Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In The News/On My Mind: E3 2011 Part 2 (The Kinect Experience)

(Note: A slight delay in posting, I'm pretty tired and beat up from watching everything over the last two days, apologies for the wasted time)

So, E3 Conferences, always fun and entertaining, right? Well, sort of. In the recent years, it's been more about watching and reading reactions of others, because as the gaming market expands to a more mainstream audience, it's become obvious that these press conferences aren't targeted strictly for the core audience anymore, and Microsoft's conference is a very good example of this. Let's get this out of the way, unlike most of the internets and game analysis, I'm still pretty excited about some of the possibilities of Kinect. Emphasis on SOME.

To start, yes, core games were there, and they serve the existing fanbase just fine. Call of Duty MW3, Tomb Raider, Gears of War 3, Halo remake and Halo 4 IS what the core audience would have asked for anyways. It is definitely disappointing to see that investment of new IP for core games seems to be nowhere to be found, but this doesn't, and shouldn'tmatter for that core audience anyways. (Halo 1 remake, as I had sort of predicted, is disappointing and lazy, but will sell)

The Kinect integration into core games is where it gets interesting (and where my feelings diverge from the mainstream): While Mass Effect 3 employ Kinect for voice command controls, and Forza 4 using it for Head Tracking display, it's also safe to say that these games are still very much for the core audience. They're completely optional experiences, and in the case for Forza 4, the added function can actually help the in-car experience.

Ghost Recon Gunsmith with Kinect support is the most interesting case, as the UI manipulation seems to be the most stable, and the most satisfying interaction that evokes memories scenes in Minority Report.

Sure, I'm going gaga over a interface for a game, but I think that's the most solid demo of what a well done and potentially well tested interface can work in a game, it gives me hope that there are ways to make kinect work for games...

...then there's the actual shooting section, which looked imprecise, choppy, and terrible to control. Sure, the reloading looks cool, along with zooming, but the "open palm to fire"? This is the same thing everyone was concerned about with motion based gaming, pretending to fire a gun. I want no part of it, and thankfully, it's optional.

Now to the bad stuff, the Kinect based games: Disney Adventure looks terrible; Kinect Star Wars looks sluggish and not in the way anyone picture how Jedi's should move; Fable The Journey seems impractical as a rail shooter; even Ryse seemed like a "been there, done that" experience from the Wii (even if it's done better here). Kinect Fun Labs is interesting, but no more than a minor 5 minute diversion that finally completes their vision statement from the Project Natal days. Dance Central makes a nice return, but it's not going to find a new audience outside of people who liked the first one.

I can go on and on about why some of the Kinect stuff didn't seem to work, but does it really matter? To Microsoft, this press conference is about showing stuff to the mainstream. Youtube channel and UFC channel is a huge win to the general public (according to MS, 40% of time on the XBox is spent on non-game application), and Kinect Disney Adventure and Kinect Star Wars will be big hit with kids whether they work or not (Just like Just Dance, which is now on their third iteration).

It is interesting to note that slowly but surely, Microsoft is making it clear that the XBox experience will be "get a Kinect or get left behind". I honestly thought Microsoft played the conference as well as they could: Emphasize that core games are still there, show that core games can have good Kinect usage, show that they have lots of Kinect games for the new audience that just got it for the Kinect (Fruit Ninja Kinect will sell boatloads). Sure, it's disappointing that not much new is coming out for the core audience (except for Halo 4), but does it matter? The same core audience will get the third party games shown by other devs on the system anyways, it didn't hurt them last year when they showed nothing but Kinect, and it won't hurt them this year when the core fans snap up games like Arkham City and Skyrim over the Kinect titles.


  1. Ryse tracks your kicks...
    How many broken tvs do you predict because people wear loose shoes when they play? :P

  2. I expect lots.

    I also realized I don't have that much room to play it either.

  3. I honestly believe that M$ really needs to come out with prop based pieces that will be recognized by the Kinect to help people with the movement and focus of games. Sure the whole body is the controller, but how awkward is it to be within a green screen environment all the time? And when the reaction time is slightly too slow it REALLY detracts from the whole idea/method.

    I am personally disappointed in the Kinect and think it needs another 5 years of dev before it will be what we all hoped for. But even then it makes 0 sense... turning your head and it turning on screen is disconnected. Turning away from the screen means strain to look back to keep focus.

    Until they make it full Minority Report type control, it will be the same nonsense every time. GR: Future Solider made sense because it was a menu system. As soon as it's the game...garbage.

  4. Agreed on the prop based item, basically, any controller with buttons, but I can see why it isn't happening: remember their advertising line? "You are the controller" and "controller free experience"? Yeah, basically showing a controller defeats all of that.

    The assumption is that head tracking isn't suppose to be 1-1, so a minor turn translates to a slightly bigger camera change in game. It's worked in GT5, and I expect the same in here.