Iwata Asks: Wii U GamePad, Transmission Difficulties, NOAs Involvement, NFC and More

We knew a new Iwata Asks about the Wii U GamePad was coming, and here it is! Theres a ton of details here, but it’s quite easy to see we may be in for a second instalment…

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  • Yamashita worked on overall software
  • He also worked with Iwamoto on doing firmware for the GamePad and software for connecting GamePad to Wii U
  • GamePad isn\’t for processing games
  • Instead, it sends various signals to the console, which sends things back to GamePad
  • Ito worked on system design, as well as details on sending/receiving images on the GamePad
  • Mae worked on wireless communication tech
  • Ibuki worked on industrial design
  • Nintendo used 3D printing to get prototypes for the GamePad to get a good feel for them
  • Some models were carved by hand
  • Clay was used for some model design
  • Iwamoto worked on software for controlling the GamePad
  • There were language and time difference issues within the team that caused issues during development
  • Nintendo would phone out to NoA and have conversations that would last until 1 in the morning
  • Making a controller that conveyed images quickly and without lag was a challenge
  • The team worked hard to tackle latency issues
  • Nintendo worked with various companies to get past these latency issues
  • The process involves doing a series of actions, compressing Wii U images, sending them wirelessly as radio waves, receive and decompressing them on the GamePad and then displaying them
  • Images were broken down into smaller images to reduce delay
  • Generally, compression for a single screen can be done per a 16×16 macroblock14. And on Wii U, it rapidly compress the data, and the moment the data has built up to a packet-size15 that can be sent, it sends it to the Wii U GamePad.
  • Data would come in rapidly in small portions, which made it difficult to put them together and deliver quickly
  • Wireless communication issues also cropped up due to users holding the GamePad and moving it around, because of the Doppler effect*
  • Even the amount of water in the human body can interfere with radio waves
  • Distances you can use the GamePad from will vary, depending on your setup
  • It may work through walls, depending on materials used
  • A metal TV stand may deflect radio waves, making for a less usable range
  • Biggest wireless issue was the sending after compression for CG
  • The team needed more bitrate than they originally thought to make nice-looking images
  • First image test was a static image
  • Then the team moved onto moving images, like a moving cube and a grid that flew towards you
  • The moving grid caused such an issue that before E3 2011, Nintendo had an emergency meeting to figure out how they could tackle the issue
  • It took Nintendo roughly a year to iron out these issues
  • Nintendo would hold phone calls twice a day to figure out how to tackle this issue
  • Nintendo also found image issues when bringing screens from TV to GamePad when trying other tests out
  • At E3, Itoi and Yamashita were working with dev teams to discuss this issue
  • The issues were most notable with fade-in and fade-out
  • The noticed this same issue with Mario when coins would fill the screen
  • Nintendo worked with Broadcom to tackle these problems
  • There were big changes during the GamePad’s development at least 3 or 4 times
  • Original design was flat without grips
  • Changes were made when the team tried playing Super Mario Bros. (NES) with the GamePad and they found it was difficult
  • The team started from the beginning to make it better
  • Iwata and Miyamoto lobbied for the changes
  • The grips that were added weren\’t finalized until the very end
  • They were more flat, square shaped
  • The dev team took a survey to see which style worked better, but the votes ended up divided
  • A design that wouldn\’t tire players, was most comfortable in all size hands is what won out
  • Various designs were carved by hand
  • These designs were tested and proved to be too hard to hold
  • The team also worked hard to make the controller light
  • The chassis protects the screen, which was originally going to be made of aluminum and magnesium
  • The team eventually decided on a resin chassis to slim the controller down
  • The controller, at 500 grams, is as light as it can be without causing durability issues
  • The team worked harder on this controller than any other
  • It was so rough that old employees told new employees that it’s not usually this hard to work on controllers
  • Nintendo had to work on getting the NFC, the TV control button, and the geomagnetic sensor to work together
  • The dev team was actually shocked that Iwata announce NFC tech, as devs were just tackling it at that time
  • There are times when the GamePad will display images faster than the TV
  • The team feels the camera can be a completely new input method for games
  • The idea for a camera was originally abandoned
  • Talk then came back to capturing still images, then processing 5FPS video, then the team aimed for 30FPS
  • Camera has to perform compression/decompression twice, but does so with little delay
  • When you draw, the touch input goes to the console then returns as an image on the GamePad

*Doppler effect: This is a phenomenon observed when wave frequencies differ due to relative speeds between an observer and the source of electromagnetic and sound waves.

As you can see there’s no discussion about button layout, third-party input, touch screen, stylus, speaker, rumble, on-board memory, synchronising and battery life. It’s pretty safe to assume there will be a part 2 coming some point before launch.

[Source]

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