Xbox continues to try and Kinect with the hardcore gamers
MOMENTS AFTER walking into the gleaming white exhibition space in London’s Victoria House last Tuesday, one thing became clear: Xbox is dedicated to its Kinect control system.
The hands-free device has sold over 20 million units since its launch in 2010. It is a family favourite, but it still leaves many hardcore (or “core”) gamers cold. There hasn’t been a Kinect game to capture the imagination in the way that their biggest first-party games have.
The three games on display here showcased Kinect in very different ways.
Fable: The Journey was the most conspicuous. The latest in the huge fantasy/role-playing-game series attempts to tell a narrative, detailed game using the Kinect controls. It is one of the very few Kinect games that requires you to sit, so actions like horse-riding and waving your hand for magic spells are typical.
Ben Brooks, its lead scripter, insists that it will appeal to the coveted, often outspoken, core gamer. “Any time we design something, we think ‘will this make people think of their [traditional] controllers?’ “And if it did, it went out the window.
“We went through lots of prototypes. There are some things – like stroking or pulling an arrow out of a horse – that with a controller would feel quite gamey, but if you have to do with your hands it feels more real. You jerk the arrow and the horse shudders.”
Forza Horizon will expand beyond the game’s traditional track racing, moving to a broader, open-world canvas of Colorado.
Dan Greenawalt, creative director for the series, has seen some of the franchise’s innovations embraced outside of the game industry. Autovista uses Kinect to examine a car: move your hands for the Kinect camera to open a bonnet, check its interiors or to wander around it.
“Some ideas turned out greater than we expected,” Greenawalt says. “Autovista has been adapted by Nissan, BMW and other mainstream car companies to show off their cars to the board of directors, so this is something where a game and a piece of tech impacted the car business.
“But the interesting thing about Kinect is that it’s another button – you’ve got to look at what it’s good for and not good for. The implementation with voice command feels spot-on with this game.
“Moving forward, as we keep looking at future features, there’ll be new ideas and some of the old ones will make sense. The right idea at the wrong time can still be the right idea and the right time sometimes arises.”
Perhaps the most confident demonstration was that of Dance Central 3. Nick Chester, who works for the game’s developer, Harmonix, brags (legitimately) that the two-player game activation was the “coolest” of the games on display – dance-offs are initiated when gamers high-five.
He also argues that the dance series is one of the most comfortable homes for hands-free control.
“We are the highest-rated Kinect games on Metacritic. Places one and two are Dance Central 1 and 2. And certainly, Kinect is great hardware and a perfect fit for dance games because it uses your entire body. Other motion controls track a single hand, for example.
“When we were working on the first Dance Central, we were working on our own motion control technology, then Microsoft showed us what they had in its infancy. We’ve been working with Kinect for quite some time.
“We’re proud of our use of the Kinect,” Chester continues. “I think it’s one of the better uses, but people can do things with Kinect that haven’t been done already. I think we’ll see some pretty crazy stuff in the future.”
Fable: The Journey will be released on October 12th; Dance Central 3 on October 19th and Forza Horizon on October 26th.