Monday, December 4

Form Baton-Categorizing Gameplay

Nintendo's Software Planning & Development Division is ready to launch WarioWare: Smooth Moves for the Wii, however, the team faced a difficult hurdle in the games development. As the fifth game in the WarioWare series, the team knew full well exactly what makes a WarioWare title play so uniquely and well. For those who don't know, WarioWare has players completing very specific, seemingly random tasks, at a lightning fast pace. The player only has a moments warning to understand how to solve a microgame before time runs out and their turned to the next game. Its like playing epilepsy.
What the team didn't expect for this iteration of WarioWare, was the challenges presented by the Wii remote. The team came up with many new microgames for WarioWare, but they had trouble figuring out how each game should be controlled, and more importantly, how the player will know what to do when each microgame is presented. The Wii has nigh infinite possiblities in detecting motion, but unspecified solutions to each microgame would prove impossible for a player to complete them. Yoshio Sakamoto, software planner for the team, put the problem like this.
It's true that the Wii Remote allows for any number of ways to play a game, and is especially well matched with the WarioWare series, but because of this players are faced with the new problem of not knowing exactly what they are expected to do. Conveying this information to them posed a problem for us. With WarioWare speed is everything, people have five seconds at most to grasp the way they have to play. How to best communicate this became the first problem we were confronted with.
But later Sakamato would arrive upon a fantastic answer that would solve probably every issue the team was experiencing thus far.
We had a tendency to play it safe, selecting ideas where the player could hold the Remote normally and not be required to perform really tricky movements. Then it happened, a solution presented itself. I thought, why don't we tell the players to: "Hold it like this!" before each of the individual microgames starts. We implemented instructions saying: "Hold the Remote like this" and "Next, hold it like this."
They called it the "Form Baton." And what it does is basically categorize each microgame into one of seven styles of play. The player is told to hold the remote a certain way before each game begins. This way, defeating each microgame becomes a reasonable, if challenging, request upon the player. Here are a couple screenshots from the game, the second one is a demonstration of using the form baton:

The SPDD team came up with a very effective design response to their issue. By categorizing gameplay, or different styles to play each microgame, they could then implement the various control schemes into their many microgames. Plus, the Form Baton adds to the chaos that is WarioWare, forcing the player to go through just one more step each game. The solution may be simple, some might even say contrived, but theres no question that its effective.
What do you think of the Form Baton? What about categorizing gameplay?
What other examples of categorizing gameplay can you think of?
Please post any thoughts you have in the comments.
And thats the day numero two.

Source: Nintendo Europe: Iwata Asks

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