Multiplayer Archive: Week One

Multiplayer: We Chucked The Wii

So, can Nintendo's wild controller survive a good toss?

Commercials advertising Nintendo's Wii console show gamers pointing, shaking and twirling the machine's remote-shaped controller. Wii games launch with warning screens that advise players to wield their Wii controller with a wrist-strap attached. Shake it, but don't shake it too much, is Nintendo's message. But what if someone actually lets go?

We weren't trying. But we recently introduced one of MTV News' two Wii controllers to the unforgiving concrete newsroom floor. Here's what happened:

A bunch of us were testing mini-games in "Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz" Thursday. The game is stuffed with small challenges, like Monkey Fencing, Monkeysmith, Monkey Wars and Paper Sumo Fighter. Some are good — some not. We found a winner with Monkey Darts, which turns the TV screen into a dartboard and requires you to hold the Wii remote like it's a dart. You see a dart hovering on-screen, and as you pull back your hand, the end of the dart gets bigger, as if it's moving toward you. You chuck forward, and the dart flies.

Of course, you shouldn't actually let go of the controller during Monkey Darts. But MTV News reporter James Montgomery did, either accidentally, or — yeah, that's it — experimentally. The Wii-turned-dart sailed five feet forward and four feet down to the floor (James was sitting at the time). The battery hatch flew off. Two double-A batteries spilled out. A red disconnect error flashed on the screen. The room went quiet.

Montgomery picked up the pieces and reassembled the unit. He pressed a button and ... it worked!

Legend has it that Game Boy cartridges left in pants pockets still function after a cycle in the washing machine. The TV station G4 once smashed around a PS2, GameCube and Xbox, and only Nintendo's console still worked. Nintendo fans may be split about whether the company really just makes entertainment for kids, but there's no denying the Japanese game maker builds stuff that has the durability of a solid Tonka or Fisher Price.

To be fair, the Wii did crash once this past Saturday while logging out of a game of "Wii Sports." So the machine may still prove to not be the sturdiest. But it has worked fine since then. And now its controller has kissed the floor and lived to be played some more. So go nuts — leave off the wrist straps.

— Stephen Totilo




11.16.06

We're Staying Home On PS3 Launch Day — Even If Luda Shows

We're not camping out Thursday night.

We will stand with the majority of the country: We are not camping out for a PS3 Thursday night (November 16).

I thought I'd have a PS3 already actually, but a short-supplied Sony says I'll have to wait a little longer before it can supply MTV News with a unit. I did play the system a bunch of times throughout the year and had plenty of fun with the system. So it's not that I don't want one. And it's not like I don't need one to do my job.

But camping out isn't the answer. In case the reports in numerous big and small news outlets haven't made it clear, few people will be able to get a PS3 at launch. For days, financial analysts have been casting doubts that Sony can deliver even the 400,000 PS3s executives promised at launch for America this fall.

So if there's little chance of getting a PS3, maybe there'd be a chance to get some news? You never know, but so far it's not looking good. I covered a PSP launch event two years ago. People lined up. Celebrities milled around. A Sony exec sold the first unit to a happy customer. And in further news, the sun rose the next day.

I stopped by the Xbox 360 launch at the Toys "R" Us in New York's Times Square last year. People were lined up. Celebrities might have been milling around. I don't know — I went to eat steak.

This week Sony invited the press here in New York to a midnight launch at the company's Sony Style Store on Manhattan's East Side. Four-hundred first-come first-served fans will be able to buy a PS3, according to a press release that also notes, "Lines could form as early as three days in advance." Ludacris is supposed to be there too. Nintendo reps have invited reporters to that Times Square Toys "R" Us for their own event Saturday night. I'll skip that too.

It's exciting when a new system is launched, doubly exciting when two come over the course of a long weekend. But there's gaming, and then there's gaming hype. The gamer in me wants the new systems, but I've come to peace about waiting for a PS3. The reporter in me wants to cover news, but I think I might find more playing "Zelda" or finding a fellow reporter with a copy of "Resistance" and a PS3 on which to play it.

— Stephen Totilo




11.15.06

Counting Our Games — And Watering Plants

'Okami,' 'Bully,' 'Elite Beat Agents,' 'Gears of War,' keeping us busy.

There aren't many actual problems with owning a bunch of interesting new games, but if anything about that circumstance can be classified as troubling it's figuring out how to play them all at once. It's a bit of an issue this time of year, when a raft of big titles floats to the offices and one major game starts drawing attention away from another, until yet another distracts from that.

Last week I was out of the first town in "Okami," just past Halloween in "Bully," stuck in "Elite Beat Agents," on chapter three of "Gears of War," in the opening stage of "Yoshi's Island DS," riding the learning curve of "Every Extend Extra" and had finished downloading the beta build of "The Burning Crusade." And then the Wii showed up, and I've had no chance to return to any of those games — except the portable ones — since. I haven't even been able to touch the Wii in more than 24 hours.

I'll get back to all these games. For now you can consider this as a grand experiment to see whether games can withstand the distractions of other games, or if their plots are easily lost and confusion about what to do next in them overwhelms whatever makes them fun to play. Is this a criteria to which a game can be held? Should it require complete attention, like a novel? Or should it be able to tolerate a wandering eye and some game-playing infinitely, like an episode of a good TV show?

And on that last point, it is easy to be unfaithful to a game when so many stream into the office. Companies send top titles daily. Often the games are packaged with bonus swag, like the bean promoting the game "Death Jr." that MTV News reporter Chris Harris watered every three days starting two weeks ago and has flourished since. (Click here to see photos of the plant's impressive development.)

Once a week Multiplayer will provide a Stock Report that should give you a sense of what actually is streaming into the office and how companies are trying to grab our attention:

The Stock Report:

» Number of games at MTV HQ: 171 (21 games recently given to charity)

» Last three games to arrive: "NHL 2K7" (PS3), "NBA 2K7" (PS3), "My Frogger Toy Trials" (Nintendo DS)

» Last system to arrive: Nintendo Wii

» Last swag to arrive: "Sopranos" poker set and case

— Stephen Totilo




11.14.06

The Wii's Fight for Elbow Room

Forget wrist pain — controller is rougher on another joint.

The Wii used to make me worry about my wrists. Now I realize I should have been more concerned about my elbows.

I first played the Wii last December when it was called the Revolution (see "First Look: Nintendo Revolution Controller Feels Smooth As Puppet Strings"), and I've gotten my hands on the system a few times since. Each play session was kept brief, and each time I was left wondering if flicking the system's motion-sensitive controller would hurt my wrists, tire them or just become a bother in the long term.

I've probably played the Wii (delivered to MTV News on Friday) for eight hours now and have suffered no wrist problems. On the other hand — or joint — I've found myself repeatedly pressed for space to play. As noted in Monday's post and as I've discovered more since that writing, for this system, elbow room is key.

Those lucky enough to receive a Wii early from Nintendo were set up with two Wii controllers each. On Monday night, I took the two MTV News controllers down to the team at MTV Games, who have their own system and pair of remotes. We synced the controllers. I had saved a pair of Mii avatars I created on my own Wii and dropped them into their machine. That way I could play as my own Mii character on the Games guys' system. With all controllers armed, we tried a four-player game of "Wii Tennis."

The guys down at Games call the room we played in the "game cave." It's long, skinny and dimly lit. At one short end, they have a 40-inch high-def TV. There's enough width to the skinny room for people to grab a chair and a game controllers and battle out a match of "Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter." But four guys on their feet swinging Wii remotes during a tennis match was a problem in the cave. One guy was blocking another guy's view and his beam. No one really had any room to swing big.

We managed, and we had fun. But the geometry of the Wii is clear now. Little more than a couch-width may have been all the space required for four-player gaming in the pre-Wii era. Any Wii consumer's old game-playing real estate is going to need an upgrade.

— Stephen Totilo




11.13.06

Our Weekend With The Wii

Three days of nunchuck fiddling and 'Zelda' exploration with Nintendo's latest creation.

The last three days have been full of Wii. Here's what the system with the wild motion-sensitive remote-shaped controller has wrought:

On Friday, a Nintendo rep delivered a Wii to MTV News. It came in a plain white box and arrived in the back of a movie-prop police car. Regardless, the box sat in the office unopened for a few hours. Then came the unwrapping, followed by the squeals of delight from folks on the floor who felt Christmas had come early.

A crowd of writers, editors and producers gathered for an opening match of "Wii Sports" tennis, played by a couple of office novices who had never touched the system. They liked it. Then came some boxing from two neophytes who managed to exhaust themselves during a nine-minute fight. Then we all had to get back to work.

In the Wii instruction manual, Nintendo recommends that players stand three to eight feet away from their TV. The couch from which I play games at home is only about five feet from the TV. On Saturday, playing tennis with the Wii required me to stand in front of the couch, just three feet from the TV. Technically that works, but in practice, it felt cramped. When Microsoft launched the 360, the company brusquely told gamers that they would need a several-thousand-dollar high-definition to truly enjoy their system. Nintendo's machine seemingly requires rearranging furniture or, for squeezed urbanites, getting a bigger apartment.

Sunday was "Zelda" day. I gave the game a good four hours. "Zelda" uses two-hand controls — the remote in the right and the analog-stick "nunchuck" in the left. Many gamers' big question is how that set-up holds up for a long single-player game. The answer? It works well. For one thing, the three feet of cable that tethers the remote to the nunchuck frees the player's hands from the old confines of classic six-inch-wide controllers. One hand can be on your stomach, the other dangling over the armrest. Or one can be on your knee; the other, with elbow bent, pointing straight up. This is unexpected liberation, a radical departure from the confines of older game controllers. In the early going, the remote doesn't even need to always be pointed at the TV; only when you want to zoom in for a precise shot of the slingshot.

As for how the game plays? Early on, it feels like a remix of "Ocarina of Time," which, for most players, is surely a good thing.

And that's where the weekend ended.

— Stephen Totilo

(Read the current Multiplayer column.)

About this column: The average gamer doesn't have the time or cash to experience one-tenth of the games that come out every week. Collectively, the MTV News team does — and then some. With games streaming into the office each day, we see a lot, we play a lot and we remember a lot. We want to tell you what we're playing and what's worth caring about it, and we'll do it every day at MTV News: Multiplayer. To follow the column daily, bookmark multiplayer.mtv.com.