WiiWare Wishlist

If there is a word to describe this generation of consoles it's possibly "copycat". All three manufacturers have been liberally hommaging their competitors, some more than others, like for example Sony's SIXAXIS controller, an obvious last-minute, gaffer-tape rip-off of the Wiimote and hence ineffectual and rubbish. But even Nintendo, arguably the most innovative this generation, isn't immune and is going to be offering its own WiiBox Live Arcade...erhm, WiiWare, the original games download service later this year.

The potential problems of WiiWare are obvious to even the most unenlightened observer. Though the clunky but functional online infrastructure can be polished up with firmware updates, the one major crippling factor for the new service will be hard disk space. This is obviously a sign of the hindsight nature of this service and can only mean one thing: WiiWare titles will be more akin to on-line Flash games as opposed to full-blown XBox Live Arcade titles in terms of contents and quality; imagine WiiCade plus alpha, if you will. Either that or Nintendo are planning a HDD add-on (unlikely), a new Wii iteration with a bigger HDD (unlikely) or allowing executables from SD cards (extremely unlikely).

That said, there are some titles I'd love to see on the Wii that aren't possibly fit for full-blown, boxed releases but would fit perfectly on the WiiWare service had hard disk space not been such a potentially crippling issue. Here is my shortlist of games I'd like to play on my sofa whilst gently cradling my slender white pointsttick.

Mystery Case Files
Big Fish Games' excellent PC casual series of MCF games would make an almost perfect fit for the Wii, both in game design and target markets. If you don't know the titles you owe it to yourself to check them out. As an investigator of sorts you must find a dozen listed objects in a static scene of many cunningly concealed items. They are already referred to as "hide & seek games”, and they are strangely compelling and fun - a true innovation in the casual development spheres and shining example of the possible originality of ideas that is possible under such business models. I love them!
Imagine sitting with your family on the sofa as you sweep your cursor over the screen while everybody is desperately looking for that last hidden object as the timer is ticking down. It is a great game to play together and with children and using the Wiimote as a natural cursor would fit perfectly. As soon as you find the item you just point to it and click.
Apart from the size of the download one possible obstacle for this game on the Wii could be resolution, plain old pixels-on-screen issues. The game cries out for super-HD, massive screen sharpness so the items can be even more cunningly hidden but at a pinch it could do on a Wii.

Bookworm Adventures or Bookworm Deluxe
Another casual PC hit game, the Bookworm series, has already seen a handheld rerelease but could easily be ported to the WiiWare system. It’s a simple game where you create words on a board of letters for points or progression. Again, with the Wiimote this could be controlled quite easily and the games are both a lot of fun too. Neither would have too many issues with screen resolution and could possibly even be fit within the possible WiiWare specs, whatever they end up being. Not only that but it’s one of those all-round family fun titles that seems to be perfectly wed to Nintendo’s cleaner than Caesar’s wife attitude.

Crayon Physics
Originally a cool little freeware title, still available for download, this cute little game allows players to draw with crayon on the screen to move a ball to a certain area of the screen using, as the title suggests, physics. Again, image-wise it fits beautifully with the Nintendo brand but on top of that it’s good fun too. Using the Wiimote to draw on-screen could work very nicely, though some motion-smoothing would be required. A full-fledged Crayon Physics title would be a perfect addition to the WiiWare line-up, which as far as I know it isn’t.

SCUMM adventures
You know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the old LucasArts adventures of the glory days. Monkey Island, Zak McKracken, Sam & Max, Maniac Mansion and its sequel Day of the Tentacle. Point & click adventures....a system with a natural cursor control scheme...come on, who hasn't imagined this? Of course you have, everyone has, we all want to see this happen, if not on the DS then at least the Wii. All that needs to happen is for those fine folk who created the SCUMMVM engine, which reads the original data files made using the original Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion engine and plays them on any modern PC, to create a WiiWare version and start selling original data packs of the games. They're small enough for the Wii's hard disk to handle, they don't require high resolution graphic power, they don't have any reason NOT to come to WiiWare....I wish. Though I've played and finished all of the LucasArts adventures many times over and could replay them with my eyes closed, just for the privilege of sitting on the sofa and enjoying them on my television I'd gladly pay real cashmoney.
Seriously, if you need convincing at all of SCUMM games' natural home on the Wii you really have no business playing games or calling yourself "human".

Though it is unlikely these titles will appear any time soon, if at all, it's nice to dream. I think the WiiWare service is probably going to be fairly underwhelming, though possibly still profitable for Nintendo, and will never catch up to the mad success of the Virtual Console channel. I will, however be keeping an eye cocking towards it with curiosity and excitement because every new delivery system is an opportunity for developers to not only shovel out the same old crap but also to experiment with new ideas cheaply.

10 comments:

  1. 2gig SD cards are down to $12. For some reason XBLA games are limited to 50meg. So, you could put 40 XBLA games on a 2gig SD card.

    I really don't think the HD part is going to limit WiiWare games all that much.

    It's also a little harsh to call it copying. An online store is a pretty natural thing to want to do.

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  2. Crayon Physics is the best game I've played this year! I love it. Thanks for the link...Actually, I remember you posting some links to indie games on this blog's first iteration. How about another one those?

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  3. LucasArts games will no doubt happen unofficially. You can already download stuff to run Day of the Tentacle on your DS.

    I agree that the freeware indie games will likely have a following on WiiWare, but I've seen some pretty ambitious stuff too, such as FF Crystal Chronicles: The Little King and the Promised Land. But looking at games like Pop, I think groups of people are already seeing its potential and building some creative stuff to fit it. A lot of titles seem to be multiplayer too, which is something proper Wii games often lack.

    In the end it's a new format for releasing simple, cheap to make games for a huge global casual market who may mix very well with 'freeware style' indie games. It wouldn't surprise me if it outgrew XBLA and PSN within a year.

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  4. Great wishlist.

    I'm most keen for the LucasArts titles, and I want them in official versions. Now that Jim Ward has left the company, perhaps his replacement will be more proactive bringing these games to the Wii.

    It's hard to imagine a more suitable platform, and the console already has a userbase accustomed to downloading via the Virtual Console. Or, if they want to be more splashy, release a special box version with all the great games on one disc, throw in some commemorative stuff, and charge a reasonable price. It wouldn't sell like Halo, but it would sell enough to make it well worth their time.

    LucasArts has been sitting on these games for years, and I've never understood why. Of course, there are many things I don't understand about LucasArts...but that's another topic!

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  5. One can only dream of a magical world where a person can play old Lucasarts adventure games in the comfort of their couch, carelessly waving a wiimote until their hands fall off. Oh well...

    The Virtual Console has a pretty sturdy collection of titles, I am hoping Nintendo will do the same for the Wiiware.

    That Wishlist is right in the money ,too. Playing Crayon Physics in a Wii would be great.

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  6. Don't forget Ninty did an online service in the late 80s or early 90s, so they're the originals for console online and MS are the copycats.

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  7. Sam 'n Max Season 1 is coming to the Wii isn't it? That (and Zack and Wiki) could be the catalyst for bringing back adventure games from the dead. If that happens, I might be able to forgive Nintendo for all the shit it's allowing to be put out for the Wii.

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  8. Adventure games are alive and well and living in indie/hobbyist country. Engines like AGS allow enthusiasts to create their own, often surprisingly good, adventure game of any type. Check it out!

    Celso, I am always on the lookout for interesting new indie or uber-niche stuff, but so far I haven't got enough to warrant a whole post yet. It will happen, though, eventually.

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  9. I agree that it's a little harsh to call it copying.

    Sony had a patent for the Sixaxis since 1999. Does that mean it was Nintendo that copied Sony with its Wiimote???

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