Microsoft’s Project Natal Pt. 2

So, I may have seemed pretty excited about Project Natal in my last post, and I am. However, I don’t look forward to playing lots of games with it. Let me explain.

It’s for non-gamers

Microsoft’s true goal is to expand its audience through Project Natal by trying to attract people who are turned off by games because they seem too complicated. Game controllers have grown more and more buttons over the years, and to someone who has never played a video game, a controller can be scary. But, take away the controller and tell a non-gamer that all they have to do to play a game is just “do it,” and they are suddenly intrigued and interested.

Let’s take a racing game as an example. Currently, for your mom (unless she is a really cool mom who enjoys games) to play a typical racing game on Xbox 360, you’d have to explain to her that you use the right trigger to accelerate, the left trigger to decelerate, two of the face buttons to change gears (unless she’s driving automatic), the left analog stick to control the car, and the right trigger to control the camera.

With Project Natal, instead of explaining all of that to your mom, you’d instead be telling her to just hold her hands up as if holding a steering wheel, and to accelerate a break, move her feet up and down as if driving a real car. And to look at the cars beside you, all she has to do is move her head slightly to the left or right. And maybe to change gears, all she has to do is make a gear shifting motion with her right hand.

Not only is this all intuitive and can be picked up just by watching someone else do it, but to casual and non-gamers, this is fun.

Not hardcore gamers

Facial, voice, and full body recognition in homes will be a leap forward, and the possible uses of this are endless, but when it comes to playing games, it’s better to a hardcore gamer to have the precision of an analog stick and the ability to do quick commands (like shooting and turning) with a quick button press. Furthermore, holding your hands up and moving your legs around can be tiring to the average hardcore gamer who often find themselves playing a game for hours.

This is also why many hardcore gamers denounce Nintendo Wii’s, where many games encourage players to stand up and waggle and twist the motion sensing remote control. What they would prefer are casual implementations that subtly help immerse them in the game. When motion controls seem gimmicky, and feel like they were only added in the game by its creators just because they could, it fails. That is, unless the target audience is casual and non-gamers.

A good parallel situation is the use of 3-D technology in movies. I recently saw an animated Pixar movie called  UP in 3-D. It’s a great movie that makes subtle use of 3-D technology by making everything pop out slightly off screen. What I don’t like is when there is when the technology is abused and everything is flying all over the place. When mundane animations—like tying a shoe—turn into huge feet in your face and shoe strings floating into your eye, it’s been taken to far. But of course, kids get a kick out of such things.

But it could still be useful

Like I stated previously, what a hardcore gamer wouldn’t mind are “casual implementations that subtly help immerse them in the game.” So, for example, I could imagine myself playing a war game where I am controlling a squad using my voice and hands in conjunction with a standard remote control. So, before breaching a room, I could point one finger in the air and wave it around in a circle to signal for everyone to regroup. Then say, “Breach on my mark,” telling my squad to clear a room after I say “go,” nod my head, or count down from three to zero with my fingers.

In that example, while I am using a remote control to walk around and do all of the precision shooting, I am using my voice and hand gestures to add to the experience, making it feel as if I’m really in command of a squad.

Once game designers find the proper balance between Project Natal and a remote control, I’ll be happy. But, I suspect most of the games released when at launch will be using my hands to drive invisible cars and fish with invisible rods. Maybe it will be fun for a moment, while playing with my family or non-gamer friends, but not for long.

Tags: , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 11th, 2009 at 11:21 am and is filed under Technology, Video Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Microsoft’s Project Natal Pt. 2”

  1. Nick Says:

    June 11th, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I have that this will attract alot of different audiences. However, I feel that alot can go wrong with Natal. Who knows what type of emissions will come from the device that monitors what users are doing. Also, many gamers like to play as a remedy for the work they spent during the day and to relax. I just feel they a lot to think about before they release this one.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.