Before the Wii came out I was slowly dropping out of gaming because I wasn’t enjoying myself all that much. It always came down to one thing: aiming. The standard for shooters-– then and now-– was/is keyboard-mouse. Because of nerve damage in my mouse clicking finger, I cannot play PC games at all. Playing Xbox or PS2 or GameCube requires mastery of the right analog stick. If you ask my son, who has likely posted hilarious videos of me aiming above, below, left, and right of my intended targets, I am lacking in such skill.
Then Wii came along and boy did I love aiming at the screen. It was natural. It was fun. If I missed the target it was because the target moved or I wasn’t fast enough, not because I pressed an springy stick a microNewton of force too much, so that I shot the ceiling of the room I was in. The Wii remote is not perfect, but it brought me back into gaming.
Fast forward to E3 2011, and Wii U is announced. The first thing I thought was not how powerful it would be, or how the controller’s built-in screen could be used, it was: can I aim with this thing? Please let me aim with this thing. Mr. Iwata, I want to aim with this thing!
To get an idea of how much an improvement my gaming experience would be, you only have to play some Zelda on the 3DS. When I first started playing Zelda 3DS, I cranked the 3D way up all the time. I really appreciate 3D. However, either because I kept the 3DS motionless, or because I forgot that I read about it in a review, or I missed a tutorial somewhere, it didn’t occur to me that I could aim the slingshot by ever-so-subtle movements to the device itself. Once I got used to the 3DS gyro-aiming, I realized how even more natural it was to lock on to something quickly and blast away. (I look forward to a good shooter on 3DS.)
Ocarina of Time on 3DS proved that involving methods of precision aiming can be a part of any type of game. We liked seeing Epona in 3D too.
Taking this further, the ability to point by moving the 3DS opens up new possibilities for control schemes. Yes you can point using the 3DS analog stick, but say for a moment you force users to point using motion. This leaves open a thumb that could be used to press the left analog stick or d-pad in order to provide an instruction. Take a a baseball game for example. You are the pitcher. You could aim by nudging the 3DS itself left or right, up or down, and then push the analog stick to determine power. By doing so you have essentially added a new button the user can intuitively access. Transfer this mechanism to the Wii U, and I think you’ve found the holy grail.
So will this be an option on the Wii U? How could this work? There is no mention of this anywhere, but I have a few theories:
Possibility 1— The Wii U controller has the same sensor as the Wii remote, which is then used to track where you’re pointing using the infrared. In this case, I would be content– it would work just like the Wii does now. I’m okay with this except that the Wii remote pointing wasn’t perfect. If you’ve used a PS Move, you’ll know what I mean. With the Wii remote, if you aim off-screen, the Wii loses track of you. With the PS Move, if you aim off-screen, the PS3 still knows where you are in one of the directions. Not sure if this is a technical issue related to infrared vs. camera tracking of the PS3, but the PS3 pointing implementation is certainly an improvement on Wii’s abilities here.
Possibility 2— The Wii U controller implements smooth, 1080-pixel-perfect gyro-aiming-– like 3DS, only much more precise. If playing Zelda on 3DS would be any indication, this would be sweet. In this case, I would cry with happiness. I would get to play a shooter against my son and send him packing with precise headshots. He would then cry to his mama. Oh yeah. This is my house. (Literally.)
Possibility 3— You can only aim the Wii U controller by holding it up facing the screen, as I’m sure you’ve seen in some of the demo reels. This would be terrible. I can’t imagine holding up the controller while playing a shooter for an hour. Maybe for sniping mode that could work; then the game would not have to add artificial unsteadiness. Otherwise, no, no, no.
Possibility 4— You can’t aim by moving the Wii U controller. In this case, I just cry.
Whatever form aiming takes, in order to keep gamers like me who have two left thumbs when it comes to analog sticks, I have only one thing to say to Nintendo: let me point with that thing!