Rare talks Kinect development

Develop 2010: Rare's Kinect development director talks about developing for physical play, prototyping motion controllers, and the studio's 25-year history.

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Who was there: Rare's Nick Burton is the British studio's Kinect development director. Since checking out hardware prototypes two years ago, he has been hard at work on the upcoming Kinect Sports.

Rare is behind Kinect Sports.
Rare is behind Kinect Sports.

What he talked about: As an in-house Microsoft development partner, Rare is one of the best developers in the world to offer an insight into Kinect development. The studio's first game for the peripheral is Kinect Sports, launching alongside the camera-based motion-sensing add-on in November. Kinect specialist Nick Burton offered today's Develop audience an insight into some of the lessons he's learned.

The main thrust of the session had to do with how challenging motion-controller development can be. To illustrate the point, Burton called three people to the stage to show how humans can move in highly variable ways. He asked the volunteers to run on the spot and jump occasionally and pointed out the different physical approaches to the task between each person. For Kinect Sports, the game has to be able to recognise each individual running style. A big part of Rare's testing process has been watching how people interpret the moves that the game asks of them.

Kinect Sports will also offer a football (soccer) game, and Burton talked about the challenges of making a motion-based take on the sport. The team toyed around with having the players automatically run forward, as well as boost whenever the player leaned in a certain direction. However, in the end, the team decided to make it as accessible as possible, eradicating the running in favour of simple passing. As a result, all you have to do in the game now is choose the direction you want to kick and then angle your foot to choose how to pass or shoot.

Despite these challenges, the Kinect developer was keen to stress that this isn't the first time Rare has developed for motion-sensitive hardware. Burton cited Super Glove Ball for Mattel's Power Glove controller as a rudimentary motion-based control system. The company has also prototyped a motion controller of its own, not entirely dissimilar to a Wii Remote or Move controller. Burton brought it with him and showed a video for a game called Soulcatcher--a Perfect Dark-style first-person shooter with a wizard-based twist. Another game that never saw the light of day was The Fast and the Furriest, which used the Xbox Live Vision camera to pick up player motion for running and curling-style athletic games.

Takeaway: Burton stressed how impressed he was with Kinect technology, as well as the possibilities it offers for the future. He quoted Arthur C. Clarke when talking about his first encounter with the tech, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." He was particularly impressed with the gadget's potential for augmented reality, saying, "The things you've seen with webcams are just the tip of the iceberg where augmented reality is concerned."

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