Wii game testers wanted: must have flailing arms

Ludwig Kietzmann
L. Kietzmann|08.30.06

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Wii game testers wanted: must have flailing arms
An article on MTV News delves into the process of creating and testing gestures for the Wii version of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (the one without hyper-realistic graphics) and highlights how videogame testing is affected by Nintendo's unique approach to gaming. Unlike traditional games that might pose challenging requirements such as pressing the A-button to jump or the X-button to attack, Wii games may ask players to perform more elaborate motions. The wide range of movement detected by the controller means that the gestures used in gameplay require a lot fine-tuning, lest your arm's attack thrust becomes misinterpreted and your character instead chooses to hug the mutant abomination attacking your party.

Associate designer on the project, Mike Chrzanowski, points out that the game initially started with over 20 different gestures but was eventually simplified to include only five. With players constantly shooting webbing and tossing patriotic shields about, it was vital that the game could successfully recognize and distinguish between the various gestures. Tasking testers with repeating various swipes and stabs, the Vicarious Visions team carefully monitored the motions that resulted and how different players interpreted and reacted to the on-screen instructions. After countless coding and tweaking, they claim to have constructed an interface that is 97 percent reliable. While Marvel: Ultimate Alliance doesn't make the most extensive use of the Wii's controls, it does illustrate how game testing and control mechanics need to be adapted for the platform.

It remains to be seen whether or not other developers will go through as much trouble as Vicarious Visions did to differentiate between specific arm motions and mindless flailing (there will likely be several games that count on the latter). More interesting is the recurring issue of shoehorning game actions into motion-sensitive controls. There's a fine line between taking advantage of a platform's capabilities and tacking on new mechanics. After all, is it really better that you twist your wrist in order to open a door as opposed to merely pressing a button?

[Via Game|Life]
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