A Missed Kinection

E3 2012: Sparing us the agony of poor motion controls.

by

It's such a relief when a publisher walks away from a lost cause.

For the last few years, Microsoft has been trying to force Kinect motion controls into games where they most definitely do not belong. Games aimed at the hardcore crowd that demand precise controls simply fail under the inherent limitations of the Kinect, but we had to put up with countless experiments as Microsoft and its partners shoved frustrating games out the door. It was always the darkest moment of E3, when Microsoft would play a prerecorded reel of Kinect games so it could hide the massive lag that naturally resulted when trying to play these games without a cloak of deception.

I couldn't contain my smile when the Microsoft conference wrapped up and I realized that no such pain was inflicted on the public this year.

Only a handful of games took advantage of the Kinect in any meaningful way. Three of these are expected and smart entries in the motion-enabled catalog. Dance Central 3 should be as entertaining as its predecessors because it doesn't require precision. Rather than having you control your onscreen avatar, the game merely monitors how close your movements match those of the virtual dancer, and judges you thusly. In Wreckateer--clearly influenced by Angry Birds--exact control isn't important since it's all about the chaotic freedom of knocking down towers with cannonballs. Fable: Journey is all about the Kinect, but it's tightly guided on-rails navigation should alleviate problems that arise in more taxing experiences.

It's the other two games on Microsoft's stage that I found most interesting. EA Sports has implemented Kinect controls in two of its biggest franchises: FIFA and Madden. And though my immediate fear was that we'd have to perform a slide tackle or diving catch in our living rooms, it quickly became apparent that such nonsense wouldn't be necessary. The camera--the defining part of the Kinect--wasn't going to be used at all for these games. Instead, the Kinect has been relegated to an expensive microphone. EA proudly touted the voice commands. Now, you can change your formations on the fly in FIFA '13 or shout a curse at a referee when he blows a call. Madden '13 has the same sort of functionality, letting you call an audible at the line of scrimmage. Yeah, it's all marketing hype. It's simple enough to change plays by just tapping a button like we've been doing for years, but it's a quirky gimmick for anyone who wants a spice of originality in their iterative yearly sequels.

What's most interesting is that this seems to be a growing trend for Microsoft. Mass Effect 3 let you command your squadmates with your voice. In a recent Skyrim patch, Bethesda added the ability to perform dragon shouts by shouting yourself. It's as if they've finally acknowledged that trying to cram motion controls into these experiences is a serious detriment to enjoyment. So instead of abandoning the technology completely, they're tossing in a few voice-enabled features so they can advertise "Better With Kinect!" on the box and keep their camera in people's minds.

The Kinect is a device that's clearly intended for a casual audience, and there's nothing wrong with that. Seeing imprecise motion controls forced into games was a bad idea that only created resentment toward this technology. Microsoft is taking a positive step by recognizing the strengths, weaknesses, and appeal of this device so it doesn't wind up in places it doesn't belong. At least I hope that's the case. The industry certainly doesn't need more games like Rise of Nightmares and Diabolical Pitch that highlight the worst elements of this uneven technology.

Discussion

24 comments
C8M
C8M

I think Rise of Nightmares was a good idea matched with a bad game. I really do hope they do more survival horror games with Kinect. Completely disagree with this article and wishing a gruesome horrible death on the author.

TheGlenster
TheGlenster

Great article! It mirrors what I've been thinking for a while now. The Kinect is fine for children and casual gamers, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. What irritates me the most is trying to shoehorn Kinect into games by making it as you say in the article, "relegated to an expensive microphone." I don't know about everyone else, but my XBox came with a headset why do I need a Kinect?

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

Nice articles.  Not sure where that leaves folks like myself, who's Kinect is very precise - although as I mentioned elsewhere, I have green walls.

 

Not getting lag either btw... I guess environment helps?

OldKye
OldKye

i agree with the article though it'll be great once they are more "precise" and in some ways it's sad the Kinect emits small infrared light pules that are picked up by a infrared camera so it can time the delay mapping the you as a whole and judging distance even in the dark mixed with normal RBG camera and 4 microphones to be able to tell who in the room is talking(from using one the microphone is the most precise aspect) it is a amazing peace of technology to plug into a Xbox.  That said it's not enough maybe with multiple camera's and tracking balls on your clothing could it be precise enough for main line games but no one would use/pay for that so tell it becomes practical, affordable, and precise it's a really interesting product a cool toy and mostly a expensive microphone.

MVan86
MVan86

I was annoyed by how prominent Kinect was in Microsoft's conference; would it have hurt to have had a few more minutes of serious games instead of Usher (now he REALLY hurts)? 

 

Still yes it is is a relief that they're starting to realise the limitations of the Kinect and are working within them instead of trying ignore them and push it a lot harder.

megakick
megakick

Meh this is first gen for consoles.

Give it some time. Motion control for consoles have a way to go.

WiiUOwner
WiiUOwner

why did my comment disappear? 

 

instead of getting rid of Kinect how about getting rid of these tired rehashed franchises from the PS1 era and make something new.

 

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

motion controls or hands free gaming is still a long ways off...and by the time they perfect it, i might be way past gaming to the point that i can just have my fill of retro gaming and not current consoles

WiiUOwner
WiiUOwner

How about doing away with the tired rehashed old franchises instead of doing away with Kinect?

ziproy
ziproy

How can you fan boys honestly support a console that steals ideas from other companies.

deathstream
deathstream

Hopefully the rumors about Kinect 2 being part of the next Xbox are true. Added precision. Would do wonders for Kinect's image. The tech is innovative and exciting, but not there yet I it's current form.

roundthetwist06
roundthetwist06

Kinect is properly on the back burner where it belongs, a fun distraction, great for casual games I agree but thats about it

LandauTST
LandauTST

The hardware itself is hardly "uneven" nor do I think it suffers from "limitations". Well, to be more specific, the hardware itself doesn't. Yeah, there's several games that have failed for the Kinect, but it's more the developers faults whether it's poor encoding, poor understanding of how it all works, etc. The Kinect has shown what awesome things it can do in and outside of gaming thanks to certain developers making their games properly, and individuals who have just come up with some amazing ideas on how to implement the technology elsewhere.

WllDan7
WllDan7

Could you just use a head set or microphone instead of kinect. Microsoft is just trying people into buying that thing and not using the main feature of it. And now with the smart glass thing kinect just got a whole lot more irrelevant. But even the smart glass thing (I am still confused with what it is) the regular 360 controller is still the only thing needed to play games and move through the apps.  

Foppe
Foppe

Ehm, Microsoft is still hot on Kinect...

goldenocean
goldenocean

I think you're overstating the case there Tom.  It isn't Microsoft that has walked away from Kinect, it's all the other developers.  MS still showed as much Kinect as they possibly could in their presentation...  I think they're clearly still chasing that particular pipe dream by the number of Kinect and "better" with Kinect titles shown compared to everything else that doesn't use it.  It's just that they don't have as many Kinect titles to choose from these days. 

 

 What a sad showing by Microsoft at E3 overall though (again).  They need to put some of those tens of billions of dollars to work in getting some new first party exclusive titles going... as it was the presentation was pretty sleep inducing - even early in the day as it was.

OhSnapitz
OhSnapitz

..but it's ok for Sony to show us the wonder..of the Wonder Book?!?!?  w/ the Move?!?   :|

Getbacktogaming
Getbacktogaming

I'm still curious to see what Fable : The Journey will play like... I haven't given up yet : S ...it doesn't justify the 150 $ but the vocal commands are AMAZING (I only have ME3 and Skyrim but they both use 'em very well)

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

 @buccomatic Great job, disregarding/not reading the article.

 

Kinect actually doesn't suck when it's implemented correctly.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

 @ziproy 

 

Hate ta break it ta ya, but Microsoft had a motion controller before they even had an XBox.  It was a (tilty) gamepad made for Motocross Madness, unfortunately the controller was crap.  I have a Wii and 360, and I find the Wii hurts my arms, whereas the Kinect doesn't (partially due to not having to hold anything, extra weight etc).

tduhon07
tduhon07

 @ziproy Do you own an Xbox? Do you own a PS3? Do you own a Wii? Do you on an Ipad or Iphone? Do you own a PC?

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you support a company that steals ideas for other companies, because they all do it, and anyone that has deluded themselves into believing otherwise is naive.

Decessus
Decessus

 @goldenocean It's been brought up in a number of different articles, but the strategy Microsoft seems to be following is turning the Xbox into more than just a video game console. It's why there was so much focus on all the other services that Xbox Live has to offer, such as sports, music, movies, ect.

 

I understand why a lot of core gamers get frustrated with this strategy, but that seems to be Microsoft's game plan for better or worse.

Decessus
Decessus

 @Gelugon_baat Yeah, I was a little surprised that something wasn't shown. From what little I've seen it seems to be one of the few (if only) hardcore games that uses the Kinect in an interesting way.