Producer: What The Wii Wheel Means For 'Speed Racer'

speedracerwii-screen_281.jpgThis morning, Nintendo announced that "Mario Kart Wii," packed-in with the Wii Wheel, will be out on April 27 in the U.S.

What's the wheel good for?

You might be curious how "Speed Racer," the first third-party title to use the Wii Wheel, worked with the new peripheral. We found out.

Just yesterday, I got a quick look at "Speed Racer," but unfortunately, the Wii Wheel wasn't present at our demo. So I asked WB Games producer Jeff Nachbaur how the Wii Wheel affected gameplay and development. When the Wii Wheel was announced at last year's E3 in July, the New Zealand-based development studio for the "Speed Racer" game, Sidhe, had been working on the title for about four months.

Nachbaur shot me some answers back via e-mail and even told me when the Wii Wheel makes the game better, and when it doesn't...

Multiplayer: After the Wii Wheel was announced, how did you decide to pursue making it work for "Speed Racer"? Did you approach Nintendo or did they approach you?

Nachbaur: We approached Nintendo. We asked them for a prototype of the wheel and they supplied us with one. We then began to rework our controls to adapt them so that the Wii Wheel worked well.

Multiplayer: How did Nintendo help with adapting the Wii Wheel for the game?

Nachbaur: They provided us with sample Wii Wheels.

Multiplayer: Was there any difficulty in adapting the controls for the Wii Wheel? Did it dramatically alter what you had been doing prior to the Wii Wheel integration?

Nachbaur: It was tricky to balance [the Wii Wheel] so that the player didn't oversteer... making it feel like a real steering wheel that works the way a real steering wheel works. [Adapting the controls to the Wii Wheel] wasn't really hard so much as it took a lot of iteration to get it working right. We had testers coming in regularly who had never played the game before to give us feedback until we finally got to a point where the people we brought in just got it.

Multiplayer: Does the Wii Wheel dramatically change the feel of the game, or is it a cosmetic difference?

Nachbaur: It adds a bit of heft and you hold it differently. It's more of a preference than a dramatic difference. In play testing the "Speed Racer" video game, we found half of the people preferred it, because it makes the Wii remote easier to hold on to and it uses a control mechanism that most of them use in their daily lives (the steering wheel). It isn't dramatic, but there definitely is a change in the way it feels... at least it is for myself.

Multiplayer: Do you prefer to use the Wii Wheel yourself?

Nachbaur: At first I did, because I was playing the game for shorter sessions and I wasn't as good at the game. But once the game was nearing completion and the gameplay was longer, I found myself leaning toward the Wii remote [only], primarily because holding the wheel up for hours was a bit more tiring as opposed to holding the Wii remote propped on my lap. I think it will really come down to your own personal preference. Both feel good... it's just a matter of what you prefer.