GameCube tech demo does things Wii can’t

Countless developers have cited the system’s inherent weaknesses, rather than their own effort, as the catalyst for poor Wii graphics.

When footage like this comes along, one can’t help but wonder.

Mined by the folks at Unseen 64, this tech demo was used in a May 2001 software development kit for the Nintendo GameCube. It hosts a virtual tour of eight rooms in Princess Peach’s Castle, each of which showcases an effect or feature possible with GameCube hardware.

Room two, for example, features large textures and mipmaps. Room three uses a massive spiral staircase to highlight specular, bump and shadow mapping. Antialiasing, texture projection, local lighting and more then-advanced graphics features are also showcased.

Features, I might add, you’re to believe Wii just can’t handle.

Of course, no reasonable human being expects Wii software to be as beautiful as BioShock or stunning as Mirror’s Edge. No one should be dissuaded from embracing Wii simply because some of its games could very well be mistaken for high-end Nintendo 64 software.

But when footage like this comes along, it reinforces the argument disappointed Wii owners have echoed for years, their plates filled with stale-looking, under-cooked development efforts priced for profit.

Why shouldn’t Wii games be pretty, too?

Bonny graphics, as our Scottish brethren might describe them, and innovative gameplay aren’t repellent features. They’re not oil and water, and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect both when dropping a Grant on a Wii game.

Particularly when a near decade-old piece of hardware was capable of just as much.

To argue otherwise, or say Wii gamers should expect and accept ugliness from their system, is self-defeating and serves only to promote the efforts of apparently effortless developers who, for example, cannot manage to get a certain Wii zombie game to look as good as a four-year-old zombie game on GameCube.

When footage like this comes along, it serves as a reminder of the truth behind Wii software. You buy the system. You buy the games. You should have the best of both worlds.

Disagree? Explain the twist.

21 Responses to GameCube tech demo does things Wii can’t

  1. William Fancypants says:

    That music sure is annoying.

  2. Jack says:

    Publishers and developers went where they thought the money was going to be. Key word, thought. Many of them, like Capcom with Dead Rising: Imminent Failure for the Wii, also approached Wii development with the wrong mindset when they did make their “attempt”: They approached it as Xbox 360 developers trying to shoe horn a game into the Wii platform. Then, when that game tanks, they’ll blame the system when the square peg doesn’t fit in the round hole, because that’s the easy thing to do.

    What they needed to do, and what you will now see going forward given the Wii’s install base, is a concerted effort to develop more Wii-exclusive games. And not by second string developer teams, as the starters develop for the 360/PS3, but with the big guns (like EA’s 50% pledge, for example). Ground up Wii titles. Not all developers or publishers will try this, of course, but there will certainly be more this year and next than we saw in 2008.

    Related to this, naturally, are all the developer studios and publishers that are shaving jobs right now. They blame the “recession” for the losses, because it’s convenient, but it’s not entirely truthful. Take Nintendo, for example. Have they shed many jobs during these tough economic times, or are they truly representing the “recession-proof” characteristic of the video games industry?

    Perhaps if developers thought more like Derek here, and were more realistic (and honest) with their budgets, time and aspirations, they’d experience less “restructuring” in this recession-proof industry. Pride is also a problem. I imagine there are many machismo developers out there that will continue to turn their noses up at Nintendo, even as their place of employment crumbles around them when their $80 million one-player, 6-hour shooter fails to make back its initial costs.

  3. Kale says:

    Does anyone else notice that “Castle” is misspelled in the opening? And I agree you should be able to have both.

    However, as a game artist, I can tell you the blame lies mostly with the artists in the industry. The vast majority of them simply aren’t motivated to work on low-end stuff. They (ignorantly) think that it should always take the latest and greatest hardware to really show off their capabilities and creative vision; in fact, this leads to the exact opposite result they are seeking in such philosophies. Truth be told, it’s the constraints and limitations of tools and materials that can define a work of art and truly demonstrate the artists’ actual abilities, not the equipment’s. Unfortunately, most artists in the game industry lack the actual artistic education to properly compose and design with low tech resources. They might have excellent expertise in 3D modeling or an in-depth understanding of Photoshop, but rarely do they have an honest comprehension of the principles of design, composition, and presentation. Once in a while we are given a gem such as Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3 (both of which have nearly flawless art direction) or even De Blob, and fuel is simply added to the fire when we see them contrasted against the rest of the crap.

    The rest of the blame can be simply pointed to corporate greed.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned Bio-Shock and Mirror’s Edge as visual examples. As a gamer, I appreciate their visuals for their successful context establishment; as an artist, I can tear them apart and make you reject those games forever for their inconsistencies and visual shortcomings. The black magic of “post processing” and countless gimmicky “buzz word” technologies has blinded gamers and tainted the art form. The only reason it works is because the average gamer has even less comprehension of the aforementioned concepts than the inept artists creating the game assets.

    This is what makes the Wii’s case interesting, though. Even the “average gamer” is starting to notice things. The sheer lack of effort and dedication in the visuals and presentation of most Wii games is nauseating and extremely disheartening. I don’t even remember the last time I turned on my Wii. I’ve been playing more Super Nintendo recently that Wii, and that’s only because I’m waiting for the DSi (my Lite is on the fritz). Hopefully Nintendo will begin to pay SOME attention to public feedback soon. Until then, I’ll probably stay busy playing Quake Live (look for Lord_Sharpie if you’re ever on)…..speaking of which, there’s another example of what I’m talking about. Look at how old that tech is, yet Quake Live, running on just the CPU in a web browser, looks more polished and more well designed than most Wii games…..

    Sorry for the rant…

  4. JagsRock95 says:

    I don’t understand why developers feel that just because a game has motion controls it can look like crap. the game can look good and have innovative controls, seriously stop being lazy. This video just proves that the wii is more than capable of doing this and more. the only games that Ive seen mush the envelope are galaxy, brawl, metroid prime 3, sonic unleashed, sonic and the black knight is looking impressive and the conduit is up and 6coming but what that’s only 6 games?! come on we totally deserve better. the argument that graphics don’t matter is bullsh*t why hold back the systems capabilities?!

  5. Ryu27 says:

    The problem with that tech demo is that you just need to add a character with medium polygon count and some enemies to drop frames to below 30fps.

    I could agree that most wii games are underdeveloped in the graphics department… but that tech demos doesn’t mean anything unless you are going to produce a MIST Game only.

    Just look a simple game like Mario Kart Wii… with characters low in polygons and very simple geometry.. with 2 o 3 simple effects added to the old Double Dash (bloom and blur)… the game drops from 60fps to 30 fps with 4 players or 2 + online.
    ¿Nintendo being lazy?

    People praise the graphics of Mario Galaxy, but what makes mario galaxy so great is the Art Direction, no the graphics itself… they use simple effects.. and (again) cartoonish characters and enemies always look fine with low polygons.. but try something a little more ambitious (SFIV, RE5) with something that is not cartoonish and the Wii will suffer.

    I get your point… developers are lazy with the Wii.. but is not the tech demo what proves it… are the games that are already out and look good.

  6. Liraco says:

    @Ryu: You never played F-Zero GX did you? 60-eye-melting-FPS, 30 cars, extra effects like displacement during turbos (that is disabled ONLY for multi-player because it has to do everything beautifully once for EACH extra player).

    Mario Kart Wii looks the way it does because Nintendo doesn’t have to try harder.

    I agree though that art direction is tons more important than horsepower to make a game look great.

    More “ambitious” titles like SF4 could be possible on the Wii with some actual EFFORT (just look at Tatsunoko vs capcom, blend it a bit with No More Heroes style cel-shading and it looks quite plausible).

    I’m so sad to have heard about Factor 5, I was looking forward to what they were up to (surely a jaw-dropping game as was Rogue Squadron oh so long ago.)

  7. Kale says:

    The vehicles in F-Zero GX had less that 500 polys each; geometric chicken feed, especially for the Gamecube (you want poly count bragging rights, look at Leon from RE4….the cinematic version had nearly 10k). And SF4 is impossible for the Wii. The game is running in the Unreal Engine 3; Wii doesn’t support the Shader Model 3 tech and doesn’t have nearly enough texture memory to make it worth the effort. This kinda points back to that “post-processing” thing I mentioned earlier. All the fluff and shine that gets slapped on top of everything on the 360 and PS3….SF4 is heavily dependent on it to achieve the artistic styling that Capcom wanted, and the Wii just isn’t capable, not without some serious artistic compromises, and that would defeat the purpose of what Capcom is trying to achieve with the game. In the end, this is all pointing to the possibility that Nintendo simply made too much of a compromise on the hardware design. It also suggests that maybe all the actual gamers who own a Wii need to face the music: we all got ripped off from the get-go. I’d have been happy with a full-fledged Game Cube 2.

  8. deepthought says:

    yeah man, the hardcore gamers deserve to have whatever the wii can do.

    but the casual crowd doesn’t care and wont reward those efforts. kinda a less than optimal situation.

    i don’t think it’s lazy. it’s just, what’s they’re incentive?

  9. Ryu27 says:

    @Liraco: Tatsunoko vs Capcom is miles away from SFIV in the graphics department.

    The problem is that people think that if “looks right or beautiful or colorful, its because a great GPU/CPU”, but that is not the point… if you look at the close ups of SFIV when you are doing a Special Move.. you know that those characters are really high on detail, and i didnt even mention the backgrounds.. everything in full time render, no pre-renders.

    The answer was already given by Jack… you need to produce games specifically for the Wii to achieve better graphics… ports doesn’t work because the Wii GPU is complety different to those from PS3 and 360. But when you face the cost vs profits, maybe the extra effort is not worth it.

    But i think the Wii limited capacities is making some developers taking a more artistic approach to games (World of Goo, MG, MadWorld).
    Instead of doing the obvious (Photorealistic environments) they are playing with artistic concepts to tell or represent a story with those limited tools.. and this is positive too.

  10. Liraco says:

    500 polygons per car, really?
    Those great textures sure had me fooled then. And yes, Leon did have close to 10k polygons on the GC which had to be slashed by quite a bit for the PS2 version.

    Seems like you missed my point about having a good art style to make a good-looking game. I never said it would be 100% the same thing as the arcade version, I said that it’d be possible to do something quite good looking taking SF4 and putting it on the Wii if they put some effort into it. Sure, maybe the style would change somewhat (which would be better than just downgrading everything like Dead Rising) but the core game would still be there.

    The only way to really get across to developers is to vote with your money. I’ll be supporting The Conduit and Mad World for that reason.

  11. Verius says:

    I’m pretty sure the casual gamers will pick up on the half ass graphics on some of the wii games sooner or later. Its gonna hurt the industry if they don’t pick up the ball.

  12. deepthought says:

    @ verius

    why would the casuals care? they already knew that they were buying a system that couldn’t produce the graphics of a ps60. why should they care that the graphics aren’t even what the system could produce.

    i contend that casuals are happy enough just to swing their arms and pretend to play tennis or lean side to side and pretend to exercise. pretending to do those things in 480p really isn’t an interest.

    lata- i’m gonna go pretend to kill zombies.

  13. deepthought says:

    also, a boy and his blob is coming out! with HAND DRAWN animation! how cool is that??

    now we just need a new startropics…. sry for the offtopic, i got excited and wanted to share

  14. Lyskan says:

    The first thing I gotta say is “How’re the graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaphics?” In my opinion, graphics do not make a game. Just because you don’t have the most up to date graphics doesn’t mean you can’t have a great looking game (Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime, Paper Mario, World of Goo).

  15. Dr. Rock says:

    I’m starting to feel for the console, how mis-treated it is. If the cube can do that, then the Wii most to 3-4 times better, thats my guess..

    And I think its getting too late to figure that out for the developers who just suck at making good looking games, like there are 5-7 games that are announced that looks decent, good and one that just kicks ass, The Conduit, i want to head shoot some aliens!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Jack says:

    @deepthought: “i don’t think it’s lazy. it’s just, what’s they’re incentive?”

    Oh I dunno, maybe “beat NIntendo at their own game, which is making billions of dollars on several different typed of game IP?” So the “incentive” is easy: make millions! The potential is there, as Nintendo has proved, yet lazy or amazingly risk-averse developers choose (lazy) not to make the effort. But like I said, critical mass in the installed base is changing that dynamic.

  17. nw15062 says:

    Wait till Dragon Quest X for the wii comes out now that will be killa, square-enix does not play around when it comes to graphics, look at the best looking 3d wiiware game, or any DS game they made with final fantasy in the title.

    DeadSpace for the wii looks stunning for a Wii game, far better then most ports that I have seen, from what I understand Deadspace was originally intended for the reg Xbox, and was delayed for the 360/psn, but the wii port is a enhanced XboxOne port rather then a down port of the final 360/PSN version.

    A good artist can use any utensil and surface to form good art. Innovation is the muse not excessive resources. My favorite games right now seem to be on the DS half are remakes of classics from a system far older and more restrictive.

  18. deepthought says:

    @ jack

    but that next wii sports game isn’t exactly a graphical wonder. and it’s gonna sell a gajillion copies.

    that is, nintendo’s own game isnt gorgeous graphics. and therefore graphics aren’t needed to compete with big N.

    it’s all about waving your arms or body for the casuals.

  19. ResidentialEvil says:

    “The first thing I gotta say is “How’re the graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaphics?” In my opinion, graphics do not make a game. Just because you don’t have the most up to date graphics doesn’t mean you can’t have a great looking game (Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime, Paper Mario, World of Goo).”

    Welcome to the discussion strawman. No one said anything to the contrary to what you posted. You’ve missed the entire point of this article.

    This isn’t a “graphics vs. gameplay” argument that for some reason it always is boiled down to. The point is way too many developers are taking that “graphics don’t matter” to an extreme to where we’re not even getting graphics that would be ok on the GC. I don’t care how you slice it, that’s pretty unacceptable.

    And I have to side with deepthought a bit…what is the incentive. I seriously doubt the casuals are ever going to care, because even today most casuals are content with Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Wii Play. None of those are graphical wonders by any stretch, in fact they “bad” by GC standards. Casuals are still playing those games and usually only those games.

  20. Jeff says:

    More casual utopia claims from people who believe that Carnival Games is the #1 selling game on the Wii for some reason.

    What’s interesting about all the “casual” games that are the #1 sellers on the Wii, all of them come with something.

    Wii Sports comes with… well, the Wii.
    Wii Play comes with those precious extra controllers
    Wii Fit comes with a Balance Board.

    Only Wii Music is left to fend for itself and so far it hasn’t sold more than games like Zelda and Mario Galaxy and SSBB.

    And those 3 previous games show the absolutely proven desire for more sophisticated designs on games. Heck SSBB proves there is a huge market for fighting games on it, what with it being the best selling fighting game of all time and all. Third parties and Wii Critics would like everyone to believe that the Wii is populated solely by casual gamers, but the evidence just doesn’t pan that out. If anything, the evidence of SSBB, Zelda, Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart (soon to be the highest selling racing game of all time), and even Metroid Prime 3 (which has sold more than, say, Big Beach Sports and Super Metroid) prove the contrary.

    And so damning is this evidence that the immediate response is to say that if a game is successful on the Wii, it must have been “casualized.” This charge is levied mainly against SSBB and Mario Kart. And yet no proof is ever given, other than the vagaries of “aesthetics” and something about the Wii Wheel, and having its popularity turned against with the label of “party game.”

    The incentives are there, like Jack said. I always heard making a lot of money is what these companies wanted to do. And now somehow economic development and artistic direction and graphical effort are mutually exclusive.

    But they may be harder to get these days due to YEARS of neglect and abuse of Wii owners in the face of the one developer who gave a crap 100% of the time. Not only do they have to face the multiple-award-winning Nintendo development staff, they have to face their own stained reputations on the Wii, which is entirely their own fault. Nobody forced them to make garbage and believe falsehoods about the Wiis audience.

    The Wii owners have spoken, and they have mostly chosen those games with the highest values of effort. Yes, they may groan as Nintendo leads their consoles yet again (as most first party studios usually do, historically) just like they may groan that the Yankees won the World Series again and the class nerd got another 100 on a test and threw the curve off. But until they make games that are worthy to rival those of Nintendo’s, and back these games with their full hearts and efforts, like Nintendo games on a routine basis, they will get zero money and sympathy, and have to sit in the corner as Nintendo pulls down billions.

    (As a PS, I think the complete dismissal of new gamers’ judgments as stupid is wrong, mainly because the majority of those shovelware games have failed to garner any more sales than an English guide on the Japanese DS. They really aren’t flocking to the titles being purported as what they most innately desire. So maybe their judgment is a littler better than anybody thought.)

  21. Lance says:

    As much as I like the ghe system and games, why couldn’t Nintendo just stick to these visuals for Mario games instead of the way too bright primary colors of recent Mario titles. They’re fun and all, but I think Nintendo could’ve easily used this kind of visual style for many of their games. It’s a shame that they never truly tapped in to the full potential of the game cube, and so far the Wii. Mario Galaxy, Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime, and Smash all looked great, but it’s clear that they could’ve looked better. But that’s not always the case with games. It’s more aobut the fun than the visuals.

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