd just put an empty box out to, I don't know, perform some kind of psychological experiment, or something.

I mention this incident as a perfect example of the First Rule of SpaceSquid's Universe: it is not enough to simply deny me what I want, every effort has to be put into making me believe what I want is within my grasp, so that it can be whisked away at the last minute to the sound of the laughter of the cosmos.

Not that I'm bitter, obviously.


cpcarrot said...

I feel I should probably mention that my copy of Mario Kart + 2 Wii Wheels arrived Monday. I can confirm that it is suitably awesome and that the whole Wii Wheel system of controlling the cars makes it even more fun than you can possibly imagine :)

Perhaps we should introduce the 2nd Rule of Spacesquid: It is not enough to simply to deny Spacesquid what he wants, others must be provided with what he wants with great ease in order that the laughter of the cosmos be echoes by the laughter of the people.

But on the positive side I did get most annoyed yesterday as I was well in 1st only to be hit by two blue shells in rapid succession, then splattered by a red shell and run over by Yoshi on a star powered invulnerability trip, only to end up in 7th! Life is unfair to us with Mario Kart too!

SpaceSquid said...

Actually I'm entirely non-plussed with the wheel thing. We used it as a handicap system, and when you're paying out money for something that makes you worse something is wrong with the universe.

Nice idea for the next rule, but I think we'll use it as a corollary for the first.

cpcarrot said...

You see while I agree that initially it makes you worse (probably simply because you are not used to it), I think in time it will become the control method of choice. There is potential for a lot more control using the wheel as you have more different positions available than with the analogue stick which I suspect, once you get used to it, will enable you to control your Kart better.

SpaceSquid said...

This sounds like a challenge, sir! Meet me on the Isle of Jersey in the month of August, and face the wrath of a terrible lizard on an awesome dirt-bike.

Pause said...

I'm sorry, but there is no way in which the wheel is superior. You only have to look at the online rankings to see that all the decent times come from using a stick.

As further evidence, I add the following exchange between three Nintendo head bods (emphasis mine):

Satoru Iwata: But people who are used to conventional controllers will try to use the GameCube Controller or the Classic Controller in order to win matches or score good lap times, wouldn't they?

Hideki Konno: Yes, so we came up with a way of addressing that. We provided an incentive for using the Wii Wheel. When you battle someone you don’t know, and in the rankings as well, a Wii Wheel icon appears to the right of your nickname on the screen.

Shigeru Miyamoto: When someone using the GameCube controller gets passed by someone with the Wii Wheel icon, they’re really chagrined. But just like with the Mii Contest Channel for contests, where the number of parts for faces are limited, it’s more fun when there are restraints. When you can get a great time using the wheel, you’ve got a lot of bragging rights.

The wheel is there to encourage anyone to be able to pick up and play with it, not to make you better at the game.

cpcarrot said...

Now my question is, why is it better? In terms of buttons it’s not an issue as all the buttons are all within thumb range and just as easy to access. In fact in one way the Wii Wheel scheme may even be slightly better as your left thumb is free to control the weapons options at all times (previously you lost a thumb to the analogue stick which is not required with the wheel meaning you only had a single thumb avalable to sometimes be hitting multiple buttons at the same time).

Anyway the important difference is the choice between a thumb controlled analogue stick and the multi-positional Wii Wheel. Now I can’t be certain about this as I don’t have the technical specs, but I would imagine that the Wii Wheel as it can be rotated a full 90 degrees in each direction and has a pretty advanced accelerometer built in to measure the position, should have more points of detection than the analogue stick. What I mean is that between pressing totally left (or right) and centre there will be a set number of positions the controller can register and as I said before I assume the Wii Wheel system will have more than the little analogue stick. It would be good to track down some technical data to find out if this is the case because if it is then the Wii Wheel should with practice give you better control than the controller as you could set your urns more accurately…

Clearly there is much more of a learning curve as the vast majority of people playing the game will be used to the old fashioned way of doing things and therefore (especially as the game hasn’t even been out that long) I would expect controllers to be doing a hell of a lot better than wheels. At least until all the wheel users have developed a similar level of experience with it and the Mario Kart Games (read at least months, possibly years). I’m certainly better with the controller than the wheel, but I can see the potential of it so am willing to try and get better with it, as I think with practice it could well prove to be just as good as the controller, if not better.

Pause said...

I see your point, but on a technical level the wheel isn't any more precise than the stick. Neither of them are truly analogue, they merely represent a fixed but large number of digital positions that are translated into an on-screen character turning. The wheel takes those fixed positions of the stick and turns them into fixed positions along a circle, but it doesn't have a greater turning arc.

(By all means try for yourself: a quick test will demonstrate you don't turn any harder when using the wheel, and tilting it beyond a certain point has no further effect. That the wheel doesn't have more 'positions' within that angle of rotation than the stick does (and so is more sensitive) is harder to demonstrate, but ultimately the limited range of rotation makes it a moot argument; even if it did, the human hand is only so precise at picking out such fine refinements within a confined range.)

On the practical side, the wheel is inferior because it
a) has no centring, and
b) has no maximum lock.
- two bits of feedback that are essential for producing a good lap. If we were discussing a 'proper' gaming wheel that cost £60+ then the debate might be a little different, but the Wii wheel is simply there to make free rotation of the remote easier to manipulate, and look more attractive to play with.

As for the weapons, the wheel is certainly practical but still inferior when it comes to firing some weapons backwards or forwards after carrying them behind you, as you have to reach across and slide your thumb around the d-pad while turning. Mistakes sometimes happen, and it also takes fractionally longer to hit the right spot than flicking the stick upwards.

I wouldn't dispute for a moment that it's possible to become first competent, and then very proficient at using the Wii wheel, nor that it can be fun to use. But ultimately it's there to encourage folk who would normally be put off by a pad into picking up the game and having fun, not intended as a replacement for the analogue stick (or a proper mechanical wheel).

SpaceSquid said...

As pause points out, all the best times are achieved with a game-pad. I'm in no doubt one can become proficient with the wheel, but if you drew a graph of proficiency against time for the two control methods, the curve for the wheel would always lie under that for the pad. "With practice you could be almost as good as someone using a pad" is hardly inspiring.

Of course, given how many people have bought a Wii compared to those of us who bought a Game Cube, and how popular the game is, it's hardly a stretch of logic to assume there is a significant number of people who own the game but don't own GC control pads, which makes getting the wheel free genuinely useful, since it's presumably (correct me if I'm wrong) more useful a control method than using the Wiimote alone. And I'd hazard a guess that the Venn diagram of people who want to be competitive with time trials against total strangers and of people who don't own and won't shell out for a CG pad will have a pretty insignificant intersection.

Pause said...

You can use the so-called classic pad as well, of course. But yeah, it's a damn sight harder to steer with the remote alone than it is with the wheel. Whether that's surprising or not I don't know.

My mum actually insisted I get this game so that she could play with the wheel, because she saw the adverts on tv and thought it looked a lot of fun. (Previously she wanted to know if I was getting Wii Fit; I politely informed her she was welcome to buy it herself if she liked the look of it that much.) So I guess the marketing works, at least.

Kim said...

So *are* you coming to Jersey in August? I see no flight times. We will soon have a wii wheel and I might attempt to develop passable skill before alighting on the land of money and cows.

SpaceSquid said...

Gooder and I are waiting until we've been paid at the end of the month to book flights.