Last night (Monday 14th June) we went to a rooftop party courtesy of Xbox and their campaign around the release of Kinect, a peripheral for the console which allows you to control games with just your body. Cue flailing around and looking like a complete chump, albeit having a LOT of fun!
KUDO TSUNODA CHAT
I also caught up with the man who led the development of Kinect, until Monday known as Project Natal, Kudo Tsunoda:
Will: How does Kinect compare with Wii
Kudo: I have nothing against the Wii, but you’re limited to controlling things with two hands. All those experiences you saw out there today like Kinetimals and Kinect Adventures you could never do on Wii. You can’t run down a track and physically jump hurdles with Wii. There’s a big difference between full body tracking and tracking two points in your hand. Besides that there’s the stuff that’s completely unique to Kinect not only in the video games industry but in any media right now such as the ability to control other entertainment like movies.
Also, one of our very new things is our human recognition system for Kinect which allows you to sign in just by standing in front of your Xbox. The way we use this aspect of the technology in games can be seen in Kinectimals where you adopt a pet and over time the pet gets to know you. If someone else comes in, the pet will react totally differently to them as it does to you so you’re able for the first time to build shared memories and shared experiences between you and an in-game character. Kinect is really different than anything you see out in the world right now.
Will: At E3 last year we saw quite a conceptual presentation of what was then known as Project Natal, with the little boy Milo being passed real-world objects which were then rendered in his world and a skateboarding game in which the player could scan their own skateboard in and skate it in-game. Will this bridging of the gap between real-world and in-game be seen in future Kinect releases?
Kudo: In Kinectimals you can get a plushy toy which Kinect recognises, allowing you to play Kinectimals with the toy right away. These are launch games that you see here and like any launch there will be much development along the way as developers figure out different ways of using it.
Will: Do you think indie game developers will be able to create more innovative and unusual applications for Kinect?
Kudo: For sure. Xbox has done a great job with XNA – http://creators.xna.com/en-GB/ – and Xbox Live Arcade games of allowing smaller developers to express themselves creatively on our platform. That’s something that’s very important to us and will be true of Kinect as well.
Will: Will there be games where you can use a controller and Kinect? For instance playing Call Of Duty with a controller and being able to lean round corners with your body.
Kudo: With the technology that’s possible for sure, you could lean round corners or throw grenades. But with our launch games we just wanted to maximise the full body tracking. With anything we’re doing on Xbox right now it’s about giving creative people the biggest palette of tools possible to make the best experiences, whether it’s a controller experience, a 100% controller-free one or mixing controller and Kinect technology [in the same game].
Will: How do you think Kinect will develop to please core gamers as well as families?
Kudo: Well, it’s funny because I’m a core gamer as well but what’s interesting is that somewhere along the way core gamers started getting defined by shooting things. But what core gamers really like is skill-based games and games with a lot of depth and Kinect is like bringing the arcade experience back to your home. The thing with arcades is because you’re putting your own money in, you need to be able to instantly learn how to play, ‘cos if it took you an hour to learn how to play it you would put one coin in and move onto the next machine. Core gamers loved arcades but not because they’re complicated, the controls were simple. They loved them because there’s a lot to learn and lots of depth. Really that’s what Kinect is doing. When we say we’re making approachable games it doesn’t mean we’re making games that lack skill and depth it just means you don’t have to spend an hour or two fighting the controller before you can enjoy the games. So I think Kinect will appeal to core gamers right away.