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blog.gkaindl.com » Wii and Doom 3

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Wii and Doom 3

The Wii (courtesy of Nintendo)

So I got myself a Wii about 3 weeks ago. Apart from having created a Mii that looks amazingly like me (you can see it on this page) and slowly turning into a Tennis pro, I was toying around with the Wii remote: Obviously, it’s the key to what makes the Wii such a great gaming platform. The online functionality is a nice added value, but it’s definitely not the selling point. Neither are the (rather mediocre) hardware specs.

In fact, the Wii remote with its multiple accelerometers and infrared-powered pointer mechanism provides for an awesome playing experience, wether it’s hitting the ball in a Wii Sports Tennis match or slashing down your enemies in Zelda: Twilight Princess, it just feels right and strangely satisfying. Even more so, comparing the Wii remote (and its Nunchuck attachment) to other game controllers, it becomes obvious that most games designed for the Wii will have to rely on the motion sensing and pointing capabilities in one way or the other: There are just not enough joysticks and buttons on the controller to simply port over a game from another platform, the game will have to be either specifically designed or modified for the Wii controls.

However, the motion sensing control works and feel differently from button-pressing, hence the control scheme has to be carefully designed for each game: It just has to work. The potential for getting this totally wrong is much higher than for ordinary, button-based controls.

The special controller capabilities should not be seen as a feature, but as the core of the game design process. And this is where Doom 3 comes to mind, at least for me: Doom 3 was special for it’s amazing visuals, but what really made it stand out were the realistic lighting and shadow effects. I found the game to be extremely immersive, just because of the great lighting effects. For example, I’d hide from enemies in corners, but I could track their movement through the room by looking at their shadows on the wall. The huge, eerie shadows cast by small items such as soda cans could easily be mistaken for enemies, especially once you accidently bump into the table and knock the can over, causing a sudden movement in your peripheral vision. The way shadows were used just worked perfectly, it not only added to the game, it was actually the core of the game. There’s a reason why you cannot hold the flashlight and a gun at the same time. All the darkness paired with the lively, but freakishly scary sound effects; It created for an atmosphere that was comparable to the finest horror movies. Doom 3 wasn’t about the gore, it was all about the atmosphere.

Naturally, the Doom 3 engine was designed specifically for this game. However, as with all the previous engines developed by id software, it got licensed to quite a lot of other development studios. For example, it’s used in Quake 4 that was developed by Raven Software. But in Quake 4, the setting was totally different. The cool shadow effects became a mere feature of the engine, but they didn’t have the same impact they had in Doom 3: Light sources were never placed in such elaborate ways to make enemies cast eerie shadows, there were no dark spots that forced you to take out your flashlight and dive into the unknown and you had a flashlight on your rifle anyways, doing away with the exhilarating “put down flashlight, draw gun and aim at the glowing eyes” experience that made Doom 3 so enjoyable. The shadows were just a feature that was there, nothing more and nothing less.

For Wii games to succeed, however, the control scheme should not be regarded as such a feature. If you regard an integral design aspect as a feature, you’re bound to fail. The shadow example shows how you can approach a capability of your platform either as a central part of your game’s design or just a feature that you get for free. The Wii doesn’t shine for it’s cool graphic capabilities, but for its controller, the Wii remote. If the controls are just so-so, the game won’t have that distinct “Wii” feel to it anymore, just in the same way Quake 4 doesn’t have the “Doom 3″ feel (which is not necessarily a bad thing since it’s a different game, I’m just using this as an example). So let’s check back in a year wether the Wii games will still feel like Wii…

3 Comments

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    Franco
    wrote on Mar 29, 2007 at 23:45

    Great, I think should appear a port with more simple poligons and effects to run on Wii, I believe that is possible!

    Let’s prey fot that quake to doom the market!


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    Jato
    wrote on May 01, 2007 at 20:56

    Based on how you talk about Doom 3, I got the impression you were trying to portray it as a decent game. Which in my opinion it was not. ‘Real-time lighting’, as it has been dubbed, has been out even before Doom 3’s release. it didn’t have a huge impact for me. The single best feature of the game, I thought, was the integrated crosshair / cursor interaction with computers. It bridged the crucial gap between combat and environmental interation within FPSs that had been lacking. (Bumping up against large, square buttons protruding from the wall just didn’t do it for some people) However, Doom 3 was overal meant to rejuventate the FPS industry by revolutionizing what is capable in an FPS and simultaneously put id and DOOM back on top. It failed in both of these respects. partially because by the time it came out, ‘it’s been done’, but also because the key features like the atmosphere were not done up to industry quality. Compared with the fear induced by an industry leader like Silent Hill, the ‘fear’ in Doom 3 was mostly the twitchy, itchy trigger-finger variety; indeed, many scenes meant to scare us were in the medium of boxes suddenly being hurled at us, or chairs being tipped over– things that illicited only a few rounds of ammunition in that direction as my response.


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    georg
    wrote on May 02, 2007 at 19:05

    First, I actually really liked the game.

    However, in the scope of this article, it’s not important wether Doom 3 was a “good game”, but that it was using a real-time shadowing not just as an engine feature, but as a core design aspect of the game. Granted, I do not play that many FPS games, but I’ve never seen another game that uses the shadows this much as a design element to create its atmosphere. This may also be why many called the game “too dark” altogether.

    In this way, the shadows in Doom 3 are much like the Wii motion controls: For example, in Wii Sports, the motion controls are not “just a feature”, but the core design element of the game. Imagine how boring Tennis would be with an ordinary button controller.

    Thusly, I hope that the Wii motion controls go the same way that the shadows did post-Doom 3, being just another “engine feature” that you have to have, but no longer an element that is constitutive to the game design.

About

Hi, how are you? My name is Georg Kaindl, and I'm a twenty-something from Vienna, Austria. During the day, I'm a CS student at the Vienna University of Technology, but at night, I turn into an independent software developer for the Macintosh platform, social nerd, lazy entrepreneur and intuitive researcher.

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