Game Developer Q+A – Kinectimals

I attended a question and answer session with Founder and chairman of BAFTA-nominated Cambridge developer Frontier, David Braben who discussed the making of the Kinectimals launch title for Microsoft’s innovative ‘no-controller required’ device, Kinect.

I didn’t really know what to expect to happen at the Q & A session, I wasn’t sure how many people were going to be there and what kind of backgrounds they would be from. It turned out it wasn’t as big of an event as I imagined, fairly intimate with all just over 100 people.

The online editor of Edge Magazine, Alex Wiltshire was the event chair for the evening.

I had researched into the Xbox Kinect into some depth the past few weeks, and it is a piece of technology I am interested in but not sold by yet. So this was a fantastic opportunity to see what all the fuss was about and look into its capabilities.

It was interesting to hear about Brabens initial work with the Kinect, as it was new technology that had to be kept under wraps. Also as it was new it was getting used to using it, as this is a brand new way of interacting with digital applications.

A few of the early demos for Kinectiamls was shown to us, which was very interesting, as it was just the same as the game however more blocks of colour without the detail. It seemed that once they had got used to the interface mocking up interactions and uses were fairly straight forward (to some extent.) It was all about what does and doesn’t work. Braben stated there was a process of getting really excited about developments , then hitting a brick wall and having to overcome the obstacle.

Braben demonstrated the Kinectimals to the audience. I had never seen the Kinect work up close or used one myself so I was really interested what kind of things could be done with it. He displayed kicking, steering, swiping, hiding and digging, just a few of the ways in which a user can interact with their games. It was quite exciting to see someone control their games just by the movements of their body.

Braben also talked about how the xbox controller will not be made completely redundant. He had the vision of combining Kinect with a normal controller to get a crossover experience.

“imagine call of duty with the Kinect.” – David Braben

This combination between the Kinect and a controller may be one way to completely utilise everything that xbox has to offer.

When it came to the question and answer with the audience at the end, there were some fairly interesting questions.

A member of the audience asked about how people may not adjust to the Kinect due to there being no tactical feedback. Braben responded to say that tactical feedback is irrelevant then stating

“a mouse and keyboard give no tactical feedback.”

I have to disagree with him here, there is tactical feedback in the sense of actually being able to feel the buttons and know that they have been pressed. However the Kinect has its own way of displaying recognition to interaction, which is something that we will probably adapt to, we shall see.

Another member of the audience asked about lag (lag being the delay between the interaction and the response on screen.) It seemed a bit of a touchy subject as the Kinect has undergone criticism due to this issue. However for Kinectimals it is not really applicable due to the nature of the game, however something such as a first person shooter may make things a bit more complicated.

After the Q & A, I had a go on Kinectimals, as this game is based for children it wasn’t really the most immense gaming I have undertaken, but it was a bit of fun. It did however just remind me completely of how I felt using the Wii for the first time 3 years ago. I did enjoy the fact that on screen told me to ‘dig’ so I started to dig and the animal onscreen started to dig. I feel that it is this kind of intelligent programming that is the future of the Kinect. My only problem with using the Kinect was that it didn’t feel ‘instant,’ as it seemed a bit slow to my actions, so it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience. However I feel that this was because the profile I was using would have been someone different meaning that their body structure would be more than likely different to mine.

I feel that the Kinect has potential but I feel that its pretty much doing what the Wii did 3 years ago. As far as game play is concerned it doesn’t seem to make gaming more enjoyable or much more immersive.

The big however is, that I see that this piece of technology has a lot of potential, especially the ‘object recognition’ side of it. For a computer to be able to recognise an object is a major step in the digital age, image a world where an object can be shown into a camera and it can be identified supplying such information as to what it is, what is does, where to buy one, how rare it is, the price etc etc etc!

I am not completely drawing a line under the Kinect, far from it. I am really interested to how it will develop and also see peoples experiments with it, and also if I can get my hands on it play around myself, who knows this may feature heavily for my MA major project.

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