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Why the Wii will never get any better

February 28th, 2009 by marcan · 68 Comments

Yes, this is another Wii rant. There are plenty of other articles talking about the poor recent game offerings, the hardware limitations, and the primitive online play. I’m not here to talk about those. Instead, I’m going to talk about the Wii’s software stack, and how it compares to other consoles.

The Wii’s software architecture sucks.

If you look at lists of software updates for the PS3 or the XBox 360, you’ll find things such as PS3 update 2.40, which made XMB available in-game, or XBox 360 update 2.0.7357.0, which added the New XBox Experience, among many smaller updates are stability fixes, new peripheral support, and new features like in-game screenshots. A large amount of the features affect or improve the in-game experience.

Meanwhile, the Wii got all of:

  • Things, such as copying saves to SD, which should have been there from the start
  • Support for new features for new games, with zero improvements for any games already released (USB keyboards, WiiSpeak, etc).
  • Updates to built-in channels (WiiShop, etc)
  • Wii menu or messageboard tweaks, like moving channels or, get this, a clock.
  • Security updates, or their failed attempts at stopping homebrew.

This isn’t a coincidence. As it turns out, Nintendo chose not to have any operating system or common code at all running on the Broadway CPU. When you run a game, everything that shows up on your screen, ever, is being loaded from that spinning polycarbonate disc. And there are no mechanisms for anything else to run on that CPU: no update infrastructure, no Home Menu updates, nothing. If they ever want to have a “hypervisor” run above games, they’ll need to get a new CPU with full-blown virtualization capability (or an emulator), because games assume they have direct access to the CPU and most of the hardware.

If you’ve been following the Wii scene, you might be thinking, “what about IOS?” Indeed, Nintendo’s security and I/O Operating System runs alongside games (on a separate CPU built in to the Hollywood chipset) and it is updated as part of system updates. It includes some important bits and pieces like some peripheral drivers. However, as it turns out, Nintendo has decided that every new feature will be developed as a separate fork. Your Wii contains many IOS versions, and the older have never been updated except for security reasons (to fix our exploits). Not that they’ve added many new features, but if you look closely, new IOS features do not operate when you’re playing older games. This includes any updates to the WiiConnect24 downloads code, and even some minor things like the “slot LED blinks when you eject a disc” feature – try it when you’re playing Zelda and you’ll see that it doesn’t work, because it’s using the very old IOS9.

There are 23 IOS versions installed with current updates (this is also wasting the scarce 512MB internal memory!). Any new feature that they want to use in older games would have to be retroactively and individually added to each version, and it could create compatibility concerns because the interfaces with IOS functions aren’t all that stable either. Just doing these updates would cost them an immense amount of effort – it took them well over half a year to fix the fakesigning exploit and ship the IOS updates for all 23 versions, and that’s a minor update that can’t possibly affect games. Every time they’ve added a new feature (for example, the recent Wii Speak support, or USB keyboard support, or USB mouse support) they’ve just made a new fork of IOS for it. And IOS is limited to what it already handles – the ARM CPU that it runs on has no access to the graphics capabilities of the Wii (nor is it fast enough anyway – it has no floating point capability and it is a lot slower than the Broadway), so they can’t add any user-interface features to it.

Even worse – some things that should have been implemented in IOS aren’t. Like the Bluetooth stack and the Wii Remote code. Forget about any Bluetooth device support in older games – they couldn’t pull off a VoIP feature, ever. The SD card filesystem code is implemented in the games, which means that they can’t possibly add any code that uses SD card files, because two filesystem drivers can’t be used on the same device at the same time. Some things, such as saving games to SD for titles that don’t otherwise use the SD slot, are possible, but the changes needed to accomplish them would be so hacky and intrusive that I doubt they’re ever going to happen. One of the few things they can update with relative ease is networking (because the TCP/IP stack runs in IOS), but even then they still need to touch all IOS variants to fix it retroactively in older games. We’ve seen some changes but I doubt we’ll see many more.

As a specific example, let’s look at the much-discussed future ability to load Virtual Console and WiiWare titles from an SD card (seriously, what the hell were they thinking with 512MB of internal storage and no sane infrastructure to ever expand it externally?) There are three possible solutions to get this to work:

  1. Add FAT filesystem code to IOS retroactively, disabling any SD access for titles that launch from SD
  2. Add FAT filesystem code to IOS retroactively and push title updates for everything that uses SD, to remove the in-title FAT code and replace it with a new interface to IOS
  3. Just fake it and transparently copy titles to the Wii system memory when you want to launch them, causing more Flash wear and tear and longer launching times

Chances are they’re going to go for number 3. And the only reason 1. and 2. exist is because downloadable content access is implemented through a unified “application security” subsystem, which forced them to define a sort-of-standard interface for it. They wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

While other consoles get firmware updates, new peripheral support, bugfixes, and even major updates like the XBox New Experience, pretty much everything on the Wii will remain just as it is now. The best Nintendo can do is update the Wii Menu, but once you get into a game, there’s nothing it can do. Forget about an improved Home Menu. Forget about any changes to online gaming beyond minor server-side tweaks. A unified friends system to avoid having to enter friend codes for every game? Not going to happen. Bad game bugs? Tough luck, there’s no patching system (remember the Zelda issue?) Some future proper online support with social features, like the other consoles have? Will never work with older games. Worse, Nintendo are really proud of themselves, so they won’t admit that they screwed up their software by releasing such big new features and having them only work for newer games. Instead, they’ll wait until Wii2 (or worse, Wii3), lag behind their competitors, and the features still won’t work in backwards-compatibility mode.

All in all, the Wii’s software stack is designed with little to no future proofing. There are basically zero provisions for any future updates; even obvious things like new storage devices or game patches. What’s worse is that this will affect the compatibility mode of any future Wii successor. Just like DS titles won’t get WPA support on the DSi, effectively making the DSi’s WPA mode useless if you ever want to use DS titles on-line. The DS WiFi drivers and configuration stack are built in to every game.

Remember, when Nintendo fails to deliver new Wii features, it won’t be because they aren’t trying. It’ll be because they’ve killed their chances from the start.

Tags: Wii

68 responses so far ↓

  • 1 me.yahoo.com/a/CYY4AY1qj… // Feb 28, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I totally expected this… it follows Nintendo’s design pattern of either hacking stuff onto old hardware or breaking all compatibility.

    NES -> SNES -> N64 -> Gamecube = broken compatibility
    Gamecube->Wii = hacked on stuff
    GB->GBC = hacked on stuff (actually, not too much of a hack, very nice forward and backward compatibility)
    GBC->GBA = broken compatibility (slapping the old processor on the board doesn’t count)
    GBA->DS->DSi = hacked on stuff

    Sadly for Nintendo, doing it the same old way won’t work anymore, when the other big two are doing it properly now. I expect the next Wii to either be a horrid mess of hacked-on extra stuff (higher resolution support + clock speed bump), or a entirely new design… I don’t think they have any particular need to keep compatibility, considering their current selection of titles.

    Of course, they could also keep compatibility by virtualizing the Wii PPC and trapping all hardware access and emulating it (the dolphin emulator manages to do this pretty well on a PC). However, I think this is beyond the skill of Nintendo’s current set of engineers.

  • 2 emailtoid.net/i/5e564a35/… // Feb 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Don’t forget that the wii makes you re-buy your old games for the virtual console which Nintendo has not yet implemented a system to keep track of those games. This means that if you format your wii, the games are gone, or if you buy wii 2, you’ll have to pull out your old wii to play your VC purchases, meaning you might as well pull out your old NES. This can easily be related to DRM (http://xkcd.com/488/) but worse.

    Also, I may be bored of my old xbox, and hardly anyone is on xbox live for the older games, but forgetting what year it is, playing my xbox after the wii makes me feel as if I jumped 10 yrs into the future. If it weren’t for the homebrew channel and the hope that mupen64 will work on the wii, I’d have done this http://hackaday.com/2008/11/21/wii64-a-nintendo-64-stuffed-into-a-wii/

  • 3 Remadon // Feb 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    So true. SO True. Im dissapointed at nintendo.
    …so dissapointed in fact that I went out and bought a PS2.

  • 4 http://maikelsteneker.blogspot.com/ // Feb 28, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I had noticed this earlier. Old games like Red Steel act differently in the home menu. For example, the sound doesn’t completely match the sound in newer games. I figured it must be because of the multiple IOS’s.

    I think IOS is pretty clever actually. It means that older games will never become broken. The only problem is that it means they won’t be improved as well. Nintendo should have used the IOS system, but with some kind of builtin option in the games to launch some kind of external code. This would enable them to install newer software on the Wii that would be used in newer and older games.

    Also, I didn’t know old DS-games can’t use the WPA feature in the DSi. Are you absolutely sure? If that’s the case, it’s absolutely rubbish and really bad of Nintendo.

  • 5 The MAZZTer // Feb 28, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    emailtoid: Purchases are linked to your Wii Shop account, if you delete titles from your Wii you can redownload them without repurchasing.

    In addition you can back up your wii titles onto an SD card to keep them local for backup and restore.

    Of course you said “format” instead of the less intrusive deleting of wii shop titles, but the Wii is not designed to be formated by the end user so the result is probably unsupported by Nintendo.

  • 6 marcan // Feb 28, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Backing up VC to SD is absolutely useless for backup purposes. They should call it the “temporary SD storage option that you can’t actually launch games from”. The DRM still applies and those SD titles are worthless if your Wii becomes unusable.

  • 7 kmeisthax // Feb 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Quick question: How much space is reserved for system titles and IOSes? Or does it just keep growing when you add more IOSes, causing your available storage space to shrink? What happens if your Wii is full and you try to update, does it brick the system?

    More importantly, can I erase the Mii, News, Weather, and Photo channels for extra storage space?

  • 8 marcan // Feb 28, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    You can’t erase the built-in titles (officially anyway). If you erase them using unofficial tools, they’ll just get reinstalled next time you update (or next time you insert a game that contains an update that contains them). Updates aren’t monolithic – every piece of the system is separate, so an internet update will restore anything that you delete.

    Updates will consume available system storage. There’s a shared title system that helps conserve some space (for example, since IOS30, IOS drivers are separate files and shared among IOS versions that didn’t change them), but updates still cause available space to decrease noticeably.

    The update process works by copying the new version before removing the old one, and there are specific provisions to guard against bricks, and I think the Menu will also force you to clean out stuff when available space runs low, so theoretically bricking shouldn’t be a problem.

    I’ve written a little script as an experiment to calculate the space used by a fully updated vanilla Wii (as of the current update, 3.4). The total comes to 102MiB, of which 69MiB are private application contents and 33MiB are shared application contents. So about 20% of the Wii’s internal memory is taken up by current mandatory software. Without the shared content system (considering each individual package as separate), the total would be about 177MiB. This is the space that would be taken up by a “distribution” of the update (such as on a disc), since there are no shared contents there.

    Note that this doesn’t include system data that is present on all Wiis. A few extra megabytes are lost to things such as the message board database (which is of a fixed size) and the WC24 mailboxes.

  • 9 cr08 // Feb 28, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    @#1: Regarding virtualizing the PPC Core. That would be a nice prospect but there is one huge problem: The way that development of games have been left on the Wii, the developers have full reign of the hardware and more than likely use it to it’s full potential cpu and memory usage wise. Virtualizing it would 1) overwork the console, 2) slow down games that use the full potential of the hardware (optimised or sloppily coded), and 3) if you are planing to have any extra ‘system code’, it needs memory and the games more than likely use that all up too.

    Like has been stated: Nintendo has shot themselves in the foot on this from the start. In this case it is pretty much impossible to rebuild the software to allow these features and keep the games working without new hardware to accomodate it.

    I mean, I like Nintendo and I like the Wii for obvious reasons. But Microsoft and Sony have clearly paved the way on this aspect and their systems ROCK when it comes to this specific aspect. Hopefully Nintendo will take a cue from them for the Wii2. If they do the same route as the Wii though, I’m sad to say I may end up selling the thing and defecting over to Microsoft.

  • 10 marcan // Feb 28, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Here’s another interesting tidbit: Miis are defined by a tiny amount of “DNA” which is basically the settings that you can change in the Mii channel. The Mii library is also linked into the games. So, forget about any new things to tweak or new styles for Miis – they’re also fixed forever, in older games, and for the reasons stated, probably in newer ones too.

  • 11 GR1T // Feb 28, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    “Customers don’t want online games.”

    -Satoru Iwata

  • 12 cr08 // Feb 28, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    “Customers don’t want online games.”

    It’s not the fact they didn’t want online games, but the infrastructure in terms of internet connectivity was never really there in an easy to use sense.

    Consoles like the dreamcast, gamecube, and PS2 which have had some form of online connectivity all were stuck with primarily dialup offerings. Tied up phone lines, required an ISP that didn’t require you to use proprietary windows software to connect (AOL users are S-O-L so as Juno, Nextel…The only choices generally were hardly heard of local providers or the console company’s advertised connectivity providers). That isn’t to mention that for most games ping time and bandwidth is everything and dialup is unpredictable in that sense. And even in cases like the dreamcast where they made every attempt at keeping the online connectivity in the realm of easy to use, not too many games really used it.

    Now back to Nintendo, we look at the gamecube. Broadband wasn’t too widespread at the time and while an upgrade path would have been nice, you can’t blame them TOO much for it.

    Now to the Wii: We have native broadband connectivity in the form of Wifi. I’ll take a stab in the dark and say that probably 85% of owners actually use it. Nintendo even pushes active use of the connectivity (Shop Channel, Internet Channel, Message Board, Weather Channel, almost all of the stock channels.). So at this point I think the blame really should be shifted towards the game makers. One good example is ‘Worms: A Space Oddity’ where it was specifically stated that the developers willingly opted out of the online multiplayer option because they thought it’d be better to play it in person for taunting ability. That is good and all, but some of us want the online capabilities.

    Then again, I also think the lack of such comes back to Nintendo for the very same reason this post brings up. Nintendo has put all the work on the developers to code everything from the ground up with just a Devkit and (possibly) and SDK. This includes interaction with all the Wii hardware like the Wifi chipset and bluetooth hardware. This is precisely why so few games really use the Wiimote speaker to it’s full potential. Anyone who has attempted to develop homebrew for it knows this first hand that it is difficult to do. third party game developers have the same difficulty really.

    Now Nintendo could take Sony and Microsoft’s leads and force game developers to only interface with their OS that sits on top of the hardware and that opens so many possibilities for feature additions, ingame interactivity, game patches, stuff like that that PS3 and 360 owners already have been accustomed to. More specifically we could take an example from the PC realm. The Wii is equivalent to the old DOS days. If you wanted to use a bit of hardware or even online connectivity, you needed to access the hardware directly and build those drivers into your program. VERY messy. But Windows pretty much is equivalent to the PS3 and 360. For network connectivity you really only need to access the IP stack and that’s it. The OS has the rest of the required functions like drivers needed to access the hardware and the said IP stack.

  • 13 Hugh Isaacs II // Feb 28, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    This says alot, but hey they could still make a firmware update to fix alot of this.

    Of course the existing Wii games will loose out on quite a few features, but at least we get an update that makes up for alot of this.

    It does explain that at some point we’ll see either a Wii2 soon or a firmware update that’ll fix alot of these issues and attempt to catch up with the competition.

    Sloppy design may be the fall of Nintendo at some point though, once the competition starts pushing out features that’ll require a firmware redesign, unless they get a headstart.

    It’s funny though, I think the DSi has a better firmware than the Wii especially since the Home menu apparently can be opened up on original DS titles.

  • 14 marcan // Feb 28, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    @cr08:
    The Nintendo SDK includes code for all of the Wiimote and bluetooth and all that stuff. The Wiimote speaker isn’t hard to use, so you can’t blame that on Nintendo. Their SDK is pretty extensive and, as far as I know, fairly nice to code for. It’s just that it gets linked into every goddamn game so it can’t be updated, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t provided. The Wii is a nice machine for developers.

    @Hugh:
    I don’t think Nintendo is ever going to fix these things if it means alienating older games.

    If the DSi home menu indeed works on DS titles then it’s definitely a hardware feature. The DS software/firmware wasn’t any better (in fact, the situation was a hell of a lot worse than the Wii). If they pulled off the home menu thing it just means they have a non maskable IRQ somewhere in there and decent state save/restore code to keep the games working, plus some help from their custom hardware.

  • 15 qiantpune // Feb 28, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I think the title of this article is a little misleading. What about bootmii? That will definitely make my Wii better. Or what about those Wiis they have in hospitals that load off of HDDs? Is there any chance that one day I might be able to run homebrew either off of a USB (1 or 2) HDD or even if I can just connect a USB cable to my PC? That would really fix the issue of limited memory.

  • 16 devilsbook // Feb 28, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    It’s true that Nintendo’s made some bad decisions with respect to the software architecture, but isn’t it the case that these bad decisions have been beneficial to this community? If Nintendo had gone the same way as Microsoft or Sony, anyone with a modchip (hard drive loader? not sure how it works with those systems) would still be able to pirate games, but we would either have no access to the hardware at all, as with the 360 (and thus no homebrew community), or we’d have partial access with crippled features. Given Nintendo’s history, where would you put your money?

    No, as someone who likes my freedom to tinker, I’ll stick with my Wii as it is.

    (also, why not have some kind of preview feature for comments? I won’t even know whether my link above worked until I post this – is HTML allowed?)

  • 17 kmeisthax // Feb 28, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    @marcan: Thanks. Although, I don’t update through SystemMenu anymore, nor do I buy new Wii games. (none interest me, considering I have a 360 and a PC)

    Also, for those talking about PPC virtualization, not going to happen on the Wii. I’m not sure if it has hardware supervisor/user modes (marcan, if you know please speak up); even then where would you store your virtualization code? The Wii doesn’t have a lot of RAM, and it’s already cleanly split between the IOS and the game.

  • 18 tech3475 // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:03 am

    I suppose when you think about it however, the idea of NOT updating the way the wii works is a sane one.

    After all most wii users will be casual, so they may not check out magazines or websites to get news on games or updates, etc.

    So imagine if one day they wake up and nintendo released an nxe like update for the wii…think about their reaction.

    And again remember, nintendo did design the hardware to give devs as much
    Power over the system as possible to make the most from the old, slightly updated, gamecube hardware.

    I suppose the wii 2 may be more xbox like but only because nintendo still havent learned that they should always think ahead (like the n64 and their stupid decision on data storage)

  • 19 blitzer320 // Mar 1, 2009 at 3:13 am

    couldn’t they join all the ioses into one and then put a much lighter script in the spot of the other ioses that tells it to go to the joined ios and once there the the ios will depend ing on what ios it was redirected from give it just the files that it is supposed to use.

    or is this to far-fetched it an idea but since i don’t know much about writing scripts and or code at all its just an idea.

  • 20 emailtoid.net/i/8251eb13/… // Mar 1, 2009 at 4:00 am

    The best company which deals with transitions is Apple!
    Moves from 68k to PPC were verry good
    Moves from MacOS9 to OSX were good with “classic” and verry good with Carbon apps
    Moves from PPC to Intel were perfect and introduced big new features like running windows natively or inside OSX with Parallels/VMWare…

    Nintende should ask Apple how to make good transitions!

  • 21 sanderevers // Mar 1, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Well..

    Nintendo already stated that we would be able to play VC/WiiWare games off SD cards with a new update.

    They also stated that this would be a major change for the System Menu. (Much like the “New XBOX Experience”) I think, no I hope, that this will fix alot of problems.

  • 22 thefalken.livejournal.com/ // Mar 1, 2009 at 5:57 am

    Well, this is what you get with a cheap, fast to market console. And those two reasons are why it is selling well.
    Wii2/3 could easily have a proper hypervisor, running Wii1 in ‘emulation’. That would allow innovation. Maybe all games would run under the hyper visor, that would allow new and only games to get things provided by the OS like VoIP and freind HUD etc.

  • 23 elmarsupio // Mar 1, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I thought Nintendo could update old IOS to enable new features old games like wiispeak in mario kart…
    If I’m good understanding, they could do this but it would mean update all old IOS so a big amount of work… what a mess…

  • 24 GaussTek // Mar 1, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Very Interesting.

    You know, I remember the Nintendo press conference (october, last year):

    “We have been listening to the customers, and we have been trying to come up with the solution that will not sacrifice the security nature of Wii but will cater to our customers’ convenience. We will need more time to tackle it. But the basic direction has been decided, so I would like to update you on this today.”

    http://www.nintendo.co.jp/n10/conference2008fall/presen/e/06.html

    Funny thing is right now the Wii is the “less” secure system.

  • 25 tompccs // Mar 1, 2009 at 11:29 am

    The Wii is an entity of pure genius. Whilst Sony and Microsoft were busy trying to further computer technology, ray-tracing algorithms, high definition and storage mediums, the Wii decided to spend a fraction of the money developing a console that would broaden the computer game market.

    What Nintendo did was to take a GameCube, give it a nice iPod-style finish and slap on a bluetooth chip (sort of). And in doing this, Nintendo was able to outsell its rivals nearly ten-fold.

    What sweetens the deal is that the Wii is so cheap to produce. The Xbox now sells cheaper than the Wii, and as a result Microsoft is making a loss on every console. Yet Wii’s sales (upon which Nintendo holds a nice plump margin) continue to hold ground.

    You can’t blame Nintendo for the Wii. Why should they invest money in stuff that their core audience won’t appreciate? Nintendo has managed to divert computer entertainment from high end technology to what looks like more fun in the adverts.

    What we shall have to wait and see is whether rivals will follow suit in the next generation. If not, this represents a significant fork in the computer games market.

  • 26 jpx92681 // Mar 1, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for that. you are absolutely rigth, if it were because of nintendo i would buy a ps3 or a xbox360,because users are stucked with nintendo´s developers, they created this amazing machine, but it seems that they are not really aware of that,i believe that the future of the homebrew on the wii is quite interesting and there are lots of things to to explore and to create, i hope that this awesome team of homebrew developers keep on the research of new ways like bootmii so we can really explote the full potential of the console.Why we have to wait for the wii2 if in this very moment we can have a lot of cool stuff using hombrew tools? is just a matter of time.

  • 27 marcan // Mar 1, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    @tompccs:
    You are entirely off topic. This isn’t about the merits of the direction that Nintendo took with the Wii. This is about how they royally and completely fucked up the software to shut off many, many possible future avenues.

    The problem is that Nintendo is preventing the Wii from ever becoming any better. Sure, they’re selling millions this time around, but the people who they’ve introduced to gaming are going to wonder “what’s next”. The answer now is “a 360 or a PS3, because the Wii isn’t delivering”, but worse, it can’t possibly deliver given the way they’ve architected the software. I’m not talking about graphics or hardware capability; I’m talking about software features. They’ve lowered the learning curve for entry into gaming, but they’ve also removed the entire high end of it – even the parts that are entirely software, because they’ve architected it in a way that prevents them from ever being able to figure it out sanely.

    It’s funny that nintendo blames security for their failure to deliver. If they had an integration and security system like the other consoles did chances are their security would be better and they also wouldn’t be in this mess.

    The Wii could have just been the lower end, lesser graphics cousin of the 360 or PS3. Instead, it’s the lower end, lesser graphics cousin with shitty online, no multimedia abilities, non expandable storage, no peripheral support, and no hope for new features via updates. And all of that is the software’s fault.

  • 28 Maat // Mar 1, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Somebody woke up in the wrong side of the bed…

  • 29 Muzer // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Post # 12: “This includes interaction with all the Wii hardware like the Wifi chipset and bluetooth hardware.”

    Accessing the bluetooth is done via an API IIRC.

    And the WiFi can’t even be directly accessed via the hardware; you have to use IOS (which is quite high-level) to access it. This is actually the problem that exists with Wii Linux and the WiFi.

  • 30 Muzer // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    “Is there any chance that one day I might be able to run homebrew either off of a USB (1 or 2) HDD or even if I can just connect a USB cable to my PC? That would really fix the issue of limited memory.”

    That already exists: http://wiihomebrewlauncher.be.cx/ (use google translate).

    This could also be implemented into HBC in the future.

  • 31 Muzer // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    (Sorry for the tripple post, I should think out comments more carefully in the future)

    Why does everyone think you’re going to be able to play VC games directly off SD card? That’s just one site’s misinterpretation that all the others copied. READ WITH YOUR EYES:

    “We will make it so that, when there is not enough room on the Wii’s internal memory, you will be able to purchase and download Virtual Console and WiiWare software directly from the Shopping Channel to an SD memory card. We will also make it so that you will need to go through just one process in order to transfer Virtual Console or WiiWare software stored on an SD card to the Wii console and then be able to play it. We would like to deal with this issue utilizing two methods. Since the updates to realize these new structures will require significant revisions to the Wii system, and these changes need to be made by taking care of a variety of different angles, this method will become effective beginning next spring. For some of you, this may be considered late. But please know that we really appreciate your cooperation and understanding. We are working hard so we can begin the service as soon as possible.”
    (source: http://www.nintendo.co.jp/n10/conference2008fall/presen/e/06.html )

    Unless something has changed since then and I’ve managed to miss it.

  • 32 fishears // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I think you’re expectations are not representative of those of the majority of Wii owners. Only a relatively small number of Wii owners care about much other than playing Wii Sports… Whatever we say about Nintendo’s shortcomings with the Wii, we can not argue with the sales figures.

  • 33 emailtoid.net/i/5e564a35/… // Mar 1, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Don’t forget that Sony actually lets you install other OSs relatively easy on the PS3. http://psubuntu.com/

    While Nintendo is doing their best, and yet failing at keeping us from installing our own channels.

  • 34 Tsab // Mar 1, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    @Marcan

    Seriously, thank you for making me feeling sane again after a debate I had with a few friends of mine. We have the same opinion about the matter.

    Ever wonder what it could happen to Wii, IF it had ONE or at least a MAJOR IOS and some extras (like DLLs/drivers for extra hardware)?

    Could the Wii had a better open philosophy?

    anyway…

    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
    “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

  • 35 w11h4x0r // Mar 1, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    1st of all nintendo’s lack of security has probably spurred some sales by ppl who want homebrew or free games.
    It could be that Nintendo sent an SDK update to all WiiWare devs and are slowly updating all the VC titles to work using a new ios system that will allow them to run from the SD card. Then when they launch it they’ll just tell people they need to redownload old games to run them from the sd card. They’ve had plenty of time to get everything recompiled and ready.
    They could also consolidate old ios versions into a compatibility ios, and send calls for older ioses to the compatibility ios. That way they could remove some ioses and free some space up.
    As mentioned above, if we get our hands on one of those hospital hd based wii machines, we might gain more insight into what big N is working on now. (unless they somehow configured that hardware to make the hd look like the nand to the system, but I don’t know if that’s possible).

  • 36 marcan // Mar 1, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    The hospital systems are either using a hardware device to emulate a drive (like the HDD test Wiis use) or an IOS (specifically made to work with the games they offer) with USB 2.0 support and a fake DI driver. Nothing to do with NAND.

  • 37 victorinox // Mar 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I ALWAYS thought, Nintendos whole point… was to make lesser systems to save money, and get people to buy because they cost less…

    nintendo has always been prone to think in the here/now, so to spare a long post about this, im just gonna say… is anyone shocked this company is doing the same thing that got them prior success?

  • 38 qiantpune // Mar 1, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Ok. I guess I’m gonna have to take for the team. I’ll go steal the Wii from the burn unit of the children’s hospital. I’ll tell the little guys that we all thank them very much and will do our best not to brick their special Wii.

  • 39 FRanatic // Mar 2, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Some common thinking brings me to a possible solution for more ‘user’ nand space.
    What if all older IOS’ would be dummied and redirect the game to the ‘master game IOS’ to be run off ?
    A certain ‘application’ proves games can be forced to use a certain IOS fairly easily.
    I know the ‘master game IOS’ would be bigger, but should save space with all the dummied IOS’.

  • 40 marevalo // Mar 2, 2009 at 2:32 am

    I agree that the Wii is severely broken on the software side, but I thing the hardware still can be used in many good ways. What about this…

    Implementing the IOS system calls in a new embeded operating system inside Statlet (something based on eCos or TRON, maybe Linux is too big). Making it compatible and implementing a task-switching system (as far as I know Starlet is the real owner of the hardware).

    Implementing a new Home menu as a real operating system, with real applications that happens to be able to load Wii applications (without being in memory of course at the same time, of course). This new home menu can load its native apps from SDHC or HDD and I would vote for basing it on Android as they share many characteristics like small screen, low definition pointer and accelerometers; we would have a bunch of new applications for free just out of the box.

    The new IOS could even run some basic comunication software like an XMPP client on Starlet so it can interrupt games and launch “in-game” applets. I thinks this is the most difficult part, as it would require startlet (and the new IOS) to stop the game, overwrite some game memory with “clean” data for the applet and after it has exited reload again the original memory for the game. It may be incompatible with several games, but may the new IOS could trick the game to think the “world was stopped” in the meantime. Then again, that could be impossible for online-games.

    What bits of these notes are utterly imposible ?

    Regards.

  • 41 djdynamite123 // Mar 2, 2009 at 2:43 am

    The Wii could have just been the lower end, lesser graphics cousin of the 360 or PS3. Instead, it’s the lower end, lesser graphics cousin with shitty online, no multimedia abilities, non expandable storage, no peripheral support, and no hope for new features via updates. And all of that is the software’s fault.

    As Marcan said above, totally agree, since iv’e read this thread, I just laugh when I look over at my wii. I bet wii2 will be garbage as well. we’l see.
    Guess i’l go for a PS4. There always a “extra” console ahead like Xbox.

  • 42 Sonic4Ever // Mar 2, 2009 at 4:12 am

    Can’t they start from scratch like Microsoft did with New Xbox Experience?

    Or it’s absolutely impossible?

  • 43 someone // Mar 2, 2009 at 7:21 am

    As other people have said, the different IOSes could be reduced to essentially different API versions which pass the call on through to one common IOS and maintain compatibility with older games, which would at least allow some improvement outside of the static libraries linked in with each game.

    At least hopefully they’ve used a custom IOS for the Wii hard disk set-up in the Nintendo World Store in New York instead of using a special build of each game… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z73azC6nDSU

    Now the question is, would Nintendo re-architecture the system software and start doing things properly now just for an SD card update? Unfortunately they’ve never done anything like that before in such a small timescale, they’ve only just got round to fixing boot1.

    Friend codes look like they’re going to be around forever. I don’t see them updating the server side software, adding an online management channel to the Wii Menu, and somehow linking that channel up with the saved data for each game in flash memory. And that would give us the bare the minimum (instant messaging, WiiSpeak, and seeing which game your friends are playing from the Wii Menu). Anything else such as in-game instant messaging or WiiSpeak would need a hypervisor.

    And any update which uses a hypervisor to improve the home menu and other in-game static libraries will be put off till the Wii 2 because all those features would be a selling point for the new console. The good news is that it shouldn’t be too difficult because at least Nintendo know what the static libraries look like.

    Maybe a hypervisor will be the next big Wii homebrew project. There are already homebrew SD card and HD solutions which may have partly pushed Nintendo into a storage solution update.

    Oddly enough, whoever does a hypervisor (Nintendo or homebrew), there’s a better chance of offline games being updated to having in-game messaging and chat rather than online ones as online ones can’t stop everything and bring up a home menu so you can e.g. choose friends from contact lists and send instant messages with onscreen keyboards.

  • 44 HyperHacker // Mar 2, 2009 at 9:17 am

    This is how Nintendo has done things since the N64 days. It made sense then. Those games ran under an OS that was linked into every game, since the N64 had no internal storage (save for a tiny bootROM just to load and run the game). The GBA and DS BIOSes had nasty bugs that didn’t get fixed for fear it’d break compatibility.

    They certainly could design the system better. Using dynamic linking, putting things in IOS, and running the games under an OS stored in flash instead of on disc would allow for expandability and updates. The problem is, it’d also make the games slower (having to go through the OS for everything instead of having direct access), and the updates could create bugs. They don’t want that. They want it to just work, and to be cheap.

    Nintendo certainly fails at software design sometimes, but it’s obvious to me they chose this system because it eliminates the potential for game-breaking updates, and lets games squeeze every last bit of horsepower out of the system, keeping costs down. They don’t want Wii to be “PS3’s cousin with less graphic capabilities.” They want it to be Super NES v2.0.

  • 45 tompccs // Mar 2, 2009 at 10:42 am

    @marcan: My point is that with sales like that, why should Nintendo care? Nintendo is a business, and all businesses are driven by the same thing: revenue. The end-user isn’t important. Even if Nintendo hadn’t royally fucked up their software architecture, I do doubt Nintendo would invest a great deal of time or money into improving the system menu and associates, rather they would do what they are doing now: invest in advertising.

    For the Wii, the battle for this generation is already won. PS3 and Xbox are now just competing for 2nd place, so end user satisfaction for Sony and Mike is a must. Whether or not Nintendo had been more careful to start with, I doubt we’d be seeing many System Menu updates (other than the occasion stab at Homebrew).

  • 46 marcan // Mar 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

    @tompccs:
    It’s clear that Nintendo is happy this generation (sales through the roof). But I still think that their current plan isn’t going to work in the long term (especially if Sony and Mike get their act together and start releasing more family-friendly games).

    For a long time now, the gamer demographic has been relatively restricted. Out comes the Wii, and suddenly many more people become gamers. Nintendo rejoices. Problem is, I think many, many people are going to be buying a PS3 or a 360 after a Wii (once they’ve seen what the gaming world is like), and the Wii will start gathering dust in a corner. Then Nintendo is going to start losing out on game sales, which is an important revenue source. But more importantly, I think the Wii is going to be so underwhelming in the long run that people are going to go for a competitor’s system next generation, whether Nintendo fixed the Wii2 or not. And the really sad part is that a good chunk of the problem is just software! Software is cheap, compared to using better hardware from the start, and yet they’ve failed to take the opportunity to be able to have better software on their existing hardware.

    Another problem is that the old gamer demographic also makes a lot of noise. People will start to wonder what’s up with the Wii, and that’s going to get them bad press, even if the people with those opinions aren’t a large part of the Wii’s audience.

    Right now, the general thought as far as I can see is that Nintendo is just dragging their feet feature-wise. But they aren’t. They were doomed from the start, and I just want to set that straight – features aren’t just slow or late, they aren’t coming at all, at least not as people expect them to come.

  • 47 Michael Holmes // Mar 2, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Someone mentioned Linux, so I thought I’d ask a question I’ve been pondering. Is it possible, with the release of BootMii, to run Wii Linux with full control over the hardware, i.e. either by writing an ARM binary that would interface with a kernel module to allow finer-grained control, or, better still, allow full control over the Wii by using a binary that simply turns the Starlet into an I/O “slave” to allow the PPC to actually interface with the Wii hardware at a low level? Just wondering. It’s pretty off topic and probably wrong, though.

  • 48 ether2802 // Mar 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I believe (altough my opinion can be ignored) that the principal market for the Wii was the little ones, that’s why there are many games (like 95%) for children, and they though they could never hack the Wii or be interested in better graphics or better and new functions, in the world of violent and bloddy video games, the Wii came with new games for everyone (even gramma) and it has his retro part for the oldies like some of us (VC) but there is no one single hardcore game avaible for Wii, not saying the games aren’t fun to play, just saying there is nothing like Halo or Gears of War on the Wii…!!

  • 49 marcan // Mar 2, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    @Michael:

    It’s pretty off topic, but completely right. That’s precisely what our replacement IOS code does (both options: “slave” control and higher level drivers for certain devices), and Linux is one of the major target users.

  • 50 Tsab // Mar 3, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Off topic.
    It seems that a new firmware just popped.
    FW 3.5K (korean)
    http://nus.cdn.shop.wii.com/ccs/download/0000000100000002/tmd.390

    Can you take a look?

  • 51 someone // Mar 3, 2009 at 5:15 am

    @ ether2802 :

    I think Nintendo will have to take steps back towards the ‘hardcore’ (ugh).

    Firstly, grandma’s not going to be interested in the Wii 2 as the Wii does everything she wants. So the Wii 2 will necessarily have to have improved graphics, sound, storage, and online community so the gamers will want to upgrade to the Wii 2. If they do that, it’s only going to be a viable purchase if it has backwards compatibility too, for the rest of the family (grandma and Wii Sports) and even for the odd gem like Mario Galaxy/Kart and Metroid Prime. This is going to force them into designing things better because kludges to support the new features on top of the current system aren’t going to work.

    Secondly, so that the gamers will want to buy a Wii 2, they will need to be drip-fed updates to the Wii to keep them at least fairly interested in the console. Media player channels and better online messaging/voice/friend lists from the Wii Menu aren’t impossible even under the current architecture. If Nintendo have an eye to the future they’re going to be slowly improving things in the lead up to the launch of the Wii 2.

    As the gamers are more into homebrew than grandma, homebrew can be used to build up demand for new features and push Nintendo into developing official versions (even though they’d never admit it).

    Or am I being too optimistic?

  • 52 Red_Breast // Mar 3, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    As one of the (probably) older people here all of this comes as no surprise to me. It should come as no surprise to anybody who has followed Nintendo. The Wii is typical of every other Ninty console. I don’t know you’re history regarding consoles Marcan but I get the impression you’re surprised by all this.
    There’s a lot of talk in the posts about what people will want next. These new gamers have a Wii but look what the other 2 can do. Nintendo got there sales though.
    Older people like me who got it for the new Metroid and Resi4 WiiEd. and now uses it for ScummVM. Got my sale.
    But remember there will be new gamers. Kids who have just started school. In a few years they will be the buyers of Wii2. Why? It has the latest Mario etc. And the parents will like the no online options so their kids are safe. Nintendo will have their sales.
    I’m not saying it’s good or healthy or right. I’m also not saying that this strategy will serve Ninty forever.
    But it has for a while so why change.

  • 53 Nyoronoru // Mar 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Reading this article has convinced me to get an Xbox 360.

    I thought Nintendo was just dragging their feet before. Now that I know that no improvements are ever coming, I might as well invest somewhere that gets me an actual return.

  • 54 HenshinMijin // Mar 3, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    SERIOUSLY! Nintendo is a GOD among men!
    They did it. They really did it!
    When you can make crappy, but not entirely 100% crappy hardware, convince, kids, their parents, and their parents parents that they need it a Wii to live, then you are the undisputed business boss! And THEN you and I, we have all these NES and SNES ROMS on are computer. Well, imagine if we sold our free ROMS to idiots who didn’t know what VG emulation or homebrew is… Well, Ha! That’s what Nintendo is doing too! Ahh.. I love Nintendo. They REALLY are geniuses because they convinced me, us, to buy they’re product. Soo.. umm.. to all the HackMii crew, please for us who have Wii, please help ease our pain by breathing more life and cool things into our consoles. Please and thank you.

    fo shizzle
    ~K Dizzle™

  • 55 Hugh Isaacs II // Mar 5, 2009 at 6:05 am

    After reading through the comments, etc…

    I get the feeling that Nintendo saw their errors with the existing Wii architecture and that’s why the DSi has a better Home menu.

    I know it sounds stupid to say and all, but when you look at it, Nintendos demographic won’t care about in game music or anything like that even if they’re into hardcore games.

    But at least with the Home menu, features like sending messages shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

    And Marcan despite what you think, I get the feeling they’re redesigning the firmware as we speak for future titles, leaving the files for old titles as is.

    Possibly even changing the way the Home menu works in favor of this.

    I mean when you look at it, the casual crowd isn’t loyal to any console, and their next bet will probably be the XBox 360 due to it’s price point and focus on online gaming, encouraging interaction with friends.

    Because of this we can expect Nintendo to focus on playing catch up, creating some new service for the Wii that’ll probably include a new channel (or an update to an old one) and something a bit original to go with it.

    Yea it isn’t exactly what you’d expect, but at the same time with the economy in it’s state and Nintendos money not extending as far as Microsoft or Sonys, they kinda have no choice.

  • 56 ethd // Mar 8, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I love Nintendo, and probably always will, regardless of this. However, Microsoft is catching up and may pass in love factor if Nintendo doesn’t get their asses in gear. After all, it won’t be long before a Nextbox and PlayStation 4 come out and they’re probably going to have a controller designed for the casual crowd with motion sensing and infrared and all that gimmicky stuff. Then what will Nintendo do? What can they do? If they were smart, they’d join the crowd and do what others are doing (stuff like better hardware, hard drives, a traditional controller that doesn’t suck and isn’t from the previous generation, etc.) but add the little bit of Nintendo innovation they always have added.
    That’s one hand.
    On the other hand, they can make a relatively vulnerable system that’s simple to hack and makes homebrew easy to access. See, the PS3 hasn’t been hacked and the Xbox 360 is in its infancy as far as homebrew goes. If Nintendo followed the crowd, we’d probably say “good-bye” to homebrew.
    Unless we had marcan and bushing, of course :P

  • 57 11rcombs // Mar 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Why emulate when you can just rewrite the wii’s game code to run natively? isn’t that pretty much what they did with the Wii/GameCube?

  • 58 HyperHacker // Mar 15, 2009 at 9:56 am

    You know, Nintendo may not be able to improve their architecture, but we can improve ours. Using signing bugs and/or BootMii we can run our own IOS, and much of the Starlet is now documented on Wiibrew. We could write a homebrew IOS, that would automatically be loaded and used by libOGC.

    Writing our own IOS means we could do it the way Nintendo should have, and thus be able implement nice things like new devices (Kwiirk just released a hacked IOS with USB2 support), in-game menus, etc that would work in all homebrew apps (as long as they used a recent enough version of libOGC), while not breaking compatibility with older/official apps.

    If we passed it pointers to our display lists and/or frame buffers, and notified it when we were about to execute/swap them, it’d even be able to draw to the screen.

    The only big downside I can see to this is you’d have to be able to install and run a custom IOS, which would require at least patching current IOSes to remove the signature check, and perhaps other patches on new consoles.

  • 59 marcan // Mar 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    @HyperHacker:

    You just described what BootMii is about. Said “homebrew IOS” already exists, and even recently got a name: Mini (Mini Is Not IOS). It’s the Starlet code that will ship with BootMii.

  • 60 techni.livejournal.com/ // Mar 21, 2009 at 12:28 am

    I find it hilarious some Nintendo fanboys are defending Nintendo’s actions (ie: The idiot agreeing with ‘Gamers don’t want online’) and even saying Wii is better because of these stupid, crippling design decisions

  • 61 techni.livejournal.com/ // Mar 21, 2009 at 12:31 am

    PSP’s OS is more advanced.

  • 62 peterjung // Mar 22, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Firmware 3.5K

    I now have this on one of my Korean wiis. I have been unable to get the Twilight Hack to work and install homebrew channel on a second wii I bought several weeks ago originally with 3.3K firmware. However, previously I was able to install the Homebrew Channel on a Korean wii bought late last year, also with 3.3K firmware.

    It seems that although both Korean wii’s had 3.3K, something had been changed in the more recently shipped wii’s.

    Today I updated to 3.5k and tried the Twilight Hack for firmware 3.4. The result was:

    Loading Installation Data…
    Checking System …
    I’m running under IOS21 2.7
    Error checking System Menu Version
    Press Accept or Cancel to exit to the Wii System Menu.

    Now strangely, this is exactly the same result I got when previously trying to run the Twilight Hack on the later shpped wii with 3.3K?

    Could it be that Nintendo found another way to block installation of the HBC with later version of 3.3K as well as on 3.5k.

    Anyway, is there any possibility that a new version of the twilight hack for firmware 3.5K will be devised? Or another way of installing HBC on 3.5K firmware?

  • 63 metayoshi // Mar 26, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Haha, I love how you guessed perfectly exactly what Nintendo’s storage “solution” would be about a month before Nintendo released it. I mean… It works pretty well, according to the testimonials I’ve heard and read, but it seriously shows how flawed Nintendo’s little system is.

  • 64 godrik // Mar 28, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Hi, I will have some questions about the (absent) runtime of the wii. Basically the problem is that when the game is loaded, there is no longer any firmware/OS code running except the IOS.
    This means drivers are defined by games probably through static library.

    There should not be hundreds version of these libraries so it should be easy to spot them in the code. Then could we strip them to replace them at load time by some other versions ?
    This could allow to correct bug in the libraries. Even more, we could perhaps use those call as entry point in a non-preemptive kernel. It would not be as cool as a classical operating system, but it could be nice.

    Of course, this assume that all the hardware operations are performed inside library calls and not by changing a register somewhere.

    More thought. There could be a new operating systems for future games. I believe Nintendo could change the wiimenu to behave like a classical OS. If you boot an old game, you trash everything as before. If you boot a newer game, you run it inside the OS. It means that old games would stay as they are, but future games could benefit from the OS improvement. (I am not saying they will do it. I am staying hypothetical.)

    My next comments would be about linux. (I believe you know that but). There is currently a version of linux that runs on the wii called whiite (there is also a version of the geexbox distribution that I believe run on the same kernel). whiite seems to be a fork (or a patch) over linux-gc to boot on the wii. Some questions:
    -Is whiite the good starting point to build a wii version of linux ?
    -there is no wifi support under whiite. A driver would be the best solution but could we use the TCP/IP stack of the wii in IOS to workaround the lack of a wifi driver ?

  • 65 emailtoid.net/i/f63b91e0/… // Apr 1, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    After seeing your 1st march post, I just had a random thought. Maybe nintendo could implent some sort of learning system, at first startup you choose “Easy”, “Medium” and “Expert” (or maybe better names for the system). If you choose either Easy or Medium it would ask after 1-2 weeks if you want to raise the difficulty of the system. Or maybe a system based on which persons use the systems are better, like it asks questions “How many people are you in your family?”, “Whats your age?” (45-year old grandma probably don’t know as much as her 24-year old son, or whatever). Now that sounds great, eh! That way you can have different “users” with different settings and gamesaves, custom channel positions, own purchased channels(but be able to share them with other users). How about that? I’d love to see this kinda system, it would really be different compared to the other two big companies. However I would probably not use it anyway, after we moved I got the Wii in my room instead of the living room :)

  • 66 me.yahoo.com/nande_kudas… // Aug 14, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    well, first i must say that i always liked what nintendo did.
    but this has shine a lot of light to me, the least i can say is thanks.
    this is truly instructive and so intresting, thanks for writing all the details :D

  • 67 emailtoid.net/i/13ddb761/… // Aug 22, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    “(slapping the old processor on the board doesn’t count)”

    Yes it does! That’s the best method! That gives you 99.999% compatibility! Any system using that is not “lazily” slapped on. What do you want? An emulator that barely works?

  • 68 emailtoid.net/i/13ddb761/… // Aug 22, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    “You can’t blame Nintendo for the Wii.”

    Yes you can. They chose making money over making a quality system, and as a result crippled this entire generation of systems. Now the other 2 system makers are crawling over themselves to copy Wii’s crappy “replace pressing X to swing sword with wave wand to swing sword”

    I used to love Nintendo, but the Wii/DS has ruined them for me, and is ruining the real gaming systems

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