Tina K. Russell

December 10, 2008

Know your platform

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:29 pm

Edge on The Conduit, the upcoming first-person shooter for the Wii (and the Wii’s major test in that genre):

The Conduit: Back to Basics | Edge Online
High Voltage Studios has been very vocal lately in decrying what it sees as the technical under-achievements of other developers’ work on Wii. The Conduit is therefore the studio’s line in the sand, an intended new benchmark for Wii’s graphical capabilities.

[They discuss the game’s beauty and detail; not on par with Xbox, but quite impressive for Wii]

The payoff, however, is that the demo we’ve played takes place mainly in identically styled dark, dingy corridors, occasionally lined with crates and boxes for cover and taking a right-angle turn now and then.

[…] In all, the level design feels distinctly last-generation, with much valve turning and switch pressing to be done. Enemy AI, meanwhile, will generally manage to find cover and retreat from heavy fire, but otherwise shows little intelligence – a point the game perhaps tries to explain by referring to them as puppets.

[They discuss the story and the control schene]

But as close as the scheme can feel to a mouse and keyboard at its best, at its worst it’s more awkward than it needs to be. The main problem is that accessing such controls as the minus button (reload) and D-pad (to switch weapons or zoom in) tends to throw out your aim. The issue is with the Remote’s less- than-ergonomic button layout for anything other than A and B, and it’s one that makes you question Wii’s fundamental appropriateness for games that require controls as complex as those needed for a modern FPS. The Conduit, nevertheless, could well prove Wii’s best example so far, even if that’s rather faint praise.

Here’s what I wrote in the comments:

This makes me kind of sad because it seems like the developers didn’t realize they were making a Wii game. With Metroid Prime: Hunters (for DS), the developers knew they had to keep controls simple, colors bright, and silhouettes distinctive, and they created a deep and engaging game from there. Likewise, if it’s hard to push any buttons other than A and B while aiming, the devs should have had the game focus on those two actions (say, jump and shoot) rather than try and stuff a PC FPS onto the Wii Remote. (Then again, what do the Nunchuk buttons do? Those are pretty accessible.)

In addition, it seems like they tried to make the graphics look like a 360 game, which anybody could have told you is a fool’s errand on Wii. In fact… everything about it sounds like they made a last-gen game by trying to make a PS3 or 360 game on a platform that is, by the narrow standards of PS3 and 360, last-gen. Of course, Wii has its own tricks up its sleeve that make it a great console, different strengths and weaknesses to set it apart from the competition, but it sounds like the devs didn’t capitalize on them.

Even capitalizing on the weaknesses could have been a bonus! By simplifying graphics and controls—to avoid direct comparisons to PS3 or 360 games that this game would lose—they could have found space to innovate in new and exciting ways. Dammit!

Limitations can be freeing, because they tell you what not to focus on.

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