We've been waiting since E3 '06 to hear details regarding Wii Music, and the anxiety brought on by rumors of an MMO Animal Crossing has been unbearable at times, but despite those big reveals at E3 '08, the biggest Wii news was the announcement of the Wii MotionPlus. Because most of us had nearly given up hope for Wii games with a 1:1 ratio of motion-sensing responsiveness, it's quickly become known as "the 1:1 adapter."
The news of this unexpected device is so exciting, I've pushed back the topic planned for this week's Revolutionary to instead talk about what the MotionPlus is, and what it can do to further revolutionize gaming.
So far, the only confirmed title to make use of the new peripheral is Wii Sports Resort, which will bundle in a MotionPlus and a new extended jacket to encase the Wiimote and attached add-on. Seeing Reggie Fils-Aime controlling a JetSki in the Power Cruiser demo was a strangely familiar spectacle. Although, while my motoGP script required up and down rotation on the Pitch axis to steer, the MotionPlus seems to allow lateral movements on the Yaw axis to steer the watercraft.
If sales figures for Wii Sports Resort wind up anywhere near what Wii Fit is pulling, we can rest assured that 3rd parties will be scrambling to throw support for the peripheral into their games. Whether it will be possible to make games that sort-of work without the attachment, and enhance the resolution of motion sensitivity with it attached is still anybody's guess. But if games will need to be specifically programmed around it, don't expect big multi-platform titles (such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars) to depend on a peripheral that only some of the targeted market will have in their possession. Luckily, the MotionPlus' adoption won't be entirely dependent on sales of its premier associated game, as it will also be sold separately at a yet undisclosed price.
So how exactly did Nintendo go about improving upon the Wiimote's motion-sensing accuracy? By incorporating an InvenSense IDG-600 MEMS rate gyroscope. Like the Analog Devices, Inc. ADXL 330 iMEMS accelerometer chip already in your Wiimotes and Nunchuks, the IDG-600 can detect motion on 3 axes, and its technology has been used in a wide range of consumer electronics applications. The difference is in what forces the gyroscope and accelerometer can detect. Your standard Wiimote can detect acceleration forces and degrees of tilt perpendicular to the earth, while the MotionPlus adds the ability to detect sustained velocities, and it can do so on planes parallel to the earth. Where the Wiimote's accelerometer stops, the MotionPlus keeps going.
The Wii Sports Resort Disc Dog and Sword Play demos seemed to require the player to point at the screen before starting. That would indicate that the game has to see where the controller is positioned and how it is oriented in relation to the TV before it tells the MotionPlus to start measuring the velocity and vectors of movement. You see, once it knows where you're starting from, at any given time it only needs to know how fast you've gone and in what direction to know where you are. And that's what the IDG-600 is designed to detect, at rates fast enough to track the motion of human limbs.
Why didn't the Wii Remote have this built in from day one? Because this is cutting edge technology that didn't exist two years ago. There were MEMS gyroscopes back then, but not ones that could sense motion on 3 axes while meeting the strict low-power and small form factor requirements necessary for a wireless game controller.
In a move similar to its adoption of MoSys 1T-SRAM starting back in the Gamecube days, Nintendo chose a product that performed a common enough function, but did so in a way that made it perfectly suited for a mass market games console. Really, this is how Nintendo's done things all along, with the Gameboy's LCD screen and the Virtual Boy's oscillating mirror display tech as other examples. Okay, so the Virtual Boy wasn't exactly perfect, but the display technology was further developed until, in the form of DLP, it became the standard for digital theater projection. Imagine beaming a miniature pair of those directly into your retinas today.
The earlier-mentioned ability to sense Yaw axis motion will open up all sorts of gameplay possibilities. There's the disc-throwing motions of the aptly-titled Disc Dog demo, which could be further developed into a Tron game, or possibly a late addition to the upcoming Rygar port's controls. Gamers will also be able to steer cars bus driver-style, as is possible on the PS3's gyrometer-equipped SIXAXIS controllers.
I know -- what you really want is light saber duels, and as the Sword Play demo evidenced, a Wiimote with MotionPlus is capable of bringing your slashes, thrusts, and parries onto the screen. We don't know yet whether LucasArts has plans to support it, but they must be aware by now of how much we want to be like the Star Wars Kid and strike down the Emperor as our hatred consumes us. Maybe we should start petitioning now for Konami to build MotionPlus support into Castlevania Judgment, so that it would have at least one redeeming trait. What better way to bring into the realm of 3D that awesome sense of whip control first seen in Super Castlevania 4 than with 1:1 motion mapping?
Of course, I'm looking forward to trying it out with GlovePIE to develop even more new ways of controlling existing game types, but as this is an entirely new attachment, it may be a while before a GlovePIE release supporting it is made public.
It slices, it dices, it detects inertial forces, and makes a great stocking stuffer. How much would you be willing to pay for this handy dandy little attachment and what do you want to be able to do with it? Direct yourself down to the comments section to discuss the possibilites. Operators are standing by.