Why I am still excited about Kinect

It seems like Microsoft lost a lot of credibility with the “core” community by making Kinect an integral and necessary component for their next console. In almost every article about it there will always be someone to comment “I don’t want to wave my arms around, standing in front of the TV”; the swear words have been taken out there.

This sentiment is of course largely based on the fact that almost all Kinect games have been very casual, often party-oriented, games in which you had to stand and perform actions with your hands (which are not really fitting to the actions on the screen by the way) and then look at a low precision, delayed interpretation of that movement on screen.

And after games like “Start Wars Kinect” this point of view is somewhat valid.

However I still think it is great to have Kinect bundled with each new Xbox One. And I still think that Kinect makes for a great main peripheral, apart from the obvious fact that it can enhance games in a meaningful way as a second one: link. It could be as “simple” as having head tracking for every cut scene or gameplay scene in general to make for a really enhanced experience.

What I see as one of the main problems so far is the fact that game design has not adapted enough to Kinect yet and this is probably a main reason why things like Fable the Journey happen.

It seems like many developers are thinking about “how can I use the existing genres/game design philosophy and force it on the new peripheral”. Which will always result in downgrades to the gameplay and experience. It is like trying to create a flight simulator with only the keyboard as a peripheral in mind. Yes it is certainly possible, but without a joystick the experience is severely limited and probably not fun. Or like trying to have a complex RTS played out with the controller.

Crytek tried to have Ryse as a Kinect-only title, but they changed it to a controller title now, remarking they had “problems with navigation”. Which to me seems like the concept has not been thought out enough in the first place. Of course you cannot move around in the world, when the only real input you have is speech (not suitable), gestures (used for other things already) and general movement (constrained by area in front of the TV).

So what game creators have to think about is how to create new genres that fit the input and also think about scenarios that can be more immersive with the sensor. Being someone in a wheelchair, who moves around with his hands only anyways. Or being a boss of the future police department and managing everything from the office, maybe with “minority report” style interface. These are just quick thoughts, which are not really fresh and may not be fun, but the immersion factor for these would be a lot greater than with most Kinect games so far (apart from dance central, which was great anyways).

Then there is the thing about the Kinect being less precise than the controller for gaming. A valid point when your objective is to kill as many people around you as quick as possible, or when trying to shoot someone from 200 m away, but again I feel like this is a problem of design then. Because why would you be forced to compete with a controller anyways? People cannot compete with an instance which can perform crazy moves by only pressing a button. While stretching and rotating my leg to kick someone I could press 40 buttons. And even if a motion control sensor was 100% precise I would not be able to hit the enemy with my arrow as precise as with the controlled-crosshair, simply because I cannot perform this in real life.

So building the same old brawler game expecting the player to kill 100 enemies per minute as brutally as possible (link to Ryse video) is of course not possible. By the way, people fail to realize that the game design problem lays not only with motion controlled gaming: If it weren’t so incredibly easy to press buttons and move around with the analog stick, we would not be “needing” these endless masses of enemies in the first place. Of course there is a little bit of generalization there, but I am sure this is a factor. The player needs visual feedback in form of a sophisticated animation after each button press – the move by the character is usually sophisticated enough to be of danger to the enemy, so therefore we need a lot of enemies to make this work. Or a single one which has supernatural survival abilities.

If, however; we would try to realize this with motion control, each 1 on 1 fight would have to be much much longer, because of our real life capabilities. But of course it would also make each single fight much more meaningful. We could realize a dueling game, or let’s say a fencing game/simulation with a foil or a rapier, which would work with the Kinect because the movement in the real game is restricted by forwards / backwards as well. Why not give everyone a glowing stick to play with, so it could be recognized more precisely? I do realize I am falling in the “known already” category here, but it was just a quick idea.

And also people have to realize that in some ways Kinect is much more precise than a controller in some other areas. Drawing a cycle in the air is one of them, speech is another one. It can be faster to say specific things for the Xbox to look for, instead of writing them down with a controller keyboard interface. I am sure we will see some great things how people use these advantages.

So what did I want to say with all this text?

I am excited about Kinect, because it frees creators of known restrictions and imposes others. If they want to succeed they need to find completely new genres and game types. The amount of possibilities is huge. Instead of evolution, it might be revolution. Hopefully.


So yeah I hope you liked my little wall of text. Please leave some feedback and don’t forget: I am always looking for creative new titles, so if you have suggestions about which ones to look at, please share Smiley


One thought on “Why I am still excited about Kinect

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