Wednesday Wii — Gunslinger Guy

So, wanting to do some pointing/tracking training on my left hand, which seems to be somewhat tremor-prone these days*, I went out and bought a handgun — well, OK, a gun-grip-shaped artifiact designed to hold the Wii controller — and a FPS-like game. I say FPS-like because it’s Link’s Crossbow Trainer, which is no better than an entry-level FPS. I figured I can use the gun-grip for both LCT and for things like the snowball game in Wii Fit Plus.**

Gun grip

The reason I went for a gun-grip is that the standard Wii controller isn’t really a point-and-shoot device. It’s a move-the-cursor-on-the-screen-and-shoot device. It’s like using a mouse. Your hand is over here, doing things, and your cursor is over there, doing things, and you need to coordinate them. Yes, it requires certain kinds of skills. No, they’re not the same kind of skills you need to aim at something. Trouble is, the Wii setup doesn’t let you aim.

Let me say that again. As far as I can tell, it is impossible to use the Nintendo Wii to play a game that requires actual aiming.

You see, the position of the cursor is determined by what the controller thinks its location is, relative to the the sensor bar attached to the Wii console. That sensor bar is, depending on your setup, stuck to the top of your TV screen, or to the bottom of same. The trouble is, the controller assumes the sensor bar is at the center of the screen, or very nearly. NOTE: The sensor bar doesn’t sense anything. It’s a couple of IR-LEDs, placed about 8″ apart. The controller does the sensing.

So, I ran an experiment. I took the rubber protective device off of the controller (I practice safe wii), and strapped a pointer to it (the controller, not the rubber) with a couple of elastic bands. I strapped the pointer to the side, and aligned it along the top edge of the controller (a yardstick didn’t work, BTW, because it blocked the controller’s view of the sensor). I stood far enough back that I didn’t poke my TV out and aimed the controller at the screen. In this experiment I didn’t even have a game open. The Wii Channels screen is ideal, because it gives a bit of a grid to measure things by. When the wii little finger was pointing at the center of the screen, you know where the pointer pointing? Not at the center. It didn’t point directly at the sensor bar, either, presumably because in the Settings section I told it where the sensor was and it compensated a bit, just not nearly enough.

When I go to the gun-grip, which requires you to remove both the rubber and the wrist restraint, I find that aiming directly at the center of the Channels screen puts the cursor almost exactly one ‘channel screen’ high. Interestingly, if I then rotate my body so the controller is pointing at the edge of the screen, the cursor is now pointing about half a channel screen inboard. This holds true no matter what view mode (stretch, zoom, etc) I am in. In order to have the Wii finger on the edge of the screen, the controller has to be pointing well off of it.

What this means, of course, is that the Wii control design is useless for games that require accurate simulation of the aiming process. I don’t know how the other consoles stack up in this regard. I assume the Kiniect allows accurate aiming, but I don’t have any idea how the Move would do.

How to fix it? Well, putting the sensor on the bottom (top) and telling the console it was on the top (bottom) didn’t help. Physically raising the sensor helped, some. Our sensor is below the bottom of the frame, not at the bottom of the picture area. If I put it up on a cereal box until it was almost centered, it almost worked, but blocked a bunch of the screen. A partial solution is to put a raised rear/front sight on the gun-grip. That will force you to aim lower/higher, and bring the finger closer to where it should be. That fixes the elevation problem, but it doesn’t help the azimuth problem. In point of fact, I can’t think of any workaround that will.

So, what is to be done? To quote Eric Morecombe — Not A Lot. The XBox/Kinect would probably do it, but I refuse to buy Microsoft products (don’t get me started), and the PlayStation Move might do it, but between Sony’s rootkit approach to DRM, their bait and switch on OtherOS for the PS3, and their recent systemic collapse, I trust them less than I do MS. It might be possible to buy a second sensor bar (about $4 on Amazon, plus shipping), and change the position of the LEDs. I’ll let you know if I try that.

*No, it’s not Parkinsons. My doc says that usually manifests itself in movement problems first. The thing that playing a weaker-hand FPS does for you is to get your brain moving again, creating new neurons to handle the new m0t0r skillz you are learning.

**Question, will the next version be Wii Fit ++ or Wii # ?

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