Does the Wii U’s ‘horrible, slow’ CPU mean that it is a weak system?
I’m supposed to be “on vacation” now, not writing editorials. But, after witnessing the whole hullabaloo/bloodbath going on with 4A Games’ recent comments about the Wii U’s “horrible, slow CPU” , I felt like I wanted to help everyone to remain grounded in common sense. Let’s first see how THQ’s PR tried to explain what really went on, and then I’ll make my comments.
THQ’s Attempt At Calming the Storm
“I think there was one comment made by Oles the programmer – the guy who built the engine. It’s a very CPU intensive game. I think it’s been verified by plenty of other sources, including your own Digital Foundry guys, that the CPU on Wii U on the face of it isn’t as fast as some of the other consoles out there. Lots of developers are finding ways to get around that because of other interesting parts of the platform.
I think that what frustrates me about the way the story’s been spun out is that there’s been no opportunity to say, ‘Well, yes, on that one individual piece maybe it’s not as… maybe his opinion is that it’s not as easy for the way that the 4A engine’s been built as is the others.
What it doesn’t go on to look at is to say that, you know, we could probably get around that. We could probably get Metro to run on an iPad if we wanted, or on pretty much anything. Just as in the same way that between PC and current console versions there are some compromises that need to be made in certain places and we strive to get the very best performance that we can from any platform we release on.
But I understand that there’s a real appetite in the media at the moment because the Wii U is a hot topic to spam som
We looked at Wii U as a target platform. It’s a really small studio. There were 50 for Metro 2033, there are 80 now. With Metro 2033 most of their experience was with the PC. The Xbox 360 was their first console version. We’ve now added PlayStation 3 to the mix.
We genuinely looked at what it would take to bring the game to Wii U. It’s certainly possible, and it’s something we thought we’d like to do. The reality is that would mean a dedicated team, dedicated time and effort, and it would either result in a detriment to what we’re trying to focus on, already adding a PlayStation 3 SKU, or we probably wouldn’t be able to do the Wii U version the justice that we’d want.
It would be a port or we wouldn’t be able to get to grips with the system. That’s really the essence of it. It’s something we can potentially look at and return to later. Given the targets we’ve set for the game, it didn’t make sense to proceed with it at this point.” – THQ’s Huw Beynon
Some Common Sense
My understanding of it is that every single gaming system is unique and must be understood for itself. You can’t point to one single aspect of a system and expect it define the entire capabilities of the system. The Wii U may have a more limited CPU, but then again, it has more powerful GPU. In order for developers to really utilize the Wii U they will have to work with it, understand it’s distinct flavor, and then create an engine that will take full advantage of what it has to offer. I think that once we see developers fully taking advantage of the Wii U with games built ground up for the system by a team who has already had experience with the system, the graphics will be better than what we currently see on the Xbox 360 and PS3. But, for quick ports of games originally made for other system’s hardware, it probably is merely adequate. It has the latest features in the industry and there won’t be any major obstacles to porting a game unless the specific engine was designed in a way that conflicts with the Wii U’s tech.
As an example, I remember the huge speedboosts Gamecube had by simply putting the chips close to each other. Where others used mainboards with chips 10cm apart, Nintendo made it 0.5cm, so to speak, allowing for incredible speed increases and developers squeezing so much more out of it than had been expected at its start.
It may not sound like much, but if the data transfer is over a third less than on other systems, the same stuff in terms of hardware will have significantly more potential. So all this isolated chip nonsense really doesn’t cut it – the system needs to work in harmony with every aspect of it, and if Nintendo pulled this one off properly there’s not going to be a huge amount of difference whenever competition releases new hardware sometime in the next two years.
Then again, we won’t know until developers really have time to work and experiment and understand the Wii U. That won’t happen in the first generation of Wii U games, except for Nintendo themselves and their teams, like Retro, EAD, and Monolith Soft, who have had the most time with the Wii U and know all of its ins and outs. For everyone else, it will probably require until the second wave of games to arrive for us to really start seeing the difference. And yes, by then, we will probably have heard more about Sony and Microsoft’s next generation consoles– meaning, people will be comparing the Wii U. But, with the extra time spent on learning the Wii U, it will hopefully help narrow the gap between Nintendo and the rest.
So, stop panicking everyone. It was an exciting launch and there’s no reason to let this dampen your spirits. Take a deep breath and give Nintendo some time to prove themselves.