Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Getting Innovation Wrong

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 3 May 2011 16:00
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All of which leads me in the least direct possible way to Project Cafe, the new Nintendo console that everyone is apparently convinced will be officially announced at E3. Now, I'd hate to start talking it down at this point from just the tiny details we've been able to gather about it ... oh, wait. Sorry, that should have read "I'd love to start talking it down at this point from just the tiny details we've been able to gather about it." So let's do that.

So far it can be pretty safely assumed it's got HD graphics that can compete with the PS3 and 360, which means hurray, another platform that will be out of the reach of decent third party support. But with the Wii and 3DS innovation one-two punch that dismally failed to connect, what kind of hardware will Nintendo lead their next blow with? Details of the controller are still speculative, but from what I can gather, it's moving back towards the Gamecube style - which I thoroughly support because that whole nunchuck arrangement was like playing a guitar that had half its strings on the wrong side of the neck and the other half on a different guitar altogether - and will incorporate both Sixaxis-style motion control and a DS-style touch screen.

Now, tell me this whole image doesn't smack a little of "kitchen sink" design, of throwing everything together into one package to see what happens. Tell me it doesn't also bring to mind an image of Nintendo on its knees, clawing at its head and screaming "What the hell do you people want?" Now, I do like the DS touch screen, I think it adds a new dimension to games and tapping it with the stylus has the kind of tactile feedback that mashing your oafish fingertips against a similar screen lacks, but part of the reason why it works is because it's right next to the screen where the action's going on.

I'm trying to think of ways to employ a touch screen and a TV, and the problem I keep bumping against is that the player can only look at one screen at a time. And if you used the touch screen for extra contextual buttons then you'll run into the iPhone game problem that there'll be no physical feedback. One thing I suppose you could use it for is as the in-game PDA where you keep your map and inventory screen, but I never had a problem with how these usually worked before, by pausing the game and going to a menu. Generally if I want to check the map or manage my inventory I'm going to want the game to be paused because a zombie might come up while I'm staring at my lap and try to grab my nipples through my spine.

I'm not sure it's going to be what's going to get console gaming out of this weird little experimental transitional phase, but we'd better come up with something soon or the poor innocent children (handhelds) will continue to be bewitched by strange men offering sweets (3D) as the next leap forward is sought. What we need is another "dual analog sticks," another controller innovation that makes us wonder how we ever did without it. I never seem to use my pinky fingers on a standard controller, maybe we could think of something for them to do. Like a "suggestive and vaguely insulting gesture" button.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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