Hands-on: Revolution Dev Kit
We take the basic Revolution controller development kit for a ride. How does it work? Details inside.
by Matt Casamassina (http://revolution.ign.com/email.html)
March 9, 2006 - Nintendo's vice president of sales and marketing, Reggie Fils-Aime, recently revealed that more than 1,000 Revolution controller development kits have been sent out to various software houses in order to familiarize studios with the workings of the device. IGN Revolution had the chance to go hands-on with one of these "kits," and we have new details on its basic setup, including how it looks and feels.
Readers should note that the Revolution controller-specific development kits sent out to some third parties, as described by Fils-Aime, offer little insight into the horsepower of the new generation console. These kits are very preliminary, intended only to demonstrate to potential developers how the controller may function. Most major third parties have since received updated revisions of the Revolution hardware more reflective of final systems. One thing is crystal clear from the controller-based development kits, though: Revolution will definitely operate as an extension of the GameCube hardware. These preliminary kits include only a wired Revolution controller, a wired nunchuck attachment and a wired motion bar, which some studios have labeled the "wand." So the obvious question is, how can developers possibly hope to test any of this gear out? The answer is simple: the controller and its attachments plug into existing GameCube development hardware.
The wired Revolution controller is inserted into a control socket on the GameCube hardware. The nunchuck unit connects to the freehand-style controller via a makeshift Ethernet cable. And the so-called wand plugs into a Memory Pak slot on the GCN development hardware. A software solution undoubtedly resolves any initial compatibility issues. Studios have been told by Nintendo (http://revolution.ign.com/articles/694/694785p1.html#) to experiment from there.
The freehand-style controller is small -- miniscule compared to a GCN controller.
The freehand-style remote included in the preliminary kit is neither as well produced nor as finalized as the slick hardware Nintendo has showcased in official photos. It's not wireless, for starters. But even from a visual standpoint, it's different, sporting a grayish color and a flimsy, plastic-like design. It's much lighter in the hands than we had anticipated, which makes sense given that it doesn't use batteries. The unit is powered through its wired connection to the GCN development hardware. The final, wireless controller will need batteries, which should give it some weight. One attribute about the controller that may be difficult to ascertain from photos is its size. For as many times as we've seen it in various videos and pictures, we're surprised at how tiny the device feels in the hands. The freehand unit is much smaller than the remote that ships with the premium package of Xbox 360, by comparison. Despite how small it is, it's very natural to hold. The peripheral offers extremely intuitive access to the A button, D-Pad and underbelly B-trigger, all of which are properly labeled. Interestingly, the A and B buttons located beneath the mysterious home key are labeled twice: A and B in capital letters and again in lowercase letters. We're not sure why. The buttons themselves are clicky, not unlike those found on a Game Boy Advance SP (http://revolution.ign.com/articles/694/694785p1.html#).
Artist rendering: The motion sensory bar looks like a black baton on a stand.
The nunchuck unit is snugly held in the opposite hand and the Ethernet wire connecting it to the Revmote is obviously far from final. The two shoulder buttons on the development nunchuck unit are not labeled. Finally, there's the motion sensory bar, which is a thin black device in the shape of a baton that sits on a tiny stand near or on a television. Nintendo has stated that this bar is a prototype and therefore the unit that ships with the basic developer kit shouldn't be considered final in any way. It is about a foot long and relatively unobtrusive, except for a wire that extends from one side and plugs into the GCN dev kit's Memory Pak slot.
We were disappointingly unable to test any software with the development controller.
Most software houses working with this kit have only a vague idea about what to expect from Revolution where horsepower is concerned. Studio sources regularly reiterate previously reported projections that the hardware will be roughly twice as powerful as GameCube. Development insiders we've spoken to seem unconcerned with power and instead focused on the gameplay possibilities that the new controller may help realize.
IGN Revolution will have more as it breaks.