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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nintendo and their user training

So it's almost 3 weeks in for my 3DS ownership.... and about the 3D..... since I first saw it (which was only when I got the system) I've liked it. I have not experienced eye-strain or tired eyes or any of those symptoms that many complain about from the 3D. In fact, the 3D for the most part is comfortable with the exception of one 3D picture I took where I did a close-up of my action figures and really played around with the adjustable 3D camera setting-- I shifted it all the way to the right I think-- way beyond what was recommended... anyway, for some reason when I first look at that one pic, it HURTS my eyes, it takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. That's the only picture that affects my eyes in that way.

BUT... what I'm finding very vexing about the 3D is the EXTREMELY NARROW viewing angle of it. I'd heard a lot about that so I was prepared, but it is *extremely* narrow: With full 3D on, once you're in the sweet spot... if you move your head only ONE INCH to either side, it destroys the 3D effect. There is no middle ground, either the 3D effect is perfect or double images.

So the 3DS demands that you play it completely rigid with no movement of your head or the console itself. It's a big demand on the player.

I think back about the Wii, and how the Wii remote makes demands of gamers and developers. Wii owners have to accept that aiming in first-person shooters isn't going to be as sharp/quick as using an analogue stick to control camera movement. The Wii controls in general are not as fast as a Xbox or PS3 type of controller.

Nintendo is really re-training owners to adapt to the specific limitations of their systems. And with the 3DS viewing angle, it really gets me down sometimes. THAT is what gets me tired out, not the 3D itself but that it has to be perfectly still to work at all.

Although all 3DS games have the limited viewing angle, some games are worse than others. Pilot Wings Resort looks awesome in 3D, but the viewing angle is noticeably worse than my other games Super Monkey Ball 3D and Ridge Racer 3D. I don't know why. It's honestly very frustrating.

My previous handheld systems have all had pretty good viewing angles, and I never really had to think about the micro-movements I made while playing them.

That kind of ease of play is gone with the 3DS, just as the ease of play that gamers used to using a dualshock or Controller S disappeared when handed a Wii remote. The limited 3D viewing angle really sets up a barrier to enjoyment of the system.

I think about the problems that new forms of control or user interface present; like touchscreens such as on the iDevices or my phone. Before getting my phone in Dec 2010 I had previous experience with resistive (ugh) touchscreens but not much with capacitive (awesome) ones. But I found learning to use/navigate my phone via the touchscreen to be a very smooth & intuitive experience. So I don't think that it's simply a new form of interface which is Nintendo's problem. The 3D is just more difficult.

The bottom line is that this form of no-glasses 3D is very "prototype-y". I don't know how to improve the 3D but it seems like it needs very badly to have an improved viewing angle. I'm sure Nintendo is working on their next iteration of the 3DS already... if there is a way to improve it I guess they will. If so, I imagine this current 3DS will end up as obsolete as the original DS.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nintendo 3DS creaky Dpad

So....my Nintendo 3DS D-pad is getting creaky.

At first touch it seems better than the DS Lite's D-pad: that one has a more of a mushy feel to it. Even the Game Boy Micro's D-pad is tighter. But the 3DS D-pad is lower set than the DS Lite, tighter and more clicky. It actually felt really good at first.

But now when I press right direction on it, it's getting squeaky. Much like how the PSP-1000/2000 and PSPgo have squeaky D-pads. It's too bad, I wonder why this is so common?

UPDATE: I noticed there was some white dust/dirt/schmuckus of some sort in between the edge of the upper right side of the Dpad... I pulled it out and the squeaking disappeared! So that seems to have been the problem. Odd.

Reviews seem to largely ignore the 3DS D-pad, and a lot of the launch titles surprisingly seem to favour the circle pad... it's like Nintendo doesn't want people to use the D-pad or something... but I've been using it a fair amount like for racing games like the mini-game kart mode in Super Monkey Ball 3D and Ridge Racer 3D, and I have to say, the low placement of it is cramping up my thumb a bit. it's the same complaint people make about the low analogue nub placement on the PSP... but with a D-pad I think it's worse. I think I may have preferred that Nintendo had switched the circle pad & D-pad placement.

In other news, I took some pics comparing the 3DS analogue nub circle pad to the various PSP analogue nubs...

I was surprised that the circle pad is not much bigger than the PSP-2000 analogue nub. Basically, the PSP-2000 analogue nub is the same size as the inner circle part of the 3DS circle pad.

Of course the PSPgo analogue nub looks TINY compared to the 3DS...

The biggest differences between the Circle Pad & Analogue Nub...

Nintendo 3DS Circle Pad:
  • concave design
  • smooth but rubberized for grip
  • softer push but farther travel

Sony PSP Analogue Nub:
  • convex design
  • hard plastic but has little squarish textures to give it grip
  • takes a bit more effort to push it but has shorter travel

I don't know why everyone is saying the 3DS circle pad is better than the PSP analogue nub. Sure, a lot of launch games like Pilot Wings Resort and Super Monkey Ball 3D use the circle pad, but the problem is there aren't any third/first person shooters or action games to *really* test the mettle of the 3DS circle pad. I've been playing a DS game, MechAssault Phantom War on my 3DS and that's basically a third-person-shooter.... the circle pad handles it ok. I wouldn't say it's better than the PSP... just different, really.

And once NGP comes out with its actual analogue STICKS-- not just nubs but actual sticks that pivot, not slide-- that should blow away both of these controls... maybe? We'll see.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Face Raiders and the 3DS hinge problem

One of the games built-in to the 3DS is Face Raiders. In theory, it is a very fun idea but in reality, while it is fun, it also unfortunately showcases the some of the weaknesses of the 3DS design.

The biggest problem: the 3DS hinge. There is a little bit of jiggle. Which would be ok when playing the 3DS traditionally and not moving it around... as is how its played for most games. But Face Raiders *demands* that you physically move the 3DS around, that's how you aim at the faces. So you're holding the 3DS vertically the entire time AND swinging it around in the air. Knowing that a game they bundled inside the system *needs* this much movement to play, Nintendo should have heavily reinforced the hinge so that it's tight tight TIGHT. Also, they KNOW they included tilt/gryro controls into the thing... again, for these reasons why did they not spend extra time with the hinge area? If the 3DS was a one-piece unit like my HTC Legend phone or the PSP, then this wouldn't be an issue.

In fact, I have a pre-loaded marble tilt game on my HTC Legend and it plays great. In contrast, I just bought Super Monkey Ball 3D for the 3DS and the tilt controls are ok, but the loose hinge does cause a bit of annoyance.

As for Face Raiders, it's a great idea which actually works very well at capturing faces using the 3DS camera. As long as you line up the eyes and mouth markers correctly with the face, it will be able to effectively manipulate the face image's expression; making it evil or happy, etc. It's very cool to look at. Even if the face has a completely neutral expression-- in fact it works better if it does.

But... I honestly can't tell how the HELL to play this game. Sure, I know all you have to do is shoot the faces projected onto the background but there's certain things you have to do that I have no idea how to progress beyond. I'm on level 3, and the hint they give to defeating the boss is: "deflect the faces back at him". Ok....... so I shoot the faces, they turn upside down and a chime sounds, and the chime goes higher pitched (think Do Re Me La Fa Ti Do) if I'm somehow making progress.... but it's all so chaotic I have no idea what's going on.

Face Raiders reminds me of when I was a little kid and I'd come across an arcade game that I had no idea how to play but it was flashy & fun-looking so I'd pop a quarter into it and just press all the buttons like crazy until it said GAME OVER (and maybe even that wouldn't stop me from continuing/pretending to play it) yes Face Raiders is fun... I just wish it wasn't so random.