As those who’ve played Mario Kart DS know, Nintendo’s wifi system is not perfect. To play with other people, you need to know a 12 digit number that’s known as their “friend code”. Once you’ve added their friend code to your DS, you connect to the Nintendo Wifi network and set it to search for friends only. You then sit there while the system looks for any friends on your list who might be online, and if it finds any it’ll match you up with them.
Seems simple, right? Wrong. The fatal flaw in the system is that it’s just not fast enough. Exchanging such a long number is a real pain when you’re doing it in person (pen and paper time), and entering it into your DS is equally tiresome. And although the system usually manages to detect your friends instantly, it’ll hang for several minutes while it tries to find more players — even if you’ve got it set to only match you up with those on your friend list.
This means that what is an otherwise solid and easy-to-use system isn’t particularly pleasant to use. So when Nintendo let slip on a hidden official page (it was quickly pulled after being dugg) that the Wii is to feature the same friend code system, fans were naturally up in arms. Will a console that has the potential to offer the best multiplayer gaming ever be crippled with a terrible match making system?
The answer is no, but only if Nintendo learns from its mistakes with the DS. Although most people have had their Nintendo Wifi experiences with Mario Kart DS and it is indeed a pretty irritating system, the actual framework is completely solid. It’s only the implementation and interface that’s bad, and if this can be improved the Wii is likely to have excellent multiplayer gameplay.
For example, let’s imagine that you can force the game to start whenever you wish by initiating a “force start” vote. You press a button that indicates you wish to begin immediately, and if the other players agree by pressing the same button the game will start. No hanging around staring at an unusable screen while it tries to find non-existent friends, no hoping the other player(s) won’t leave due to boredom — it just begins.
Now let’s imagine that the friend list is actually given an interface. When trying to get a game going, your friend list appears on the screen with the online/offline status of your friends clearly indicated. If you don’t fancy playing with a particular friend, you simply press a certain button on their name and it’ll cross them out. Instead of shooting blind like on the DS, you’re back in control of exactly who you play with.
Really, the only problem with the friend code system is that it’s just not presented very well. The system itself is quick, efficient and stable, but little to no control is given to the players when it comes to the match making process. Even when you’ve got a specific friend in mind to play with and have them on your friend list, you haven’t got the ability to only play with that friend if some of your other friends (or his) happen to be online.
All that said, I haven’t a huge amount of experience with the Nintendo Wifi service, and many if not all of what I’ve just suggested may be available in other games. If this is the case, I’d really appreciate being told in a comment so I can put my mind to rest and look forward to the Wii’s multiplayer system without worry.
What do you guys think? Should Nintendo march on with their plans to continue developing the friend code system, or should they do something more akin to PC multiplayer where you’re placed into a lobby and choose a server from a list? Heck, they could feasibly do both, but I wouldn’t count on it. I’d personally by completely satisfied with a spruced-up version of the current system.
Oh, and yes, the GobLog is back! I moved host a while back and in the process wrecked the blog, leaving me in the unfortunate position of not being in the mood to fix it. It’s all repaired now though, and I’ve decided to ‘reboot’ the blog with a now exclusive focus on gaming as opposed to nothing in particular like before. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep the posts nice and frequent.