Right down the south entrance of the Cologne Exhibition Centre, Hall 8 featured many of the big names of the gaming industry. Wasting no time before the masses arrived, I visited the first area that crossed my line of sight, the Microsoft Kinect booth. I should say booths, actually – the company’s area included several wide-open stands, but also included some dozen half-closed booths. My interest was on Kinect Sports, but not wanting to waste any time, I went with the next free booth, which just so happened to be Kinect Adventures.
As luck would have it, Brian Murphy, one of the designers of Kinect Adventures would be introducing the game to me and a former industry colleague of mine I bumped into at the Microsoft stand. Having someone who worked on a title is a nice touch which distinguishes itself from the usual crowds of leased staff which I personally appreciated very much.
The booth was see-through towards our backs so spectators could watch us make fools of ourselves, but not disturb us by running in front of us. The compilation of mini-games clearly aims at casual gamers. Among the previous demoed and E3-featured mini-games one new Yeti-featured game was introduced. At certain special moments, the game captures photos of the players which, according to Brian, can be distributed via Twitter and Facebook. The Yeti game lets you record your personal Wookie-esque roar for good measure. All mini-games seemed very enjoyable to both me and my colleague. The gist of it, the fun of playing it, is there. The setup as such, however, I personally still find questionable. Potential issues that we discussed:
- Space. How much gaming space does an average American household have compared to a European one, or, dare I say, an Asian household? In the specially designed Kinect booth, we still had to wrestle a bit for space for our movements to be recognised by the hardware.
- Lag. As with any motion-controlled piece of hardware, especially early versions of them, it is noticeable to a point where it gets annoying. For a game that, according to Brian, has been in development for two years now, it seems subpar. However, let’s not forget this is entirely new hardware we are dealing with, the specs of which were changed in the middle of their work.
- Potential lawsuits. I am going to throw something out here that maybe hasn’t been mentioned yet: Playing in a fairly spacious booth, my colleague and I frequently bumped into each other. Not so much because of inability, as much as that was at display, rather than to be recognised by the hardware. Further calibration tweaking and a better setup might help, but it remains a concern. A football-shooting simulation made my colleague suggest a lawsuit over a shoe crashing into a pricy plasma tv set was just a matter of time. I guess though, Microsoft will be prepared for such things.
I always like to end a personal view on things with something positive. Walking through the Kinect area, I witnessed all kinds of people try their software. While the products might seem unfinished, it seemed every single one of the visitors, even those appearing to be what we like to call core gamers, had a tremendous amount of fun. It remains to be seen if Kinect Adventures, presumably offered in a bundle with the Kinect hardware, and other titles will convince users beyond a demo display. As it stands now, Kinect is perfect for workout software of all sorts, as it does not require handling of any peripherals.