Revolutionary: Mario Kart Training Wheel


The Wii Wheel was supposed to make racing easy enough for anyone to jump right into a session of Mario Kart Wii with no prior experience with either traditional game controllers or the Wii Remote. When used properly, it works as expected. The trouble is that it's not always used properly. Watching your parents try to get through Wario's Gold Mine, you'll notice that they're sometimes holding the Wheel the wrong way, and it's making them drive off the track into chasms of eternity. This observation led me to examine how Mario Kart Wii's steering works and come up with a solution for keeping n00bs on track.

When I was writing the GlovePIE script for MotoGP 2, I wanted to be able to twist the Wii Remote for throttle, while tilting it to steer. I found a simple way to do that when I discovered that the Wiimote's accelerometer is able to register linear changes on the Pitch axis while simultaneously being rotated on the Roll axis. I was curious if actual Wii games would use the flexibility of pitch sensing for steering in games, and found out that they do. Essentially, that means you can steer in Mario Kart Wii with the buttons facing skyward like Excite Truck, or play Excite Truck with the buttons facing your body, Mario Kart Wii-style.

The problem that the Wii Wheel introduces is it makes you want to rotate it around the same imaginary pivot point, even when you aren't holding it in the correct, upright position. If you relax your arms and start trying to steer like a bus driver, it won't work, because the Wii Remote's accelerometer cannot sense motion on the Yaw axis. You could remove the mental block by taking the Wiimote out of it's Wheel shell, but the Wiimote's B button isn't as easily accessible as the Wheel's B button.

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Another issue is that Wii novices generally don't realize that they can make subtle movements to control games. Mario Karts steer more like real cars than carnival bumper cars, but you wouldn't know it from the way your aunt tries to play. So perhaps, in addition to keeping the Wheel upright, a little restraining tension may help.

I went to Wal-mart and picked up a couple of 36-inch bungie cords and a plastic crate for less than $10 total.

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The Mario Kart DS lanyard is optional

Threading the bungie cords between the spokes of the Wheel and hooking it in place in the center of the crate's open end gives you something that looks too nerdy for words, but it works as intended, keeping the Wheel pivoting on its proper axis and registering your intentions to steer your kart.

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Too loose and it won't hold in place; Too tight and it won't pivot

I placed it on a table to get a good shot with the camera, but it's light enough to sit comfortably on your lap.

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Take care not to put your bungies on your buttons (like I've done here)

I did find it was too bulky for the quick flipping motions required to do aerial tricks, but the purpose of this rig is too train novices in Wii driving. Once they've got a handle on the basics of control, you can pull them out of it and give them the freedom to do those Wheel flips.


Subtle movements for the win!

I really thought I had Wii driving down before I began this project, but yesterday I loaded up Excite Truck for the first time in months and I was easily beating my old scores and times by large margins. Excite Truck was the first game I ever played on the Wii, and I thought I was pretty good at it, but a little training (in minutes a day) did wonders for me.

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Every other week, Mike Sylvester brings you REVOLUTIONARY, a look at the wide world of Wii possibilities. If the techno-jargon regarding accelerometers and "axis this" and "pitch that" went over your head, check out Revolutionary: Going Through the Motions for an explanation of how the Wiimote interprets your movements and gestures. And if you're just interested in more Mario Kart goodness, go ahead and click here.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.