The Revolution Begins I'm in.
Posted 17 September 2005 - 07:01 AM
Understanding the Revolution Controller
If you use two pointers, can four people still play? How will Revolution handle more conventional games? We've got the facts.
by Matt Casamassina
September 16, 2005 - Nintendo's Revolution controller has set the videogame industry abuzz with excitement and in some cases confusion. One glance around popular community message boards proves that gamers are both blown away by the possibilities and simultaneously scratching their collective head about how the peripheral might interact with more traditional software. The device is so dramatically different from the accepted norm that we'd be surprised if readers weren't thrown for an initial double-take. But once the details about the new controller sink in, it's not difficult to see the gameplay possibilities lurking just beyond the horizon.
We've combed over all the controller details and put together a handy list of facts about the peripheral that, we believe, will help clear up any misconceptions about what it does and doesn't do. As readers will see below, the Revolution's input mechanism is thoroughly flexible and preemptively ready for any type of gameplay challenge.
Q: What exactly is so special about the Revolution controller?
A: The Revolution controller may look like a stylish television remote, but there's a lot more to the device than its glossy exterior suggests. The remote-like peripheral, which has been called the "free-hand style controller" and "pointer" by Nintendo, interacts with a sensor bar placed above, below, or near televisions. The bar contains two sensors that communicate with the controller using Bluetooth technology. The marriage transforms the pointer into a virtual wand of sorts, enabling users to move objects and characters in games simply by moving the peripheral. The sensors read the pointer's every move in real-time space. They can detect up, down, left and right motion, and also translate forward and backward depth. The controller's sensors also recognize twisting, rotating and tilting movements. In short, any motion made by arms and wrists can be translated to Revolution games.
The free-hand-style unit also comes standard with three gameplay-specific face buttons, three menu-specific buttons, a D-Pad and an underbelly trigger. In addition, the unit's bottom shell can be removed, revealing a slot for expansion peripherals. Nintendo has several add-ons planned, some of which we'll detail below. The pointer is completely wireless and features built-in force feedback. Gamers can rotate the free-hand-style unit on its side to play NES software on Revolution.
Q: Can you give us an example of how it might work in a game?
A: Sure. Imagine a fishing game in which the pointer essentially becomes the fisherman's pole. Gamers simply make a casting motion to send the line flying and pull back on the pointer to tug a fish upward once it has taken the bait. In a sequel to Luigi's Mansion, the pointer might be used as a flashlight. Gamers point to the area they want to illuminate and Luigi's flashlight spotlights it. Voila. In a tennis game, the pointer becomes the racquet. Players swing the device as they would a racquet to smash tennis balls back at opponents. The list goes on and on and the options only increase when the peripheral's expansion functionality is considered.
Q: What kinds of expansions are planned?
A: Wide assortments of peripherals are possible, but thus far Nintendo has only officially confirmed two of them. The first is an analog stick/trigger unit that Nintendo has dubbed the "nunchuck-style controller." The second is a conventional controller cradle/shell. Nintendo has also indicated that it might like to explore other expansions. It used Donkey Kong style bongos and a light gun as examples.
Q: What does the nunchuck analog/trigger unit do?
A: The small, ergonomic peripheral attaches to the bottom of the pointer by way of a short cable, and is easily grasped in one hand. The device features a single analog stick on its top side and two triggers, labeled Z trigger 1 and 2, underneath. The unit extends the functionality of the pointer and really shows its usefulness in certain genres, particularly first-person shooters. Imagine the possibilities. With the analog stick in one hand, users move Samus Aran around the environments in Metroid Prime 3, freeing up the pointer to act as the heroine's gun. The result is a level of control so responsive and accurate that its closest rival is a PC/mouse configuration. Incidentally, Retro Studios created a demo of this very setup that was at TGS 2005 previewed to a select group of editors, IGN included, and it was very impressive.
"Our current plan is for each [Revolution] hardware system to be sold with the free-hand-style controller and the nunchuck-style expansion controller," confirms Nintendo of America's senior director of public relations, Beth Llewelyn.
Q: What does the conventional controller cradle/shell do?
A: This add-on makes it possible to play Revolution games in a more traditional manner. The shell is designed to look and function like accepted "regular" controllers, such as the Wave Bird. After its bottom casing is removed, the Revolution's free-hand-style remote is inserted into a gap in the middle of the controller shell. Gamers can then use the shell as they would a traditional controller, with a notable difference: the pointer remote's sensory functionality remains active. As a result, gamers get the best of both worlds: more buttons and two analog sticks along with motion-sensing operations. In a Revolution version of Madden Football, gamers might be able to use the combo to control players with the shell's analog sticks and execute pinpoint passes with the pointer's improved accuracy.
Nintendo has not yet released official imagery of what the controller shell might look like. However, we've created a mock-up (above) based on what we know of its functionality. The real controller shell is likely to connect to the free-hand-style pointer in a very similar fashion. Please note that we realize our model is not entirely to scale, but this is the best we could do on short notice.
Q: What do all of the buttons on the free-hand-style pointer do?
A: The main controller features a D-Pad, an on/off switch and several different face buttons, three of which are dedicated solely to gameplay. Directly below the unit's D-Pad is an oversized A button. Farther down are two more buttons. In officially released screenshots, these buttons were labeled "a" and "b" respectively. However, when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata held the controller up at his Tokyo Game Show 2005 keynote speech, the buttons were clearly labeled "X" and "Y." The buttons were also labeled "X" and "Y" in Nintendo's Revolution controller promo video, which suggests that the final product is much more likely to use the letters.
"The [Revolution controllers shown] are still prototypes so there may be slight changes in the final versions," says Nintendo's Llewelyn.
It should be noted that the oversize A button is used for primary action functionality. It might be used to make a character jump in a first-person shooter, for example. The X and Y buttons are more likely to be used when the controller is turned on its side in order to accommodate classics NES games.
Located in the middle of the controller are three menu-ready buttons: select, home, and start (from left to right). Nintendo has not yet explained what the home button is used for, but it is likely to bring up a Revolution's central operations page -- something akin to Xbox Live. From here, we suspect gamers will be able to manage their downloaded software or go online, among other things.
The only other thing of note on the face of the controller are the blue LED indicators, bottom, that show what controller port the unit is wirelessly using.
The underbelly of the controller features an ergonomic indent directly opposite the top's D-Pad. This area houses the B trigger, which is also considered a primary action button. This button, easily accessed by players, might be used to fire a weapon in a first-person shooter or to grasp an object in a god game.
Q: Does the Revolution's free-hand-style controller use batteries?
A: Yes, although the specifics in that regard are still being determined. We suspect that the unit will use rechargeable batteries and that a charging dock station will be made available either with the console or sold separately. Nintendo may have chosen to attach add-ons to the unit with cables instead of wirelessly in order to avoid further battery issues.
Q: Can users wield two free-hand-style controllers with Revolution games?
A: Yes. Nintendo's Revolution controller promo video shows players using two pointer controllers to execute various gameplay tasks, such as beating virtual drums.
Q: Can four players wield two free-hand-style controllers each?
A: No. Only four free-hand-style controllers can be used total, according to Nintendo. Therefore, if one person used two pointers in a multiplayer game, only two additional people could play, each with one pointer.
Q: Won't potential light gun add-ons fail to work correctly with Revolution owners who use high-definition televisions?
A: No. Revolution's sensory technology does not interface with TV scan lines, as is the standard with traditional light guns. Because of that, light gun games are entirely possible with Revolution regardless of television type.
Q: Why are there no pictures of the sensor bar?
A: It's still very much in prototype stage and as a result the final design has not yet been decided.
Q: Has Nintendo revealed all the features of the Revolution controller?
A: No, we don't believe so. Certain secondary features still remain hidden. Nintendo itself may be defining these features even as it tests and reworks the controller.
Posted 17 September 2005 - 07:02 AM
TGS 2005: Hands-on the Revolution Controller
We take Nintendo's innovative new peripheral for a joy ride. Find out why it could change the way we play games forever.
by Fran Mirabella and Matt Casamassina
September 15, 2005 - It was a rare opportunity. Yesterday, just outside of Tokyo, Japan, Nintendo invited us to experience the Nintendo Revolution controller for ourselves. Joined only by Shigeru Miyamoto and a few executives, we attended a sort of schooling on the controller, the centerpiece of the Big N's next-generation platform. It has long been speculated on, but now it's actually something tangible that we can understand -- or, try to understand anyway.
For months, years even, we've been hearing Nintendo reiterate that it does not want to be part of the same battle that Sony and Microsoft are deeply entrenched in. However, with a system like GameCube, the comparisons are inevitable. With Revolution and its one-of-a-kind approach to the controller, drawing these parallels just became a lot more difficult. This was an important message from Nintendo in our meeting. It wants to explore uncharted waters, be a blue ocean company, and not find itself sailing the bloody waters where the competition resides.
Revolution guarantees this. The main source of input is nothing short of unexpected and untraditional. It is essentially a wireless, square remote that works something like a computer mouse would in 3D space. Imagine sticking your hand into a virtual box and having your TV understand how it's moving in there. Now you're getting the idea.
Main Controller Features
3D Pointing. Sensors understand up, down, left, right, forward and backward.
Tilt Sensitive. Controller can be rotated or rolled from side-to-side.
Buttons Included. Has a trigger on its backside, face buttons, and a D-Pad.
Multifunctional. Has an expansion port which can be used with different types of controller peripherals. Analog stick with two trigger buttons planned for left hand.
Wireless. Totally wire-free. Currently there are no details on the max distance, source or power, or otherwise.
Rumble Built-in. Included as a standard in all the controllers.
To show off its features, Nintendo designed a series of crude gameplay demos. Since it did such a good job of helping us understand how the controller works, we'll describe them in detail in the following paragraphs. None of them ran on the Revolution graphics hardware. They were strictly to demonstrate certain features.
Demo #1: Point and Shoot
Like a laser pointer, the main controller was used to move a simple cursor on the TV screen and shoot square blocks for points. It was simple, merely colored lines in 2D, but effective. It was easy to get a feel for just how sensitive the device is -- it responded to all the movements quickly and smoothly. We did feel the need to use two hands, however, to steady it and improve accuracy, but that only lends to the idea of just how sensitive it is.
Demo #2: Fishing
Much more advanced than just a simple cursor, this revealed how the controller can navigate a 3D space, moving an object on the TV screen not only left, right, up, and down, but also forward and backwards with depth. Players simply use the hand cursor on the screen to pick up a fishing pole and dip its line into a pond full of fish. Like nearly all of the demos, this was very crude, so don't go imagining fishing on the Ocarina of Time level just yet -- this was like a coloring book with flat fish in the water. The visual medium wasn't the point, though. It was pretty intuitive to just reach forward with our virtual hand, pick up the rod, and then dip the hook into the pond and dangle it there. When a fish finally bit, the remote rumbled, which was the cue to tug back on the controller to catch it. As it was only a prototype controller, it was wired because rumble was not in the wireless versions yet.
Demo #3: Shock Stick
Like the first, this was to show how you can point and move something. It was a bit like the board game Operation, only instead of navigating tweezers you navigated a rotating stick through a two-dimensional cave. The skill was to keep a steady hand, collect coins, and avoid hitting the walls. Small springboards on the side would change the direction of the spin of the stick, which aided in creating a strategy for navigating around things.
Demo #4: Air Hockey
This blended basic pointing with something new: twisting. As you might imagine, players hit a puck back and forth by maneuvering their "hockey sticks" with the controller. The catch was that by twisting your wrist, left or right, you could angle the stick to send the puck in another direction. Twisting, in addition to hitting was actually pretty difficult in this demo. It worked to a point, but it also lacked the intuitiveness that a real table would have. It seemed mainly aimed at familiarizing us with the notion of twisting the remote to turn things.
Demo #5: Basketball
Again, this focused on laser pointer style controls. The game was to simply move a basketball around on the court, not by bouncing it, but instead dragging it by pressing the B-trigger in back of the remote to create an indent. The ball rolled into the crevice, and you could drag it towards the hoops. Then, with the A-button, you could reverse the indent, creating a hill and pop the ball upwards toward the hoop. It was a simple two-player game, but worked to show off the sensitivity of the cursor and how it was interacting with another player in the same space. Surprisingly, it was easy to keep track of where you were on the court, allowing for blocks and steals.
Demo #6: Toy Plane
Set in the watery hub of Mario Sunshine, this demonstrated that not all controls are created equal. The remote could be held like a toy airplane, fingertips support its base, which allowed the player to tilt it forwards to dip down, back to gain elevation, and twist it left or right to turn turn. The objective was just to steer the plane through rings in the sky. Of course the first thing that came to mind was Pilotwings, so it's easy to see how these simple applications of the controller could be grown into something more complex. It was pretty intuitive to pull off dips and quick turns. Miyamoto joked that you could have a controller peripheral shaped like a toy plane to really make it interesting.
Demo #7: Where's Pikachu?
One of the crudest demos, the screen displayed a flat map with many Pokemon characters crowded together on it. It was a spoof on Where's Waldo, the famous find-the-needle-in-the-haystack illustrated book. The controller lent the ability to look left and right by just pointing the cursor across the map, but also zooming in by moving towards the screen (or zooming back out by moving away). One can imagine how a sniper rifle in a first-person shooter might take advantage of those kinds of controls.
Demo 8: First Person Shooting
So, we lied -- not all of the demonstrations were completely crude graphics. For the final demo, the one that most represented how a game might feel with the Revolution controller, Nintendo displayed what was apparently a test by the team at Retro Studios for what they could do with Metroid Prime 3. They stressed it was just a test, quickly thrown together in just a few weeks. For this, the analog control stick peripheral was used. We held it in our left hand to control the forwards, backwards, and side-strafing motions, as well as having access to triggers in back for scanning; meanwhile, the right hand used the main Revolution remote control to behave just like a mouse on a personal computer. It was a very natural application and felt pretty smooth, but since it wasn't a polished game it did feel a bit awkward at times, making us wonder what kind of things a developer could do to calibrate these kinds of controls for users. Nonetheless, the potential is absolutely huge for the FPS genre. If Nintendo can execute on that potential, Revolution could easily become the ultimate platform for shooters.
A Bold Move
This concluded the demonstrations. At which point a mix of excitement and confusion set in. This is a bold step for Nintendo. Games tailor made for Revolution will be fundamentally different from anything on the market, which seems to be a goal of this impressive new device. The other is to enhance the gameplay exprience.
It's easy to believe that third parties could be alienated by this device. However, the good news is that Nintendo has thought of that potential drawback and taken measures to address it. The Big N has developed a conventional controller shell that, according to executives, looks more like a Wave Bird. The "pointer" remote can be inserted into this shell so that more traditional games can be enjoyed as they always have. Obviously, it will be this shell that enables players to experience Super NES and N64 games on the platform. The even better news is that because the sensory functionality of the device remains operational even when it's in the shell, games like Madden could actually be expanded. Imagine, for instance, having access to all of the controls of a standard controller plus 3D movement options. Icon passing just got a whole lot easier.
Nintendo will have a lot to prove when it finally chooses to reveal real, polished software that's supposed to represent how Revolution will play. That is going to be the crux of Revolution entirely, because without a consistently fluid experience, this could also easily be a flash in the pan or something altogether frustrating. We have to wonder how it might be holding your arm in the air for an hour or more, and if that will cause any frustration.
On the flipside, though, the demos set our minds abuzz. It's easy to imagine why Nintendo is so heavily invested in the idea. There is such great potential to do so many unique things. Playing a real-time strategy game like Starcraft would be extremely fluid and intuitive. Mario Party, we're sure you can guess, will finally be a completely new experience. What of Zelda or Mario? No word yet, but imagine swinging your sword in Zelda instead of pressing buttons. Or, in Mario, imagine having to grab blocks and build platforms. Also, since the controller flips on its side to work very much like a NES pad, it would be interesting to mix up gameplay and throw in an old-school challenge.
This doesn't even explore the possibility of accessories. Nintendo wasn't making any announcement, but as an example Miyamoto commented you could hook it up to bongo drums or something else. Everyone agreed a Samba de Amigo would be perfect as well, to which Miyamoto-san confirmed, "Mr. Naka [at Sega] really likes this controller." What if you could use two controllers at once for Fight Night or a new Punch Out? How about if Namco release a gun peripheral for a new Time Crisis, where you moved with the left analog and lifted, aimed, and reloaded your gun as if it was real? The list could go on and on, but we're sure you're already starting to gather your own ideas.
Finally, you'll want to take some time to examine the main remote. We got to handle this prototype, which Nintendo says is pretty close to the final design. It feels very comfortable and, as you can see, looks sleek too. Nintendo was unwilling to comment on what the "Home" button does, but it's likely a place to manage classic games you've downloaded, online games, and hopefully much more. Also, if you're wondering, there's no set limit on the distance one can use the remote yet, but Nintendo has tested it on up to 80"-100" screens and says it works fantastically. It can be used on tubes, LCDs, plasma, projection or any kind of screen because the sensor is connected like a flat antenna under the display. They are still working on the details of what kinds of options users will have for placement. So, there's also no reason HDTV wouldn't work with this technology -- here's hoping Nintendo decides to support it in the final system.
It's all about real games, though. Nintendo itself has always said that it's the software that's most important. We'll take the optimistic side and assume that Nintendo has really nailed the technology. If it has, playing Revolution should be unlike anything else out there. Mario will never be the same. But it's going to be up to these real games -- like Super Smash Bros. -- to prove why this is a revolutionary step and not just a way of being different. At the very least, starting right now, the development community is going to have a lot to think about. Whatever games are on Revolution, they are basically guaranteed to provide a totally different experience. And for that, we're beaming with anticipation.
Posted 17 September 2005 - 07:04 AM
TGS 2005: Revolution Controller: The Possibilities
We take in an-depth look at Nintendo's next-generation controller and examine how it will work with established videogame genres.
by Matt Casamassina and Peer Schneider
September 15, 2005 - The Tokyo Game Show 2005 is an event that won't soon be forgotten by Nintendo fans. The company's president, Satoru Iwata, used his anticipated keynote speech as a forum to publicly unveil the top-secret controller for the Big N's next-generation console, still codenamed Revolution. The device has been the subject of overzealous speculation ever since Nintendo revealed that it would provide the so-called "revolutionary" element to its vision of gaming in the future. And indeed, one look at the peripheral is all it takes to know that the Iwata and company have something very unconventional on their hands, literally.
The Revolution's main peripheral, shaped like a stylized remote control, acts like a quasi-virtual wand. Motion sensors packed with the unit are placed atop the player's television screen and the device's every movement is ready and interpreted in the games. The pointer, as we've dubbed it, can influence positioning, targeting, depth and motion in Revolution software. Meanwhile, secondary attachments such as an analog stick can be plugged in for added functionality in tomorrow's hit Nintendo titles.
By now, readers have undoubtedly gleaned all the details about the controller from Iwata's keynote speech and have likewise combed over our hands-on impressions of the device. But even so, it's hard to imagine exactly how the peripheral will function without actually seeing it interact with and direct next-generation games. It is with this thought firmly in mind that we've set out to apply everything we know about the way the controller functions to practical game scenarios and environments. We think readers will be excited by the possibilities.
Action and Platform Games
Popular Examples: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Resident Evil 4, Super Mario Bros.
How it might work: The prolific action genre spans such diverse games as Nintendo's own action adventure series The Legend of Zelda, more linear titles like Ubisoft's Prince of Persia, the gunfire heavy Resident Evil 4, or alternative party fun like Super Monkey Ball. While SEGA's monkey games seem tailor-made for tilt control using the pointer, some of the more complex action adventure titles should be trickier -- but the possibilities are exciting nonetheless. There is no doubt that Nintendo's next Mario game will be custom-designed to showcase the controller's special abilities. The left analog stick should allow traditional platforming. We can only dream what the pointer will be used for. Heck, perhaps Luigi's Mansion will make a return as well, allowing players to brand the pointer Ghostbusters-style and wave it in every direction to duplicate the original's trademark "counter-yanking" (yes, that's the technical term for it, look it up).
But let's take Prince of Persia and The Legend of Zelda. Players would no doubt navigate the series star with the analog stick unit (or similar) in their left hand, controlling the camera with the pointer. Acrobatics could still be pulled off reasonably well, pressing one of the buttons on the pointer to engage roll or wall-running functions ( and another to jump (A). If the pointer controls the camera, pressing those buttons could result in inadvertent camera movement -- so there most likely would need to be some sort of camera lock feature that disables the pointer's free-look function. Let's say, players have to tap D-Pad down to engage and disengage this feature, while other D-Pad directions could be assigned to secondary functions (such as picking up weapons). But what of the fighting mechanics? This is where the big changes would come in. Using the left-hand unit's trigger, players could be able to lock on to enemies, which would fix the camera and transform the pointer into a free-form sword controller. Move the controller forward to stab, move it across to slash, slice, and parry -- all the while moving our hero with the left analog stick around his enemies and leaping about using the A button.
But there are definitely some unanswered questions here. Will four face buttons plus D-Pad be enough for all games? Not every developer adheres to Nintendo's simpler is better philosophy and have long been running out of button functions on the GameCube controller, for example. The interesting thing here is that the motion function doesn't just provide camera or directional control -- it effectively replaces the need for multiple attack buttons in a game like Prince of Persia. Things get even more exciting when you consider the multi-weapon and device setups in many action titles. Hookshot or bow and arrow in Zelda? Aim with the pointer, fire with the B button. Magic spells in Harry Potter? Players could trace magic symbols in the air with the wand. Wind Waker, anyone? Lightsabers? Fishing rods? Butterfly nets? Lassos? If Nintendo and other developers develop items and weapons with the unique capabilities of the pointer in mind, gamers should have something special to look forward to.
Popular Examples: Myst, Shenmue
How it might work: The traditional adventure genre has taken a backseat in recent years to more action-focused titles. While we all fondly remember the days of Maniac Mansion and Sam and Max, one of the few popular entries in the non-action variety of the genre nowadays is Myst. That these types of games haven't lit console gamers on fire isn't really surprising. We all enjoyed what Shenmue was trying to accomplish, but let's face it -- examining stuff can be really boring if the interface is too limited. Cycling through hot spots just isn't fun. Well, here's the chance for the Revolution pointer to shine.
The whole hands-on approach of moving the remote around and grabbing items could help turn mundane tasks into fun ones. Players could examine a room and move around a virtual hand, grabbing items and manipulating objects. If you don't see the attraction here, go grab Wario Ware Twisted and try out some of the interactive toys. There's just something addictive about manipulating objects while the control unit's rumble feedback tricks your brain into feeling texture or resistance. Whether it's examining a dead body on the floor to figure out a mystery, solving 7th Guest-style sliding puzzles or rummaging through an open desk, the pointer may just be able to breathe new life into one of yesterday's most imaginative genres.
Popular example: Mario Party 8
How it might work: Franchises like Mario Party are perfectly matched to Nintendo's new controller for a number of reasons. The pointer peripheral is designed so that it can intuitively pick up and move objects in game worlds and there's a lot of that going on in the popular board game series. Clearly, the nunchuck-like analog controller attachment would need to be utilized for many of Mario Party's trademark mini-games. But board operation could be entirely handled with the pointer. In fact, the process could be made more natural than ever before. Gamers could simply point to and pick up dice (with the peripheral's underbelly trigger), roll the pointer in their hand to juggle the dice on screen, and then let go of the trigger to send them flying. A seemingly simple enhancement, sure, but nevertheless the functionality would add an entirely refreshing level of interactivity to the stale genre.
Further, players could point to and pick up cards, manipulate power-ups, and more. When Mario is able to siphon money from a competitor, gamers could actually use the pointer to literally pull money out of their friend's account. On top of everything else, new mini-games could be developed to take advantage of the pointer's sensory functionality. Players might compete in mini-games that revolve around drawing or repositioning tiles, for instance. Mario Party's on-board menu interface could receive a massive overhaul, enabling more dynamic movement and positioning of boxes by way of a highly flexible drag-and-drop system. In a tip of the hat to Apple's OSX Dashboard functionality, gamers could simply tap the trigger button on the pointer to bring all relevant windows to the screen and then using the pointer click on the one with the information or options they're seeking.
Fighting Games Popular examples: Super Smash Bros. Melee, Soul Calibur III
How it might work: Considering we already know that a Revolution version of Super Smash Bros. is currently under development, it goes without saying that the wizards at Nintendo have already given serious thought to the use of the controller in fighting games. Now imagine this: you've used the pointer to lock in your fighter selection, and you're controlling a classic Nintendo character in a vast 3D landscape using the attached analog stick. However, rather than reverting to the skilled-yet-panicked method of finely tuned button mashing, you're now making precision strikes to your opponents to thanks to pre-defined motions with the pointer.
Jab three times quickly to the right for a Kirby flurry of punches. Hold the pointer for two seconds to the right and then slam it left for a charged Smash slice from Link's trusty sword. While it may seem awkward to imagine, the possibilities for attacks are plenty, and each character would have its own predefined range of movements to master. Now toss in the buttons -- A for jumping, and B for grabbing items. The shoulder buttons above the analog stick could easily raise your shields and grapple your enemies. From there, how exactly you choose to punish them depends on the flick of your wrist. Given the physical, frantic, and furious nature of most fighting games, this is one genre that could be very satisfying to control with a little added motion. Just be careful not to get too carried away and smash your brand-new controller in the process.
Racing and Flying Games
Popular examples: Mario Kart, Pilot Wings
How it might work: With the Revolution controller the possibilities for racers and flight simulators are vast and varied, not to mention unique. Purists will no doubt lament the departure from the established analog shoulder button setup, but there is still some interesting potential here. Because the peripheral's connection to on-television motion sensors enables both direction and depth perception, racing and flying scenarios are immediately transformed and simplified.
In a future Mario Kart, players could conceivably accelerate by pushing the controller forward and decelerate by pulling it back again. Sharp turns could be made by twisting left or right on the pointer. It might even be possible to turn the pointer on its side and hold it NES style while retaining some depth perception control functionality. Imagine a next-generation Pilot Wings, meanwhile, where the pointer essentially becomes a flight stick, the A button a weapon discharge, and the underbelly B trigger an accelerator. Precise control without a complex configuration exactly as Nintendo intends it.
Popular Examples: Pokemon, Final Fantasy, EarthBound, Paper Mario
How it might work: Nintendo made a concerted effort to bring back the RPGs on GameCube -- after almost missing out on the popular genre entirely on Nintendo 64. While the Revolution controller may seem odd, it shouldn't stand in the way of that trend continuing on the next console. If anything, it may inspire some developers to think outside the established "pick attack from menu" paradigm and do something new. Most RPGs use a tried-and-true system of turn-based or active-time battles. Players encounter enemies, players select attacks and defensive moves, players win and gain experience. Players move on and talk to characters. Some of the control solutions we've outlined under the "adventure" category definitely apply to RPGs as well.
Using the pointer, players would be able to examine things, leaf through books (real page-flipping mechanics, baby!) and spend far less time scrolling through menus and moving cursors to the desired actions and stats points. Card RPGs could benefit from the player's ability to pick and grab cards, magic spells could be performed with wand-like motions, and action-RPGs could get really serious with sword and gun controls that mirror those of their pure-action brethren (perfect for first-person games like Elder Scrolls). Paper Mario has shown that turn-based battles don't have to be a simple click-and-select affair and the same concept could greatly be expanded with the use of the pointer. Whether it's smacking a sabotaging audience member with a quick flick of the wrist or performing various motions to pull off the franchise's imaginative special attacks, the genre that's least dependent on controller innovations may actually see some fresh new ideas because of them.
Popular example: Metroid Prime, TimeSplitters
How it might work: Using Nintendo's controller to navigate first-person shooters is going to be an amazingly empowering, freeing experience. We know this because Nintendo demoed a modified version of Metroid Prime 2 Echoes using the new peripheral, and the potential is undeniably jaw-dropping. In the demo, players could move Samus through the environments with the attached analog trigger. The need to lock-on to enemies, however, was been eliminated, thanks to a new level of precision aiming made possible with the pointer. In a level of accuracy rivaled only by a PC mouse configuration, gamers could simply use the device to point and shoot.
Nintendo fans got a taste of this play mechanic in the demo of Metroid Prime Hunters for DS, but Revolution's pointer is comparatively far more robust, enabling quick and dead-on targeting and the ability to turn on a dime. Developer Retro Studios apparently created the Prime 2 demo in order to test the waters, so to speak, for its upcoming Metroid Prime 3. The studio has a lot of control options at its disposal. Imagine a setup as follows. The attached nunchuck analog stick moves Samus Aran through the game world and the pointer is utilized for precise gunplay. Gamers jump with the oversized A button located beneath the pointer's D-Pad and they shoot with the device's underbelly trigger. Players press up, down, left and right on the conveniently placed D-Pad to switch between visors. Meanwhile, switching weapons will be just as easy. Holding down one of the trigger buttons on the analog stick will transform the D-Pad into a primary weapon select, at which point up, down, left and right on the D-Pad enable different guns. Press down the other button on the analog stick and secondary weapons become available to the D-Pad. Sounds great, right? But how the hell does Samus change into her classic morphball shape and further, how might that be controlled? There are all sorts of possibilities. Gamers could simply make a single downward stabbing motion with the pointer in order to trigger Aran's ball form and then stab upward again to regain her natural composure. When in morphball, Samus could be directed with the pointer with perfect precision. Wow! Bring it.
Popular examples: Madden NFL 2006, NBA Live 2006, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006
How it might work: Sports fanatics are largely fanatical about their control. Even this year, as EA made updates in its 2006 Madden offering, one of the largest innovations was new passing controls. So this could be one genre that Nintendo has the most challenges in finding a way for publishers such as EA to bring familiar sports titles to the highly unique Revolution controller.
But then again, is it really so tough? Imagine booting up Madden NFL 2007 for Nintendo Revolution and watching your team walk up to the line of scrimmage. You hike the ball with a quick snap of the B trigger, and then you drop your QB into the pocket with the left analog stick. Waving the pointer left and right gives you a quick scan of the downfield receivers on each side of the field. Suddenly you see your man 20-yards down and ready to make his cut to drag across the center of the field. But before you can snap a pass, a linebacker comes crashing through your O line. No problem - hold one of the buttons on your left analog stick to enter scramble mode and break left. Let go and hold the other left button to bring up a passing reticule on-screen. In the blink of an eye, you're able to finely lead your receiver two yards deeper than his route and put the ball just out reach of the cornerback. But rather than hitting a button to pass, simply rear back your pointer and jab it forward at whatever speed you deem necessary to float the pass right into the sweet spot.
Next play -- snap the ball with the B trigger and then watch as your QB hands off to your meaty fullback. While the analog stick could easily function much as previous football sims, now your shucks and jives can be much more intuitive with quick flicks of the pointer. Turbo on the left analog stick buttons, with spins and stiff-arms flowing from A and B. But imagining your quick-steps, jukes, and hurdles coming from quick movements of the pointer seems almost intuitive the more you imagine it. And there's plenty of room for innovation on EA's part here to think outside the box on how a football game has been controlled in the past and how control might become more seamless in the future.
And that's just football. Imagine pitching and batting control in Super Mario Baseball or the precision swing mechanics in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 thanks to the Revolution controller's ability to detect speed and depth motion, and you're looking at entirely new ways to slam a power tee shot, chip a soft nine iron, and put just enough finesse on a short putt to add a new level of skill to the virtual green.
Popular Examples: Starcraft, Pikmin, Battalion Wars, Fire Emblem
How it might work: While real-time strategy games currently only rule in the PC realm, Nintendo is actually one of the few companies experimenting with more action-focused off-shoots in the console arena. While Fire Emblem and Advance Wars take things slowly and let players think between turns, games like Pikmin and Battalion Wars require both brain and brawn. Nintendo and Kuju came up with some great control solutions to make these games work with the GameCube controller, but orchestrating offensives with multiple groups of characters can be difficult. What's missing is a quick way to select units and send them into battle with pinpoint accuracy. "No, don't attack the flamethrower, you blue idiots! Run! Run!" What's missing is a mouse.
This is where once again Nintendo's pointer concept could shine. In Pikmin, players would be able to walk around with the left analog controller and go about their business as Olimar and friends -- but once squad command comes into play, the right hand could do all the work. Players could pick single Pikmin by pointing at them and pressing a button, select multiple ones by clicking and dragging a selection box around them, and -- most fun of all -- throw them at enemies by flicking the pointer in the right direction while holding down a different button.
Likewise, a console real-time strategy game in the Starcraft mold would greatly benefit from the mouse-like selection and control abilities the pointer provides. A mini-map could allow for quick access of far apart areas, essentially duplicating the exact controls of the PC originals. If the D-Pad doesn't provide enough shortcut key possibilities, the expandable plug-in design of the Revolution controller could even provide for a backlit 10-key unit. And what about turn-based strategy? Again, the pointer's quick-move and pick-and-grab functionality could really be used for great benefit here. Grabbing units and then moving them to the desired place would feel much more natural with the pointing device.
Virtual Characters and Worlds
Popular examples: Nintendogs, Black and White, Spore
How it might work: The Revolution controller's point and click agility makes it the most advanced tool yet for various simulation and "god games." We imagine a wide library of software that makes full use of the device's unique, wand-like input mechanism. A Revolution update to Nintendogs would be an obvious choice and we'd be surprised if one wasn't already in development. Nintendogs for DS offers a greater degree of control than is normally possible thanks to the handheld's touch-screen interface. However, double-tapping the screen to pick up objects is not as intuitive as it could be.
With Revolution, gamers could point to windows in order to select items and objects and simply press the underbelly trigger to pick them up. Meanwhile, washing dogs and combing their fur would be an easy undertaking with the sensory applications of the pointer. Gamers could even use the pointer to, say, pick up a newspaper and (with a downward motion) slap a dog's behind if the animal needs disciplining. In addition, they could pull backward on the pointer in a style similar to reeling in a fish in order to tug a virtual leash and drag forward a disobedient dog.
As intriguing as these possibilities sound, we find ourselves even more excited by the prospects of god games on Revolution. This is true because Nintendo's next-generation controller would enable players the precision and flexibility truly befitting of a creator. Imagine a game similar to Black and White or Spore, in which players can drag and drop materials in order to construct a house, or pick up and position creatures on landscapes with the flick of the wrist. A tap of a button could bring into view a series of palette windows with varying features, each of which would only be a point and click away. Further, gamers could navigate these huge worlds with Nintendo's pointer, holding down a button to go into a travel mode and then moving the wand-like peripheral around to advance through the landscapes. And speaking of landscapes, the pointer could make possible some interesting gameplay mechanics first laid down for Nintendo fans in the little-known GameCube adventure Doshin the Giant. In the quirky title, the giant creature could move about the game world and actually pull pieces of the landscape up in order to raise mountains. With Revolution's pointer, gamers could simply grab onto a landscape and pull backward. This mechanic could be taken a step further. For instance, trees could be planted and then grown in a similar fashion.