Wii U GamePad: The Future of Simulation Games

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Countdown to Wii U:
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A Guest Article by Henry Bailey
Having gone round to see my brother and his wife at their flat last week, the subject of conversation – at least between he and I – naturally turned to videogames. We chatted for a bit about the specs of the Wii U, and then Dan turned on his Xbox to show me F1 2011.

He claimed not to have played in for a while, and was suitably awful, but attributed his struggles mainly to having to make constant adjustments to the steering using the analog stick. It really needed a wheel, he said, but a compatible one, of quality, was at least £60, and he wasn’t going to spend the money just for one game.

But the discussion about Wii U specs that we’d had earlier got me to thinking that there must be a planned release for the franchise on the new console. Looking down at my hands I could see the GamePad as a full F1 steering wheel. Oh, the possibilities! All the technical controls and options perfectly replicated in the main console controller. No need for an expensive third party steering wheel to get the full experience, you’re ready to go with the GamePad.

I quickly remembered the Wii steering wheel, and how I never really liked using it for Mario Kart, preferring to use the Wii-mote and Nunchuk or even the GamecCbe controller. The problem always seemed to me to be in the lack of rigidity. Having the Wii-mote float around in a casing “worth seven pounds” just never quite felt right.

Without a solid anchor for the “center,” I always felt as though I had to make those “constant adjustments,” and so I quickly became disenchanted with the Wiimote as a means of driving control, even sowing seeds of doubt as to the of whole future of gyroscopic controls – whether they were all they’d cracked up to be, or even if we’d been sold a massive load of ultimately disappointing hype, and the traditionalist, Nintendo pioneered designs of Microsoft and Sony were far superior.

But perhaps the whole problem could have been fixed with a simple anchor. A basic shell, or a dock that could provide a fixed steering column, could turn the GamePad into the best F1 steering wheel and the best F1 gaming experience ever. All at minimal cost, at least in theory.

Bringing the Balance Board into play for the pedals could even work – though they‘d be incredibly sensitive in their current state. The weight and size of the board itself does make it attractive though. The GamePad + Balance Board combo could allow us to get rid of the old suction-cupped bases and their lightweight, hollow-feeling pedals that offer rather strange feedback relative to actual car pedals. At the very least, it could provide a solid platform for some kind of add-on that would achieve the actual functionality.

Offering some kind of steering column for the GamePad could easily be enough, at least to start with – I’m not greedy. Everything else is right there on the second screen. Need to adjust your brake balance? Differential? Check your lap and/or sector time? Check track position? Tire pressures? Temperatures? Anything you can think of? Right there on the touch screen. You could even have strategy projections updated to the screen.

You’d have almost no need for any on screen display – just the view out of the cockpit.

All of this together – the Balance Board pedals, the motion-control steering, the steering wheel buttons and displays – could allow for a proper simulation experience and accumulation of skills that could make you really feel as though you’ve earned a World Championship. And assuming they’ll include voice support, that’d make racing online even better, exchanging jibes with other nationalities and women drivers alike. Can you say “team radio”? Imagine trying to concentrate on the race when one of your smartass, F1-loving friends comes on the radio and starts trash-talking.

Heck, Wii U’s backward compatibility with Wii controllers could take things even further. You could have a multiplayer function that even allowed your friends to act as the pit crew. Perhaps changing tires with a Wii-mote wheel nut gun…as long as they’d be willing to sit there and watch you play a two hour race, just to change your tires for you.

The scope of Nintendo’s direction with Wii U is slowly revealing itself to be genuinely massive, and now that they’ve got a console with the power to run the kind of games that could really benefit from the new age of controls, this could really be it.

Were we really ever going to be satisfied by simple balance games, however good they were, like Super Monkey Ball, to be the biggest utilization of motion controls? No we weren’t. What about “hardcore” games? What about the FPS games, driving sims, flight sims and everything else outside of the family-targeted, generic avatar-filled minigames – that’s where Wii U’s potential could meet reality, take it to Paris for the weekend, and show it the time of its life.

But I think the best place to start is in the other simulation-style games. Trauma Center was one of the few real life situations of any complexity that was really attempted with a Wii-mote simulation approach. And that, unless I’m very much mistaken, is not how you perform surgery, and those…are not real nurses. But still, I think you get the point.

Flight sims could use the same GamePad dock, that reveal that it’d had a clip lock on the steering column that when loosened would allow the column to be retracted and reinserted, or could swivel up and down from a hinge. Imagine a Star Fox or Star Wars game with this type of control.

Just thinking about the possibilities has blown my mind all by itself – and that was just my F1 ideas. Bring it on Nintendo – and bring it on Codemasters. If they could achieve half of what’s possible with Wii U within a couple of years, it could change the way the genre meets the home console completely. To all the “hardcore” gamers out there who are ready for a console that has the potential to truly meet your every need: I’ll meet you in the paddock…

This article was a guest submission by Henry Bailey, one of our UK fans. Thanks for sharing your insights! Find out more about how to submit your own articles for our “Countdown to Wii U” series by clicking here.

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  • Terrak

    That’s the type of creative thinking we need! i

  • Ninty

    Really great ideas. You lost me with all that flying, pilot talk though. *scratches head*

  • pjsmoulder

    I’ve been Americanised! :D

  • TheMightyGorm

    Some really great ideas. Could do wonders for the F1 franchise, which is in danger of becoming stale without some kind of innovation.