Microsoft Aims to Connect Kinect Games with All Ages
Microsoft Kinect, the motion control interface for the Xbox 360, has wowed hardcore gamers and nongamers alike, but so far the selection of Kinect-compatible games has been small. Microsoft plans to change that with a big lineup of blockbuster Kinect games that appeal to a wide age range.
At the E3 gaming expo, Microsoft unveiled a handful of games that will use Kinect, including some hardcore first-person shooter games that many thought couldn't be made into Kinect games. Microsoft revealed that the popular "Mass Effect" franchise, a sci-fi shooter, will use Kinect voice controls for dialogue and squad commands in its third installment, while the Ubisoft shooter "Ghost Recon: Future Soldier" will use both voice commands and gestures to control the player's gun and firing.
"In a game that already reacts to you, you'll feel even more connected," said Ray Muzyka, CEO of BioWare, the developer of "Mass Effect 3."
Kinect grows up
So far, Kinect games have almost exclusively fallen into one of three categories: games for small children, party games or dance/exercise games. There are still plenty of those, with announcements for Kinect "Sports Season 2" and Kinect "Dance Central 2," but "Mass Effect 3" and "Ghost Recon" show that Microsoft wants to expand the Kinect user base into the "hardcore" gaming demographic, proving that Kinect is more than just a gimmick.
During a press conference, representatives showed how easy and tactically helpful it was to use Kinect voice controls in "Mass Effect 3" combat, ordering squad mates to use their special attacks or cover certain areas. And speaking the dialogue options makes the player feel more immersed in the game. Similarly, controlling the assembly of weapon upgrades in "Ghost Recon" and testing them on a firing range, all with simple gestures, makes gameplay more personal.
Other developers announced Kinect integration into their upcoming games, including Lionhead Studios for "Fable: The Journey"; a new Roman era fighting game called "Ryse"; and Kinect "Star Wars," which will let players be a Jedi Knight and wield the Force and a light saber via Kinect gestures.
Not precise enough?
It's at once exciting and worrisome because Kinect still may not have the precision most users require to feel like they are in control. The action is amazing, and Kinect really is quite good at mapping and following the body's movements. But there are still small issues of lag between the moment a user jumps or swings, and the instant the on-screen character follows suit.
Of course, Microsoft isn't forgetting the power of Kinect to wow the younger gamers. There were also several announcements for child-oriented Kinect games, including a game that recreates Disneyland, letting players explore and play, and a "Sesame Street" game from the developer Double Fine that allows children to go on adventures with their favorite "Sesame Street" characters. And all this is happening without the need for a game controller .
The appeal for children is obvious. They can imitate gestures easily and often get the hang of an interface faster than they would with a controller or mouse. But even the simplicity of Kinect doesn't remove all obstacles for developers.
"Children require you to rethink everything," Zack Karlsson, from Double Fine, told TechNewsDaily. "Something that adults think is great will get ripped apart by the kids in testing. And the interface has to be simple. How do you make a tutorial for kids that can't read?"
Ultimately, Kinect has the ability to appeal to all ages, and Microsoft's new Kinect game lineup covers all the bases. However, it remains to be seen if developers can really make motion-based gameplay that will attract long-term users of any age.
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