June 21, 2010 by Tim

Alternate title for this comic, “Taste the brain blow”?

I don’t mean to keep jabbing at the Kinect, but this is the first thing I thought when I saw the demo of Kinectimals at Microsoft’s Press conference. Putting aside that it’s a motion control game obviously geared for kids, the video (assuming it was a live demonstration… it’s entirely possible it was staged) highlights the key problem I have with the controllerless Kinect.

In the video the girl is wiggling her hands, and on-screen the hands are wiggling. But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of accurate sync (again, it may have just been a staged performance), and so it looks like “I flail in my living room, arms on screen flap about” but not with the sort of precision you’d need for more complex games.

We already know Kinect can’t pick up finger movements. So far I haven’t seen any evidence that it can detect subtle movements like the orientation of a hand (palm side up or down, for example). No evidence that you can navigate a character in a 3D space. All well and good for games that are on rails, or sports/fitness games. Or in other words, all good for casual games.

However $150 is a pretty chunk of change for a console addon so, from my perspective at least, it would have made sense to appeal to both the casual and core crowds with the Kinect. At this point I’m not sure how Microsoft will bridge that gap if they choose to. How would you make a Gears of War for the Kinect? How would you roadie run?

I think that motion controls are really cool. I think they have a lot of potential, even in core games, that hasn’t been fully explored yet. I also believe that analog sticks and buttons still have to play a role in these games (a la the Wii). Removing those extra control options severly limits what you can do.

In this respect, at the moment, the Playstation Move is sitting in the number one spot for my “anticipated new motion control tech”. If the controller tracking is really as accurate as they’re suggesting, combined with the graphical power of the system, we could see some pretty cool games coming out in the next year or two. I can imagine a God of War type title built from the ground up to use the Playstation move.

Picture a third-person hack and slash game where in-game canned animations aren’t assigned to general motions (ie, flail your arm in one direction to perform an overhead super slash), but actually a free-form, accurate representation of your real life sword swings. Now add in that really cool slice technology from Metal Gear Rising. Done well, that’s a game that would get core gamers salivating about motion controls.

The Move controller may look silly with it’s big lollipop at the end, but I think it has the most potential (right now) to provide some games that push past the “casual” stereotype, and maybe even produce a title that proves that motion controls have a place in serious gaming. The Wii had the right idea, but I don’t think the motion tracking is accurate enough, or the system graphics powerful enough to push motion gaming to that next level.

Maybe we’ll see the PS3 do something right during its lifespan.

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