Revolutionary: Web Wii Wares

Every Tuesday, Mike Sylvester brings you REVOLUTIONARY, a look at the wide world of Wii possibilities.

When WiiWare was announced, it seemed like a godsend for the garage developer wishing to make Wii games for mass appreciation. But details on how to get your hands on a WiiWare development kit and the costs involved are not public knowledge, and the official launch of the distribution channel (on the Wii Shop Channel) isn't going to be happening until some time next year. So what's a Wii-loving, budget-restricted developer to do in the meanwhile? Making games for Wii's Opera Browser is one option.

Web browsers aren't new to game consoles. The Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, and others let you surf the net, but the functionality of the browsers was extremely limited, and we hadn't yet entered the Web 2.0 era in which interactive multimedia content has become mainstream. There wasn't much call for Flash support in the Saturn days when Flash wasn't used as much as it is today.

Flash seems to be the programming language of choice amongst web game developers, and fortunately, Wii's Opera Browser supports up to Flash 7. To develop deep Flash games, an understanding of ActionScript is also recommended. Controls don't have to be complicated, as some games just use the left and right mouse buttons (mapped to the Wiimote's A button and B button, respectively) in combination with pointing, and some games use the pointer alone. A few Wii-tailored "arcade" sites have been founded on collections of older mouse-driven games.

Albino Blacksheep has among its selection some relatively sophisticated games which rival even retail stuff on the shelves in terms of technical grandeur. The Missile Game 3D probably gets our Broadway CPUs running hotter than Far Cry: Vengeance, and the unlucky purchasers of a generic racing game would have probably been more satisfied playing Generic Space Game for free.

WiiPlayable has several games to keep you online for hours. Air Hockey really won't have you kicking yourself for buying WiiPlay, but Rebound would be at home in any DS owner's puzzle game collection. Bullet Bill is so incredibly uncomplicated, but its style and charm warrants it a mention and undoubtedly accounts for its high rating on the site.

Wiicade launched before the Internet Channel, but at the time, all the games on offer were mouse-driven. You could have played them on your computer and stoked your anticipation for the browser's release. Like WiiPlayable, Wiicade has a ratings system so that players can let each other know what's hot and what to steer clear of. Right now I want to warn you about 3D Logic. The simplistic looks and gameplay may have you fooled, but this seemingly innocuous LeMerchand box will consume your time, sanity, and soul until you solve its every puzzle!

After the Internet Channel launched, Wiicade treated developers with a custom API that allows the use of the Wiimote's remaining buttons and D-pad. With the API, it's possible to make more traditional console-style games, such as platformers, fighters, and racing games. Games built around the Wiicade API are also playable on computers, using the keyboard in place of the Wiimote buttons and D-pad.

Now, Flash isn't the only game in town when it comes to web game development for Opera. The folks at Hullbreach have designed their own Wii Opera SDK for making games with Javascript. While still early in development, their Spacefox demo shows promise. We hope to see more developers take notice of the SDK and make full use of the features of the Wiimote. As the SDK's creator puts it:

"The Wii Opera SDK is written in JavaScript and is in production for games and applications that will be made using JavaScript, (X)HTML, and, CSS. Yet, I'm sure that Flash developers will be able to make use of some of the features as well.

At the moment, classes have been made for the SDK that allow programmers to create graphical primitives and images, manipulate polygons in 3D space, detection motion from all 4 Wii Remotes, and detect button presses from the primary Wii Remote. Coming soon to the SDK will be detection for button presses on the other 3 Wii Remotes, multiplayer Internet communication, and cursor gestures."

If you know of any other sites hosting Internet Channel-compatible games, leave a comment to let us know about it. We're also interested in hearing about other APIs and SDKs that let gamers and developers use the Wiimote for more than just its mouse-like attributes.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.