Jokes about waggle have become ubiquitous fodder — this console generation’s World War 2 shooter references– that can be deployed without any particular tact or skill for immediate hilarity. Generally, I disagree with any community-wide consensuses (consensi?) of this nature. Mob mentality often curbs the supple opinions of enthusiasts into misinformed regurgitations for the sweet, treasured acceptance that comes with universal agreement. This phenomenon tends to be even stronger in subcultures with a marked lack of social graces. While I love disagreeing with the masses for the sake of measured and intellectual discussion, this time I can’t. Waggle sucks, as it is both pointless and annoying in equal measure.
Do it again and we might waggle these here torches near your house.
I won’t make excuses – lazy development constitutes a large percentage of the waggle issue. Instead of tailoring the game play experience around a fundamentally new interface, they simply adapt old designs as quickly as possible. Another big factor – and far more emotionally resonant with gamers jilted by the Wii – is that the Wii Remote didn’t turn out to be as accurate as we all assumed it would be. Nintendo carrot-and-sticked us into thinking it was what MotionPlus will soon make it (unless they’re doing it again).
Then again, these are factors but not the originating problem. Until this point all games, excepting some eccentric arcade games, have employed interpretive controls. A player presses a button or a direction on a joystick, and this real world action triggers a corresponding virtual one. You press A and Mario jumps. Motion controls should’ve changed this process – most importantly the timing and sequence of virtual events, but it didn’t. Why is that?
Wii controls are not supposed to be interpretive, or at the very least less so. A player does a motion in real life – swing or thrust the Wii Remote – and that is the virtual action. You swing the Wii Remote and Link swings the sword, or more accurately you try to draw a giant heart in the air and the dumb skier in SSX Blur still won’t do an uber trick goddamnit. Instead of the player performing an action to trigger a virtual event, they are performing the event itself. This poses a paradox when it comes to traditional control timing.
Waggle happens because developers still use motion as a trigger. Here’s an example; a player swings a Wii Remote in a sword fighting game. After swinging, the game recognizes the motion and triggers the on-screen character to attack his opponent with a swinging animation. By traditional sensibilities, there’s no problem, but motion controls change the way players think about controls and create an illusion of interface. Once a player swings the Wii Remote, they’ve already done the action. The character on screen should have already slashed, but they haven’t. Having the on-screen character slash shortly after the player already has creates a disconnect between action taken in the real world and the game’s response. When the game behaves in this way, why swing a Wii Remote around like a moron when buttons are much more accurate and wouldn’t produce false positives?
This produces a real conundrum though. How do you synchronize the two events? The trick, at least in the sword fighting sense, is to skip the interstitial animation entirely. No More Heroes exemplifies this perfectly. When the time comes to slash an enemy, Travis winds up in slow motion. Once the player slashes the Wii Remote, it skips Travis ahead instantly to finishing the slash with accompanying beheading and fountain of blood. Handling the animation in this way – getting rid of it entirely – enforces the illusion of control. Swinging the Wii Remote caused this poor chump to lose is head instead of triggering the animation that does it. With any luck MotionPlus will make all this moot. Instead of a binary yes/no tied to every animation, games will tie animation directly to player action. Motion controls are a brave new world, but the same button-based school of animation and interaction renders them absolutely meaningless.