Wii controller thoughts

I have had to spend a few hours in the doghouse, er, with the puppies. That happens to the room where the Wii lives, so I spent some time with it. Given I’ve taken a solid interest in controllers recently, I looked hard at this one again.

I really don’t like it. Let me tell you the reasons why – along with some things it does wrong.

First and foremost are the ergonomics of the ‘stick’. There are two easily reached buttons – the A and the B (trigger). You must shift grip to reach anything else; d-pad, three buttons in the middle (-, home, +), and two bottoms opposite the d-pad (1 and 2). A lot of games call for you to reach some of these other buttons for full play. More than a few need you to reach them in a somewhat timely fashion. Add to this the fact it’s not comfortable in the hand – for which there is zero excuse given the beautifully designed nun-chuk.

In fact it’s the nun-chuk that makes the stick so bad by comparison. The chuk fits the hand – no cramping, no difficulty reaching any of the buttons (and they could have added something more for the thumb to reach with no difficulty whatsoever beyond left-hand/right-hand issues).

Add to this the IR sensors. Now the motion sensors are, well, they almost make up for the rest. In fact I’ve idly imagined games based on moving the device through various combinations to ‘cast that spell’ – with the very good 3d motion sensors on board it would work (given intelligent programming that avoided too tight a tolerance). But the IR sensors… In fairness it’s not the sensors that are the problem, it’s how Nintendo screwed up the programming.

I am not a subtle player when the action is heavy. I’m heavy handed and tiny adjustments are beyond difficult. The Wii’s sensors tend to get a bit jittery on top of this. As a consequence I find my remote is pointing off screen a LOT during play.

Now this wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the rather stupid way (imo) Nintendo handled off-screen action. Specifically, the cursor stays at the last place it was on-screen until the wand is back on screen.

Given the angle at which the sensors receive a signal it would not be impossible for the cursor to roam the edge that is closest to where the stick is actually pointing. This would give an intuitive feeling for how to move the stick so as to get it back on screen. Instead I (and a lot of people I’ve watched) ‘wave’ the wand back and forth while slowly moving it left to right until we see the cursor flying across the screen. Then it’s work to get it back in place and finally – finally – we can play.

Bah.

The idea is nifty. The execution sucks.

The changes recommended are both major ergonomic adjustment of the stick (make it a bigger ‘chuk, moving many buttons to where they can be reached by the thumb) and operating system changes regarding how off-screen cursor movement is handled. I can – not necessarily will, but might – do the stick changes. It still won’t fix it of course but it might make it better.

On the other hand, I’m not fond of most of the Wii selections. That as much as anything is why the box is far from number one in sales.

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