Is the Wii U truly a (r)evolutionary Game Console ? Our man on the scene reports.

Oct 17

A short flashback and history of the gaming industry

Tom Palmaerts and the history of Gaming

Tom Palmaerts and the history of Gaming

Techies and geeks like me tend to play a good game from time to time. In my case, that’s probably because I grew up in an era where the first consoles were making their appearance. So when Knightwise asked me if I could be his eyes and ears at the Press Event where they would tell us everything about the Nintendo Wii U, I didn’t hesitate at all. Suddenly I was getting flashbacks of early gaming experiences …

The Press event started with a presentation from Tom Palmaerts a trendwathcer. In all honesty, I don’t really like trendwatchers. But this time Tom grabbed my attention.

 

In the beginning there were Pixels and Sprites

So, we started out with a quick trip through the gaming history. First stop was Double Dragon. Oh … the memories … I remember that game from the good old Commodore 64 days. Those days pixel count and screen resolution wasn’t the most important aspect of games, we played because it was new … but times change.

Still I had flashbacks to the days where we had 3 lives in a game, and we had to start all over once we lost the third life. The days when you couln’t save games if you approached a difficult part of the game. The days when we had to wait 30 minutes for our Commodore 64 to load a game from an audio tape. The days when we had a square box with a stick and a single red button. The days when I ‘hacked’ my Commodore 64 using a paperclip and got hold of the BASIC code from the Kentilla game. The days when … oh … time to get back on topic …

What makes the Wii (and now also the Wii U) so unique is that there are a lot of games which are specifically targetted to families and groups of friends. Apparently 40% of parents play video games with their kids on a weekly basis. The main reasons are :

  • because it’s fun to play games with your children
  • because the kids asked you
  • some way of checking the content of the games
  • and probably because parents love it too πŸ™‚

 

What makes the Wii U so unique ?

The Wii U with it's GamePad

The Wii U with it’s GamePad

Thee Nintendo Wii U now comes with a GamePad. The GamePad has a Touch enabled LCD display. The advantage here is that you have a ‘second screen’ which you can use for quite a few things. For example the display on the GamePad cold be something completely different to what you seen on the TV screen. This could add an extra dimension to some of the games.

After the presentation we were invited to the first Game Room where we had the opportunity to test some of the games out. In New Super Mario Bros U the GamePad was used to help other players by placing blocks in the game world. Additionally the Nintendo people told us that you could use the GamePad to play as well. For example … lets say my son was playing a game on the Wii U, but I want to see todays football game. Normally this would mean my son would have to stop playing, but in the case of the Wii U he can continue his game on the GamePad while I’m watching TV.

We also played Mario’s Ghost, one of the 12 games in Mario Land. This game looked a bit like a PacMan clone. The goal of the game is to capture an invisible ghost by shining your flashlight on it. So 4 of us were playing as ghost chasers on the TV while one person was playing as the ghost on the GamePad. The person on the GamePad could see where everyone was running, but the rest of us couldn’t see the ghost on the big screen. I have to say … it was fun.

 

On to the 18+ Games Room

Rayman Legends on the Wii U

Rayman Legends on the Wii U

Enough of the family games, time for some hard core action … so we moved to the 18+ Games Room which was rather dark and spooky. In this room we had 4 more Wii U devices to play with, each with it’s own game ranging from Rayman Legends to Ninja Gaiden 3 and ZombiU. Zombies … now we’re talking blood, gore … and fun πŸ™‚ My first impression … wow …

Actually, I had a few issues with the gameplay at first. Some things in the game had to be done on the GamePad while the TV screen was your first person view of the area. The GamePad was used for your inventory, picking up loot from corpses, seeing how much ammo you still had, sniping, and it also acted as a radar which allowed you to see where the zombies were. And that was where I had some troubles. Not sure if it was only me, but I seemed to have some issues looking at the two displays (TV and GamePad) and performing actions on one while watching the other. But the ZombiU game was amazing and I would love to play that game at home. Great settings (center of London), nice graphics, creepy atmosphere and lots of zombies to kill … what could be more fun.

The wii U System with Controllers and GamePad

The wii U System with Controllers and GamePad

To finish things up, we were informed that there would be two different Nintendo Wii U packs. The Wii U Basic Pack has a white Wii U system with 8 Gb of flash storage, and of course white controllers and a white GamePad. The Premium Pack contains a black Wii U system with 32 Gb of flash storage, black controllers and a black GamePad. Additionally the Premium Pack comes with some additional accessories like a stand for the GamePad, a charging station for the GamePad and the Nintendo Land game. Both packs should be available in stores on the 30 th of november. As for the price, they didn’t tell us, and we were informed to ask the distributors.

As for the question if the Wii U is truly an evolution of the Game Console, I would have to give you a very vague answer. We did get some time to play with the device, but not enough time to really form an opinion on the use of the GamePad. But surely the GamePad can add an extra dimension to certain games. But if it would allow me to play the ZombiU game then I would probably buy it πŸ™‚

More pictures of the event can be found in my Flickr set and if you are interested in a Dutch version of this article you can read it on my own website.

 

About the author

Stefaan is a Software Developer by trade, but also active as a Tech Reporter and Podcaster mostly in Dutch / Flemish. You can find out more about him on his blog at iTutor Podcast or check out the Tech45 Podcast.

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Things that make you go Wii !

May 19

What game are you going to play tomorrow  ?

There is one question that I always ask younger people. Kids who are into games and stuff. Kids who where born after the great eight to sixteen bit revolution of consoles. Kids that don't know what PONG is if it bit them in the behind. You know them. When I talk to these teenagers-blessed-with-technological progress.. who are immersed in some on line game of super strong first person shoot'm up I ask them : What if the graphics in games become photo-realistic tomorrow …  what will the next step be.

Kids these days.

 As they wipe the perspiration from their forehead they look at me puzzled. Like I just dropped from the sky and have presented them with an electronic aigo version of Santa Clause and if they would please ride this thing across the north pole. " What do you mean .. well .. erm.." they stumble. As I try to clarify myself I mumble " What if the graphics in games are as real as they can be, where we come to the point where there are no more progressions in frame rate, in resolution.. When your gaming environment around you is as realistic as looking in the mirror" .. more blank stares and then a pointblank answer. " We"ll .. we"re done then .. aren"t we".

 Asking the same question to older (when you are over 25 on the edge of real and cyberspace, you're ready for the cyber-old-farts-home) they give you a different answer. As they start to memorize about their first game console (an Atari) and the games they played on it. As they talk about chunky sprites that somehow had to resemble ET, Some brown flying blob that was a desert falcon .. And the anger of their mothers as their kids kept hogging the TV with the old game console. Grandpa Simpson is bleak by comparison to this useless banter so I once again post the same question. But this time the answer comes direct and clear : "We'll then we have to work on the content".

Polygon shaped boobs.

And its true. Most games these days (Certainly the ones on the major game consoles) are either shoot"m ups, race games, toombraider-esque games or on p's Massive on line games and varieties of those mentioned before. Once you know how to play one game . you've just about seen them all. Ok , the characters are more defined , their boobs containing more roundness and less polygons, the shading is better, the lighting is better, more detail etc. But nothing really changes.  So when E3 came along (the annual game festival where  games and console makers show their best) I was not even paying attention. Until I saw this video below.The Nintendo WII was far from the great expectation. It was the underdog.

WII  

And then those funky Japanese inventors came up with a revolutionary controller. It looked like a slimmed down version of a tv-remote. "How the hell am I gonna play with something like THAT" I wondered. But while companies like Sony and Microsoft made their game controllers even more ergonomically , letting them look like a sex toy that has been forgotten on the living room table .. Nintendo did something different.  I do not know what awed me the most. The revolutionary design of the thing OR what happened if you moved it around ! (see video for details) But WHEN I saw it in action I realized that it offered an enormous creative opportunity for game developers. And THEN I saw what they had done with it so far ! Amazing . The console is BACK .. not only in the center of the living room .. but in the center of the family. The Nintendo approach is turning the WII into the heart of Sunday afternoon entertainment for everyone. With the right games that don"t include shooting people or flip flopping a half naked girl over Popsicle stand, the WII offers something for everyone. An innovative approach , a new vision in game entertainment .. and … well.. See for yourself ! 

 

 

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