Dolphin + XC HD Retextured

I have been playing with Dolphin the last couple of nights to get it running a couple of games I’d like to run. The first game on the list is Xenoblade Chronicles, which is something I bought day one and never got around to playing.

With the HD retexture project, it’s looking pretty good for a Wii game:

The main problem I have with it is that there are occasional frame dips, and with the current versions of Dolphin, when there is a frame dip, the sound stutters in a pretty annoying way.

I don’t think it’s enough to stop me from playing the game, and I’d much rather play it with it looking like this than the alternative.

Nintendo, 3DS, Wii U, iOS, et cetera

Hey, so people are still talking about this, apparently.

In case you missed it, lots of people are discussing Nintendo’s introduction of a 3DS system (which is crazily but accurately called the 2DS) that lacks one of the main points of the system (the glassless 3D) just to drop the price $40. This has stimulated a lot of talk about how Nintendo is doomed. To many, the only way to save the Nintendo ship is for them to start making iOS games, and quickly.

I could link articles on this all day, but I’d rather keep what I have to say. Comments or questions are welcome. Salient points:

It’s too Early to Judge the 3DS (or the 2DS, for That Matter)

Pokémon’s not out yet. Diamond/Pearl/Platinum sold 18 million copies. Black/White and sequels sold about 15 million copies. They are still making Pokémon series and movies, and people are still watching them.

It’s not as popular as it was ten years ago, but Pokémon is still a force. I predict it will drive a lot of 2DS unit sales.1

Nintendo waited two years before releasing Diamond and Pearl for the DS, just like they have for the 3DS. Nintendo plays a long game in general—but in another segment, that’s not working in their favor.

Yes, The Wii U Is a Failure, and Here’s Why

They launched the Wii U without any compelling games and a split SKU strategy that made no sense.2

New Super Mario Bros. U is actually a really good 2D Mario game, but it’s not a barnburner by any stretch of the imagination, nor does it do anything unique with the hardware available. It was the only interesting thing available at launch that wasn’t available on other platforms, and other interesting games are only just now starting to appear.

The Wii U hardware itself is pretty novel and it has some promise that’s still not being exploited properly. It’s just that Nintendo hasn’t done anything to show off what it can do to the point that I’m curious what (if anything) they had in development when they designed the hardware.

For a company that designs hardware and software in tandem, it sure doesn’t look like it (yet) with Wii U.

Wii vs. Wii U: Markets Change

Nintendo’s other mistake when launching was courting third-parties to port (in some cases pretty old) titles to Wii U for launch. I just looked at my game shelf. I have a good number of Wii games sitting there, and not one of them is a multi-platform title.

The Wii was a weird aberration; an underpowered piece of hardware with a (then) novel control system. In many ways, it mirrors the original DS. Nintendo found a success marketing to people who hadn’t been marketed to before, and captured the attention of a consumer segment that until then wasn’t interested in buying a game console.

But the Wii launched in 2006, in a pre-iPhone world. Here’s what sold on the Wii3:

  1. Nintendo franchises.
  2. Mini-game collections.
  3. Rhythm games (primarily Just Dance).

In 2013, the Wii U suffers from a dearth of Nintendo franchises4, mini-game collections have largely (if not completely) been subsumed by iOS free-to-play games, and the music game genre has dwindled to near-nothing due to overexploitation.

Given the current state of the games market, Nintendo’s reaching out to independent game studios is a good sign, but it’s not a compelling reason to buy a Wii U instead of something else. Much like the Virtual Console, it’s a reason to spend money once you have one.

Nintendo should do what it did with the DS once upon a time: create compelling first-party experiences using their franchises to sell units. A new IP or three wouldn’t hurt, either.5 (Nintendo hasn’t created a successful new IP since the Gamecube days.)

iOS Is (Hopefully) a Different Beast

Making iOS games is not in Nintendo’s DNA and I firmly believe they will go down fighting before they publish a game on iOS. (They have already published an app in the form of the Pokédex.)

Reasons I say this:

  1. Lack of physical controls (a controller API for iOS does not and will not fix this).
  2. Race-to-the-bottom pricing and the dominance of free-to-play, which is a game I do not believe Nintendo will want to play.
  3. Handheld gaming is where Nintendo is and has been in the strongest position. Even during the Wii era, there were 50% more DS units sold.

Apple’s not really competing in the same space. I agree with Lukas Mathis that the 3DS and other game systems are not the same market as iOS gaming. The use cases are fundamentally different.

I do think that this new segment of mobile gaming is stealing consumers from the more traditional handheld market. They are taking those market segments the Wii managed to reach and siphoning them off; it’s questionable traditional game consoles will see them again, though not for lack of trying.

There’s still a core audience that will continue to purchase and use consoles and handhelds. I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to last, but you should want it to if you like games. Take a look at the iOS top 25 grossing games chart and see the types of games that are in there.

I don’t want that becoming the dominant force in games, and if you care about the form, neither do you.6

All This Distracts from Nintendo’s Real Weakness

Services.

(But that’s a topic for another day.)


  1. For the record, I’m bullish on the 2DS. 

  2. Nintendo appears to be fixing this bit I think it’s happening way too late. 

  3. http://www.vgchartz.com/platform/2/wii/ 

  4. So far, it’s Pikmin 3, a New Super Mario game and DLC pack, and an upcoming remake of an old Zelda game. 

  5. Marco Arment realizes this. So does John Siracusa

  6. cf. The Loudness Wars, The Megapixel Myth. 

Video Game Things Your Kids Don’t Understand

This morning, for their allotted video game time, my two oldest children (9 and 8) decided to play the NES Super Mario Bros. (they have been enjoying New Super Mario Bros. on both the Wii and the DS recently). I wanted to be part of this, as I figured they might have some trouble with it—if you haven’t played it in a long time, as with many older games, it’s actually quite difficult.

What I was not ready for were the barrage of questions about very basic things, most of them related to changes in how games are designed and play between my childhood and theirs. I’m still watching them and other than an adventurous warp zone expedition to World 4-1 by my son (who had seen me do that the other day) only one of them has managed to make it past World 1-2 in the last 30 minutes.

So here’s the list of things your children won’t understand if you try to get them to play Super Mario Bros.:

  • Neither of them knew of two-player alternating as a concept. They certainly were unfamiliar with the alternation taking place when one player died rather than when one player cleared a level.
  • The idea that a game would not permit you to continue and would force you to start over if you lost all your lives was alien to them.
  • So was the idea that you couldn’t save your game and had to play through in one sitting.
  • They had never played a game where once you scrolled to the right you couldn’t go back to the left.
  • The stinginess of this game in handing out extra lives is shocking to them. Games from about Super Mario World on (maybe Mario 3) started handing out extra lives like candy.
  • Things Mario and Luigi can’t do compared to their experiences:
    • butt stomp
    • wall jump
    • slide (no slopes until Mario 3)
    • go from Fire to Super instead of small when getting hit
    • spin jump
    • pick up shells instead of kick them right away
  • They started whining and complaining in the way I am certain my brother did when I was a kid when I would just keep playing and playing and playing and he wouldn’t get to be Luigi for a pretty long time.

If you’ve done this with your kids or can think of any other likely things they don’t understand, post a comment and let me know. I doubt these two know anything of what a password is to continue a game, either.

On the other hand, there are some things that are still pretty masterful about this game and that play well. The jump “feel” is still awesome and they picked it up without too much trouble—I’m still watching them get a grasp on the acceleration and air control. They both knew about holding B to run and had a good understanding of the basic rules and physics of the game, and in that way I don’t think Mario has changed all that much (which is part of its appeal for me). They both knew 100 coins earns you another life.

What was most interesting to me was that other than the complaining about how they weren’t any good at it or that the other child was getting to play more—and both of them did this at different times—is that they had fun. As limited as the technology was at the time and as rough as the game looks compared to contemporary games, they still found aspects of it interesting and fun to discover. Joshua just warped to World 2 instead of World 4 just so he could see what it was like and how it’s different.

They’re even commenting on influences they see that went more or less directly into New Super Mario Bros. It’s interesting to think that in a small way the Mario series, with games separated by two decades, has provided us a shared language for games.

“King Of Kings”

This is one in a series of images from Okami recently posted at Dead End Thrills.

Seeing games like Okami or Xenoblade Chronicles running in high-definition via Dolphin only reinforces to me that the Wii had some amazing art direction in its games lineup that was hampered by the low resolution of the system’s output.

Not upscaling when using backwards-compatibility on the upcoming Wii U further compounds the error. These games would look great with a little upscaling and full-scene effects love, but we’re not going to get to see it.

Let’s Get Ready To Rummmmbllllle (via Penny Arcade)

This E3 has been difficult to observe usefully from afar, because merely watching doesn’t convey the data it used to: so much of the offering is directly experiential. People are waving things, or they’re waving their arms in front of things, or they’re looking at magical screens that shit is popping right out of. It would be like if a person came out and started talking about chocolate, and then ate some chocolate, and then walked off stage. That is not data. There’s so much conjecture that whatever you come up with is almost hopelessly attenuated.

This is very true of what I’ve seen of E3 from here. Motion controllers, insanely expensive 3D setups for your living room, and other insanity are ruling the day.

There will be more posts on this—of course—but hardware aside, the games that are being revealed make me very interested in the next 12 months or so.

As a bonus, the comic from yesterday is quite vulgar but also quite funny, and is a very apt description of what the three major press conferences were like at E3.

(via Penny Arcade – Let’s Get Ready To Rummmmbllllle.)

The Broad Appeal of iPad

Rob Foster:

The darndest thing happened in the last five days and I was fortunate to be privy to it. Apple has gotten people excited about computing.

But this time, it’s not nerds or geeks and certainly not IT industry analysts. It’s everyone else.

The last time I heard things like this, it was around the release of the Wii.

Yes, I Know It’s My Generation; That Doesn’t Mean I’m OK With This

I’m not sure how to feel about this:

miijesus.jpeg

I mean, on the one hand, you can’t fault them for looking to reach out and embrace the explosive popularity of the Wii and the theory that it will help people in their homes to evangelize when people as “Who’s that guy?”, but on the other hand, there’s the sticky issue of—you know—graven images and of the fact that this usually means that someone will have to play as Jesus.

If I’m going to give them any credit, it’s that they made him appropriately less… Caucasian than usually depicted.