Developers Step Up And Defend Kinect
The biggest names from across the industry step up to defend a motion-controlled future…
Last year’s industry and consumer comments surrounding Kinect’s high-profile launch consisted of worrying murmurs of childish Wii-like titles, shovelware and inaccurate controls. In the face of huge reported sales and a supposedly successful launch, we’re fast approaching the busiest time in the industry.
Now we’ll see Microsoft gear up to convince Kinect’s staunchest critics that motion control will have far-reaching affects that could be the most effective driving factor behind the evolution of the most popular genres of the day. But, will it be enough to convince the 360’s vocal ‘core’ audience that Kinect is a device worth investing in?
“One of my favourite things about Kinect,” explains Lionhead legend and Fable: The Journey developer, Peter Molyneux, “is that it’s not as precise as a controller, but that makes sense. [In The Journey] you’re on a horse – you can’t turn 180 degrees easily so there’s an element of realism about it, and that realism will carry over to the horse. It has feelings, it has a name, you can pat him – we want you to bond with him like you did with the creature in Black & White and the dog in Fable II.”
This physical, or at least movement-based, addition to what has traditionally been a conventional – if innovative – RPG experience is one way Kinect is augmenting a ‘core’ game. That it ties neatly into Molyneux’s emotion-laden games is more of a happy coincidence than proof that, for at least some genres, a greater connection between gamer and NPC is an avenue worth exploring.
Turn 10 has been particularly vocal about its experimentation with Kinect in Forza 4, settling on adding new modes or tweaks to its features rather than totally reinventing it. Studio head Dan Greenawalt is adamant that Kinect is a genre, and that genre-specific games are still some years away.
BioWare, however, is exploring through voice communication how Kinect can add another layer of investment for gamers. “The barrier of entry for games is the interface, and the interface is conveyed through traditional media and controls,” explains BioWare’s Dr Ray Muzyka. “The more you can make that as transparent and accessible as possible, the more you can deliver emotionally engaging experiences and keep people compelled and having a ton of fun.”
Mass Effect 3 is using Kinect to enhance its gameplay by pulling players deeper into its world. How successful it is will depend on BioWare’s bravery. As it stands, Kinect’s use is superficial during the series’ staple conversations and untested during the new combat. There’s little doubt that if Microsoft is to convert the ‘core’, successful Kinect use in its biggest games is paramount.
Kinect has the potential to revolutionise the games we play and how we play them, but the longer it fails to deliver an experience that’s seen as a success – a killer app – motion control will continue to sit at odds with the majority of traditional gamers – people that make up the vast majority of Xbox 360 owners. There are plenty of opportunities in the next few months for opinions to change. If Xbox has taught us anything, it’s that one Halo can be the difference between success and failure.