Monday, May 2, 2011

MovieBob's Disturbingly Not-As-Insane-Sounding Wii2 Theory: Revisited

(reposted from the other blog, as it's mutually-relevant)

Being right about something in the realm of technology-speculation happens to me so rarely I'm actually a little scared when it looks like it might... happen, I mean. So right now... I'm actually a little alarmed...

Awhile back, when we first got word that Nintendo's yet-unamed, supposedly E3-bound Wii successor was going to have an iPad-esque touchscreen incorporated into it's controller, I was struck by a crazy notion: What if the touchscreen IS the controller - as in, the WHOLE controller?

The "big idea," as I imagined it, was that instead of having one controller with a pre-set arrangement of buttons that each game needed to be mapped to, it'd just be a blank touchscreen upon which each individual game would generate it's own specific, tailor-made set of "virtual buttons." Think about it: A six-button arcade setup for Street Fighter, SNES-style setup for platformers or retrogames, etc.

One HUGE problem with that idea: "Virtual buttons" SUCK, and for a very specific reason: You can't feel them. There's no texture, no tacticle-resistance, no "feedback." At least, not on any of the virtual-buttons we've used so far...

Check out this story from The Escapist, which details some new Wii2 rumors including a Swedish site's report that the controller's touchscreen - whatever else it is - is utilizing a form of HAPTIC TECHNOLOGY, which basically means "artificial feedback." Haptic Touchscreens, something Apple and Toshiba have been experimenting with and/or demonstrating, use an electrically-charged "film" on the screen surface to make different areas of the display "feel" noticeably different to the user's fingertips. The practical application is obvious: You can make the "clickable" parts of a website, options-menu or even a virtual keypad feel distinguishable to the touch. Theoretically, that could ELIMINATE the one drawback to virtual-button game-controls.

Now, realistically, it'd probably still have physical analogue sticks and shoulder-buttons, but otherwise... yeah, until proven wrong (which is probably what'll happen) I'm stickin' with this insane theory: Wii2's controller, to some degree, will be built around virtual-buttons on a touchscreen, and that aspect - "one controller that becomes ALL CONTROLLERS!" - will be central to the marketing.

14 comments:

BIGMercenary said...

I posted my ideas of this on my blog. It makes sense: Nintendo has never been one for pressure sensitivity and the touch screen interface just seems logical for that. People might make an uproar about it and Nintendo might change it, and raving monkeys will fly out of my butt. The clickable screen is a good idea but some people might not realize their own strength and could ruin it, forcing them to buy another... let's say $60 - $80 controller? That's another thing you should mention: how much one of those bad boys is going to cost.

ted sand said...

i saw that article the other day, and immediately thought of your theory from before. i hope you're right.

Jakob said...

That's a nice theory, but it's incorrect.

This is something Iwata said in a recent video, as he was questions whether or not the new controller will completely ditch physical buttons:
"Whenever we make a new game console, we've done it without throwing away buttons and the directional pad... The reason for that it's better to have them, because buttons and directional pads benefit gameplay response... Taking this into account... Nintendo isn't planning on completely ditching buttons, nor is Nintendo thinking of taking tablets as they are today and implementing them in a game console."

I could also be wrong; maybe the haptic technology works so well, the substitution would be just as good as the current standard.

Heinrich said...

Bob, I really like your shows, your insight, your clever comments and your blog, but as a design student I have to go offtopic here.

Could you PLEASE change the font color to white (or rather a 90-95% white. Easier to read than pure white against pure black.)? That cyan font against black makes reading anything on your blog a miserable experience. It really strains your eyes and it doesn't even fit the blue in the background.

Sorry for being so harsh but I really had to get that out of my system. Don't take it personally ok? =(

NathanS said...

Only correction I have is we know that whatever else Nintendo is not going for a full tablet set up.

http://thenintendostream.com/buttons-are-not-going-anywhere-says-iwata/

But yeah if the rumors about them using haptic technology then the basic concept of a configurable controllers does carry weight.

Bastardism said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nik said...

I don't buy it. There's a lot of design details that would need to be ironed out first and seen working in practice -- Nintendo are creative remixers of long-existing technology, not an R&D firm. In addition to the buttons being felt, they also need to feel natural to press, and would require the screen being able to detect and distinguish between multiple pressure points, and furthermore, tell the difference between an actual press and a just-resting-on-it.

Highly unlikely, in other words.

Personally, I think this is just an unconscious rehash of the rumors that swirled around the Revolution controller -- back then, as I mentioned in the last post on this subject, there were also these same rumors of a touchscreen-button controller, and I think whatever convergence of factors produced that impression back then are producing this one now.

A Curious Fellow said...

I don't think it's gonna happen.

If it does, I won't be buying anyway.

Damian said...

Or maybe this will be nintendos last foray before bankruptcy and then mario will become multi platform. Can anyone say Super mario Galaxy on 360.

noxdescious said...

@Damian
do you know how much money the wii and the DS' have made nintendo? them going bankrupt because of this one console is highly unlikely

Neoproteus said...

There's one problem that I can see to this theory, and that is that Nintendo characters make a point of never touching anything. In fact, a lot of them wear gloves. You don't see Link feeling up every tree he walks by, and you don't see Mario actually picking up mushrooms or fire flowers in order to eat them. You'd have to really stretch the mechanics of any established game genre to incorporate this kind of technology.

toosoo said...

i was playing the 3ds version of street figher at a game stop and i had alot more fun with it more so then i did on the my console version so if they ditch some of the buttons i think that not a bad thing as long as those virtual button are used for the important stuff or if its just as a inventory or a map or as long as its just there to make a complicatedd series of button presses easier adding a small screen to the controller would be awsome

this may not happen but the idea itself isn't a bad thing if implemented correctly

Robo said...

Well, virtual buttons on the DS screen have worked out pretty well, and those didn't even have this "virtual touch" technology.
What would probably be easier (and in my opinion cooler) would be to have the option of using a 3DS as a controller. If a controller has a screen in it, that would be expensive, so being able to use a 3DS instead wouldn't be a cheaper alternative, but it would be if you already had a 3DS.

Ciaran said...

but with the ds you can see the screen but how many people look at a controller other then the occasional glance when they have been using it long enough to no what rt and lt mean.How about a controller like a ps2 controller but where the x square etc is they're is a small touchscreen you could do swiping motions for tricks and gestures in sports games and what not or do custom controller layouts that are mapped for that game and not improvised to fit onto a fixed layout one things for sure it will not be a classic pro with a touchscreen in the middle they have always been a 3rd rate design and would need to take tips from both xbox and playstation in designing a better purpose built controller