I have no idea what NiGHTS is about, really. I never played the original game, and all I can tell from the videos I’ve seen is it pretty trippy.
I still don’t really know anything about the game. But according to Joystiq, apparently it’s now going to make use of the Wii’s Forecast channel to create real time weather effects in the game. If it’s snowing outside, it will be snowing in the game, too.
Personally, I’m not terribly excited by this. It’s a neat feature, but you can imagine that people living in, say, Arizona aren’t going to be benefiting very much from it. So why am I posting about this? Well, even though the weather feature in NiGHTS isn’t a very big deal in itself, it offers some insight into the relationship between Wii games and their channels. And that, ultimately, might give us some guesses as to how Nintendo’s online plans will work.
We already know that games can make use of Miis that you’ve made (although only first party games have taken advantage of this so far). We also know that there is at least a limited amount of information that can be sent from one Wii to another in-game. Elebits allows you to design your own levels and then send them to people on your friends list. It does this by basically piggybacking on the Wii’s messaging system. Instead of sending the words “Hi how are you?” to your friend, it sends a stream of data that allows them to recreate the level you’ve made. And now we’ve found that NiGHTS can make use of data that’s been downloaded to the Forecast channel.
So it turns out that even third parties have access, at least to some extent, to the Wii Channels. And depending on future channels that Nintendo might release, we could be in for some really neat effects. Imagine walking around someone’s office in a videogame and seeing news clippings with real news stories on the wall. Or fighting different sets of monsters depending on how people are responding to polls in the Everybody Votes Channel. Or meeting a Psycho Mantis-like character who checks your Virtual Console downloads and then “reads” your mind to find out what kind of games you like to play.
What does this have to do with online play? Well, in direct terms, it doesn’t mean much. We still don’t know whether Nintendo intends to use individual friend codes for each game or if they will be content to simply let each game use Wii system codes. But the fact that they are letting third parties make use of content from the Channels suggests to me that Nintendo might be trusting third parties enough to let them fiddle around deeper in the Wii’s innards than you might think. Maybe we really will be using Wii system codes instead of entering individual friend codes for each game.
By the way, in the latest edition of IGN Wii-kly (which is a worthwhile listen), Matt Cassamassina reveals that Mario Strikers is going to allow you to either play online with your buddies or simply play with a random person from the world. I don’t know whether to believe him, but if what he says is true, this would be another point against the idea that the Wii’s online games will use individual friend codes.