Kinect's augmented reality: 'For a toy, it's amazing'
25th Mar 2011 | 17:43
THQ and Blitz Games' The Fantastic Pets might not be the hardcore material that Kinect owners have been waiting for but the augmented reality game is turning some heads by exploring new territory.
Blitz Games is delving deep into the Kinect hardware to provide something unique on the Xbox 360.
We sat down for a chat with Stuart Maine, design manager at Blitz Games, for a chat about The Fantastic Pets, Kinect and what where the tech could go in the future.
Obviously it's aimed at kids, there's family fun and a fair bit of exercise going on in it as well. How much do you think Kinect games like this can change the negativity towards games?
We tried to be responsible with this one; it does tell you to take a break and teaches you the right foods to feed your pet but you do have to get up and you do have to engage. You can't cheat these games because they can watch you, so they're ideal for exercise games, but also with the Kinect you have to use your body to play. So there's always going to be a tiny delay because it's not like pushing buttons so it's ideal for those games where you're up and moving around.
Kinect is very much aimed at parties and family games, having fun - that sort of casual, social audience - so it encourages you to make games like that. I think it's going to be one of those cycles where that's the sort of people that are going to buy it so that's what we're going to make.
It'll be interesting to see what comes next because we've got all the exercise games, we've got the party games so what else can you do with this thing? It's a pretty amazing piece of kit really. But generally yeah it's going to get you off your feet and get you moving around.
It will work if you're sat down, obviously, but that's not what it's good at basically. It doesn't have to be full body, it can watch your face or watch your hands if that's what you tell it to do because you can zoom in.
But certainly the games that work best in ours - because we went through a lot of games, a lot of iterations - are the ones where you got up and did stuff basically and also the ones that applied whatever you expect to happen. So when you take a ball it's exactly how you take a ball, rather than the pet just give it you and it would just magically appear.
There were some rumours that were fairly quickly debunked by Microsoft that it was going to upgrade the accuracy and sensitivity of Kinect, would that be useful to developers?
The software went through revisions, obviously, as they always do when you're working on pre-released kit, and it got more accurate and it got faster. It's the decision of the developer what their Kinect is looking at basically so we're looking at your full body in the room because we want to see where you're going. So we can't tell whether your hand's open or closed, not with any accuracy, but certainly you could tell Kinect to do that, because it has a skeleton so you could say, "Watch this bit."
So you're confident that you can get the tech to track smaller movements, of the fingers say, effectively?
Yeah basically. In our game you stand quite far back so you might have to stand a lot closer but that's up to the developer. The machine can see all the bones so it knows where your hands are, so it's perfectly capable of watching them yeah.
But it's just like when we first started on the PS2 games at the end of that life were amazing compared to the start, Kinect will be the same, the developers will get loads more out of it in terms of any delay or any accuracy. We're just starting basically.
This is a casual game with fairly simple movements, do you think that's always going to be a restriction of the Kinect? A lot of hardcore gamers are wondering what it's going to offer them.
I don't know, a part of that is possibly because, like you were saying, it's very accurate and hardcore gamers... Really? I mean when I play Gears of War I don't want to be jumping around I just want to sit on my sofa so even if you gave me a hardcore game, I don't know, is it worth it? So on the audience side, it is an active piece of kit so that's the obvious way to go.
Voice control is quite good in terms of accuracy and the longer the phrase the better it is, ironically, because it has time to narrow it down. So you could do quite a nice game where you are talking to and ordering... I know people have tried it in the past with microphones but actually I think you could do it with this.
As I say you can watch the player's face... It's purely a software developers time; are they happy are they unhappy? We can make the game do this. That's all doable it's just, where do you put your effort? And I suppose the initial adopters of this they're very much aimed at the social family market, so that's where we put all the games basically.
I don't know if you've seen any of the Kinect hacks done by bedroom developers...
Yeah, you can see some of the things they can do with it. It is amazing, for a toy especially, it's astonishing. So yeah over time there's no reason it can't do hardcore games it's just purely where the market is and what people are aiming at at this point. It's certainly not the hardware.
This is the first augmented reality game for Kinect. What would you say to people who are going to compare it to Eye Pet on the PlayStation?
It's nice that we don't have any controllers whatsoever, we don't have any props, you don't have to hold anything and it can see the full room and you deal with a pet exactly as you would a real pet, you wouldn't poke a real pet with a joypad or with any sort of accessories or whatever.
So it just frees you up and it can sense depth so it can sense things in front or behind you. There's plenty more that could be done with that sort of thing, we can see all sorts of ways that could go, but having that freedom to move around, not having to hold anything.
It can recognise a second player, it can recognise you as well. It's ideal for us cause, working with kids, the less menus the better and it'll just give you your pet and off you go. So mostly for us the freedom, off you go basically, dive around your front room. You can grab these things, smash them, bop them.
But obviously we watched all those games, we learned from them.
Things like, we tried to make our tutorial more active, because they get very bored just sitting and watching, and making the pet more active, less passive, so it will suggest things and remind you of things so it's not just all up to you.
You guys brought the first 3D game to XBLA didn't you? Why do you think it is that Microsoft hasn't pushed the 3D capabilities of the Xbox as much as Sony?
I don't know, I mean obviously I can't speak for Microsoft, I've no idea what their plans are but, I mean, the 3D is very cool but it's a way off being that mainstream thing because people are still adopting HD TVs, 3D TVs are a way off.
I mean, I don't know, it is a cool gimmick but from our point of view the number of people with it means that it isn't worth doing a lot with it. You don't want to base a game around it because your audience will be massively limited.
So I guess they've decided they're going to aim over here and the number of those TVs will be a factor at this point.
Do you think things like the 3DS will change that?
Yeah obviously because it's built in and having played with them, they are quite amazing. The lack of the glasses, the fact that you need to sit in the perfect position that's got a chance to bring it to a bigger audience but it'll be interesting to see what the killer 3D game is. Is it just a cool little thing or is it something with a reason that this could not be done with something else.