Ah, Summer 2009 how I miss you. Such a simpler time where I inwardly obsessed over the fifth season finale of Lost unendingly, and all-night Team Fortress 2 sessions somehow never got old. Also, I was completely and utterly positive, no questions asked, that I was going to get then named Project Natal on release day. Oh how a year can change things.
When I first saw Natal at Microsoft’s E3 briefing last year, I was awestruck. The possibilities seemed endless, and I just wanted to play it right there (the sure sign of a must buy). That brick breaker game, where your body has to keep the ball in play, looked like a lot of fun. And, of course, who can forget that creepy yet cute kid Milo? I remember Peter Molyneux (of Lionhead Studios, creators of Fable) talking excitedly of the features and prospect of what Milo could achieve; I couldn’t help but get a bit antsy. I mean c’mon, you can draw something, hold it up to the sensor, and it gets translated right into the game world. It’s unprecedented, something no one’s ever done before. Not to mention the intelligent conversations the woman, Kate, had with Milo; discussing school, projects, and how she was feeling (he could read her facial cues and decide what her emotion was, thus adding another wrinkle to my brain). It got me excited for not only this game, but the ideas of all these features that could be presented into other games.
That idea of being able to, Minority Report-style, swipe between menu options, or tell your Xbox commands, is what got me most excited. A simpler, cleaner and funner way to navigate their system is what I yearned for. While some of these points ended up in the newly (and poorer) named Kinect, I feel a little left out in the cold. I was just confused after this years E3; it felt wrong to go from hyper excitement, to bitter disappointment. I was expecting more assurance that this tech would be under my tree come Christmas morning. Unfortunately, I found myself to be more excited last year. And this year, well, I feel almost apathetic about the whole thing.
My first major problem, as any semi-hardcore to hardcore gamer would say, is the games. I thought Microsoft would understand their fan base, and the people who practically keep their company running, don’t want to play around with creepy baby zebra things. I mean, Kinectimals.. really? Everything seems so obviously copied from Nintendo titles, I feel almost embarrassed for them. From Kinect Sports, to Kinect Joy Ride and the previously mentioned Kinectimals. I won’t insult you guys’ intelligence, the Wii and DS games they mirror are joltingly obvious. The only game my friends and I could agree that looks even worth playing is Dance Central. And we have NEVER played dancing games, hell we barely play Rock Bands or Guitar Hero. But it’s original and looks like a decent amount of fun, despite how much of a complete moron I would look like playing it.
And you thought because it doesn’t use peripherals Kinect would be spared a bunch of ridiculous third-party add-ons. Well, you were wrong.
This is Atomic Accessories’ “Game Boat”. It’s for Kinect Adventures, a game which includes a rafting game. So you blow up the inflatable boat, and…look, I’m not going to dignify this with an explanation.
I’m just going to ask that if Atomic are mad enough to release this boat, they could at least go the whole hog and release the plastic jungle to go with it.
Problem number two comes with bits of information I’ve read over the Internet in the pass couple of months. Over the summer it was unofficially revealed, when pre-ordering on Amazon, you must make sure you have 6 feet of room between you and the Kinect sensor. I get that it was probably a problem that was insurmountable, being that the tiny lens needs you far enough to see your entire body. But the way I feel is that this problem won’t even let some people ponder getting a Kinect, like out of the gate they are refused it. I have about five feet from my television to the beginning of my bed, so even if I really really wanted one, it’d be impossible for me to play. I know there’s going to be someone in that position, and if they have a PS3, they may just go for Move instead.
“You’ll need any Xbox 360 console, a Kinect sensor, Kinect games and 6 feet between you and your television for play space,” the listing on Amazon’s Kinect pre-order page states.
More recently we learned of the multiplayer situation. You want to play Kinect Adventures with a buddy? You need to be at least eight feet away from the sensor. Pause for thoughts. Do you have eight feet in your gaming center? That’s about a little more than half of my entire room. I felt a little lenient on them for the six feet, but this just flabbergasted me. Just a nail in the coffin of what was, just a year ago, my gaming dream
Most significantly is the confirmation that you will require a minimum of six feet of space between you and the camera for it to properly read your motions. If you add a second player to the mix, that number moves to eight feet, severely limiting the practicality of the device for many.
And, an admittedly petty and bitter problem of mine, but a problem nonetheless, is the hardware features. Yeah you can turn your Xbox on by walking in front of it, control menus with your hand in front of you held out like you’re stopping traffic for a group of five-year-olds, and start Netflix by simply talking into the speaker. Cool. Awesome. But there’s a whole separate dashboard for it, so there won’t be any Minority Report swiping done anywhere, sadly. I would have also liked to see some sort of voice integration done with more of the well-used features on the Xbox guide. For instance if I wanted to start a party with one of my friends, why couldn’t I just say “Xbox, start party with <gamertag>”? Or demand “Xbox, send message to <gamertag>” and then speak the message. Maybe, hopefully, features like these, that us true gamers would use, could be included in a software update later. But for now, on launch day, I’ll keep a safe distance.
So what about you, oh loyal Platform Nation reader? Are you excited for Kinect, or are you going to wait and see if better games and features come out? Or are you as jaded and disappointed as me?