Can Kinect do the business?
3rd Oct 2010 | 18:30
With Sony's PlayStation Move controller on store shelves now center stage is being prepped for Microsoft's upcoming full-body motion controller Kinect.
But we still have quite a few unanswered questions floating about, fortunately we had the chance to sit down with Kinect's creative director Kudo Tsunoda and have them answered.
Almost all Kinect's launch games are analogous to Wii games. Joy Ride is Mario Kart, Kinect Sports is Wii Sports, and Kinectimals is Nintendogs with tigers. When are we going to see the kinds of games only possible with Kinect?
I don't think any of the games on Kinect can really be done on any other platform. You can't really make a football game without being able to use your feet.
Kinect is the only technology that allows that kind of full body tracking, and that's a totally different experience. It's different being able to get into Kinectimals and being able to use your voice to when you're poking an animal with a little pen.
I think it's like saying "hey, here's one shooter, so all the shooters are the same, because they all involve shooting", and that's obviously not the way games are at all.
I think people who maybe haven't played the experiences before would think that somehow the experiences are similar. But I think it's really the unique stuff about Kinect that makes the experiences very, very different.
But what about making videogames for core gamers?
I think lots of people think core gamers are people that like to kill things but to me, core gaming is about skill-based gameplay, or games with a lot of depth so the more you play the game the better you get at it.
When we talk about Kinect being accessible, it's not about making it casual so a six-year-old kid who's never played the game before can get in and beat me; it's making it so anybody can get in and play without having to learn the controls so they can get that skill-based gameplay that everybody enjoys.
Is Kinect even accurate enough for the kind of play core gamers want from a shooter or an action game? It seems a lot of concessions have been made during development. Kinect tracks fewer points now than it did at this time last year, for example...
When you first start developing something you don't necessarily understand what it takes to track a human body; then as you actually start building the stuff, you're like "wow, to track everything in the human body, we can do less points".
That's just normal game development. Anything you do with games, you want the processing power to be used as efficiently as possible to get the experience that you want.
At one point Kinect was supposed to have its own processor. Do you agree that dropping that was a mistake?
We didn't know how much processing Kinect was going to take at the start of development. Obviously you don't want to lose any of the things that are important to Xbox customers.
Graphic fidelity is something that Xbox has always been known for, and you want to make sure that you can still hit that level. Forza is a graphical showpiece, and we had Forza with Kinect at E3... the graphic fidelity has actually improved in some areas from what they shipped with Forza 3.
It's still running at 60 FPS and it's supporting Kinect, so there's just no need to have that extra processor.
Now Kinect tracks fewer points, how many players can Kinect support?
We try to optimise around 'what is the best experience for people?' So, in Track and Field you end up being in split-screen and so, at some point, the more people you have doing that, the more you're cutting up the screen into really small slices. It makes it a very bad experience, so that is limited to two.
So what you're saying is two-player play is the focus for launch titles, but it's possible to have more?
And what about the size of the room? How much space will Kinect need?
Since the sensor can see the whole room in 3D, we're actually able to customise the game experience based around where you're standing in your living room.
Obviously at some point - like if you're playing football standing next to the screen - it isn't a really good set up. But, hey, you can play a metre and a half away and have a good experience.
Is one-to-one instant tracking at all possible?
Yes. We've done tests back in the office where we have somebody with a controller hitting a button and somebody with Kinect clapping their hands when they see a light appear on a screen and those things are just as fast. It's all just a human response time. It's not something we're trying to fix with software updates.
The Kinect games that have had the best responses are those that are immediately recognisable to gamers. Forza, Dance Central... When are we going to see more of those kinds of familiar names?
Again, that's what I'm trying to say. I think what core or Xbox gamers like is just what you say. Great gameplay, skill-based gameplay, depth of gameplay, and those are already in the titles.
But Sony are demonstrating games like SOCOM, Killzone 3, RUSE, and Tiger Woods for (their motion controller) Move. Meanwhile, Fable III has just dropped Kinect support altogether. Why do you think there's this reluctance to use Kinect in the kinds of games which gamers already love?
Back when developers started bringing FPS to consoles, they would just take the existing shooters that were built for a PC interface and swap them over to a console controller.
They wouldn't play very well and everyone would just say "oh look, you can never make an FPS on a console". It was the Halo team that made an FPS specifically for that device from the ground up, and the game was awesome. And now everybody only plays on controllers and hardly anybody plays FPS' on the PC anymore.
I think it's a mistake to try and go "we're just going to take this and put some Kinect on it and call it Halo". You're going to have that same thing that happened when people just took shooters on the PC and put it onto consoles.
It doesn't mean that it can't be done or that it's not going to be awesome. Kinect is a very innovative and new technology and the best experiences that you're going to get are the ones specifically made for that, versus just taking a game and pushing it over to the Kinect interface.
It's like... you're asking me "when do you think there's going to be shooters or games where you're chopping people in half or whatever, with Kinect?" We announced the Star Wars game at E3, you saw Forza, you saw Dance Central...
With all this stuff it just comes back to whether people are having a super fun time and I think that's the stuff that really motivates people or convinces them that it's a good experience.
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