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The challenges of Wii lightsaber control

7 Nov, 2007

Two upcoming games offer lightsaber control via the Wii remote - Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and the still-very-much-under-wraps Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Having already sampled the former, we know that the on-screen saber-wielder performs only a loose interpretation of the gestures executed by the player. So why are we not given complete control over our luminescent stick?

Jonathan Smith from TT Games - the developer behind the brilliant Lego Star Wars series - offered an explanation during the recent GameCity Festival in Nottingham: "It's partly to do with the technical limitations of how the Wii actually works, but mostly to do with how difficult the task actually is, for both design and technical reasons... the way you have to tackle the animation for a character that can mimic your movements is quite intimidating."

Despite Smith acknowledging that complete control was a "very natural thing to want to happen", in practice it would have some major drawbacks and wouldn't be conducive to a fun gaming experience. "When I play a game I want to feel like I'm a Jedi, not like I'm some kind of imbecile who just keeps on stabbing stuff in the guts. You're not going to be able to fight with style because you won't know how to put the moves together. There's always got to be some sort of interface between what you're doing and how the character's making you feel cool. That's a design problem on top of the technical problem."



While we can't help but be a bit bummed to be limited to fairly broad gestures when we feel that we really want precise duplication of our swooshery, Smith's reasoning does make sense. After all, how many of us would be reduced to ugly hack-and-slashery upon realising that we really aren't elegant swordsmen? However, Smith doesn't go so far as to say that it's completely impossible. "I don't know how Force Unleashed is tackling it or what will happen in the future with Star Wars or other sword-based games. There's smarter people than me working on the platform, so..." We guess we'll have to wait and see.

One thing Smith did seem certain of, however, was the continuation of the Lego Star Wars franchise, despite the series having now covered all six films. "Is there any more life in Lego Star Wars in terms of opportunity? Yes. There are always new things that can be done and I think the Star Wars Universe is so big and the opportunities for making games are so generally unexplored that there is lots of stuff that could be done. Particularly in a Lego way." Hmmm. How very intriguing.

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