Natal to have dynamic 'play spaces,' but no patchable support

Kudo Tsunoda says forthcoming motion-sensing technology will use infrared light to custom-size in-game areas--but is too complex to add to existing games via software updates.

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At last week's Tokyo Game Show, Microsoft Game Studios' Kudo Tsunoda revealed a few new details about Project Natal. As part of another dodgeball-like "Ricochet" tech demo, the creative director revealed that the Xbox 360 motion-sensing technology's camera sees only the infrared spectrum. That allows Natal to work in all lighting conditions and to adjust the in-game playing area to fit players' game dens.

"We can configure the play space around your living room," explained Tsunoda. "Let's say you had sofas that were squeezing in this way, we can automatically move the walls of the [Ricochet] court in. If you don't have a wall that goes back that far, they can move the wall up. So we can totally customize the play area to the dimensions of your personal play area."

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Tsunoda also explained that Natal's multiparty microphone could distinguish individual voices from multiple players in the same room.

Although Natal-ized versions of Burnout Paradise and Beautiful Katamari were on hand at TGS, Tsunoda said existing games couldn't be updated to support the technology. He told game blog Destructoid that the motion-sensing technology would require code changes more extensive than any software patch could provide. Existing 360 titles could conceivably be rereleased with Natal support, much like Nintendo's New Play Control! program rereleased GameCube titles such as Pikmin to work with the Wii's motion controls.

Microsoft pulled out all the stops to promote Project Natal at TGS 2009. Besides Tsunoda's demonstration, the company trotted out three of Japan's most respected game developers to talk about their enthusiasm for Natal: Sega's Toshihiro Nagoshi (Super Monkey Ball), Capcom's Keiji Inafune (Dead Rising 2), and Konami's Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid Rising).

In addition, Microsoft revealed which publishers are "actively working" on games using Project Natal, which will go on sale sometime next year. They include Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, Capcom, Disney, Electronic Arts, Konami, MTV Games, Namco Bandai, Sega, Square Enix, THQ, and Ubisoft.

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