Kinect: The “secret” formula for awesome controller-free games

Kinect gaming needn’t be the stuff of nightmares. After some serious ‘hands off’ time with Microsoft’s costly peripheral, VGD jots down a few development tips.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, July 30, 2010

Don’t make it too intricate

Doing away with the controller might make it easier to pick up and play – after all, you’ve essentially cancelled out the ‘pick up’ part – but the trade-off is precision. With their glowing bulbs, gyrometers, accelerometers and whatnot, Move and Wii MotionPlus give the parent machine a reference point by which to better decipher just what the hell it is you think you’re doing. Kinect, by contrast, has to work everything out from the toe-bones up.

Don't scratch your wrist, or you'll end up head-butting a cliff.

The difficulties this can cause were apparent at every level during our time with the peripheral, from simply navigating menus to holding an imaginary steering wheel in Joyride: make a hard turn while playing the latter and your arms will cross, confusing Kinect’s skeletal mapper and sending the car into a destructive straight. None of this is crippling, and doubtless there are workarounds to be found at the coding level, but for the moment, any interaction that requires real finesse of motion – such as selecting individual units in an army, or completing a 3D rubix cube – should probably be left off the menu.

Get the most out of ‘whole body gaming’

Kinect is the one and only means of control available that involves the entirety of the user’s fleshy bits. Never again will your kneecaps feel left out when you play videogames. Microsoft is doing a determined job of trivialising this still-remarkable selling point, however, with such mind-blowing contributions to living room entertainment as jogging on the spot or ducking a bit. Kinectimals (and the increasingly ethereal Milo & Kate) shows the most potential here, keying off a range of expressions and postures, though there are also glints of a bright, omni-interfacial tomorrow in Rallyball, the Pong clone from Kinect Adventures. ‘Multi-ball’ power-ups pack a real punch when your groin is the paddle. More please.

Avoid hand-to-hand combat and ‘handheld’ in general

When Darth Vader dropped into the Kinect Experience to do battle with one of the Cirque de Soleil chaps, everybody went ‘whoop’. Faked or no, there’s something about a lightsaber fight that never fails to get us salivating. It’s probably that bit where you’re holding a sword made out of laserbeams.

Nevertheless, I’m convinced this is the wrong kind of game for Kinect. Not to mention golf games, baseball games, tennis games, fishing games or indeed anything that hinges on the gripping of a thing and the swinging thereof into another thing. Why? Because thin air doesn’t give much feedback. To make the connection between gesture and clash of blades on-screen, you need to really feel the shock of the impact running up your forearm. Likewise, when you’re reeling in a nice fat carp there should be a corresponding tug on the wrist, rather than the sensation of washing your hands under an invisible tap.

We'll see if it's still grinning when I slap it round the face.

Make it look good

Somewhere along the line, we’ve contracted the idea that motion-sensitive games always, a priori look like testicles on toast. Which explains why one of the real shockers, for me, about getting Kinected was just how attractive some of the games were in motion. The rippling, girning tiger mugs of Kinectimals speak for themselves (literally, in fact, though don’t expect a sparkling conversation), and Joyride is also quietly lovely, with its sand-scrubbed Phong shaders. In all the hysteria over motion-sensing the strength of Kinect’s supporting hardware, even given that extra 10-15% computational load, has been somewhat forgotten. Remind us, Microsoft.

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4 Responses to “Kinect: The “secret” formula for awesome controller-free games”

  1. o0RECON0o says:

    Kinect should be used in shooters only to track head movement in a 3D Headset game, while the gamers uses the standard controller to play in the virtual reality. So all they have to come out with is a 3D headset and have the developers add head tracking and 3D.

  2. xXx says:

    I knew it Kinekt, or Nathal is smoke and Mirrors.
    Nothing more. Kinekt will fail, next…

  3. Brush says:

    ^ You don’t know it, you’ll never try it. You read the internet, you can find whatever you want on the internet, you can find plenty to tell you it’s shit, plenty to tell you it’s amazing…so you’ll pick a side, read and beleive the things you want to. But you won’t ever try it, which is fine.

  4. Zarbor says:

    Best article I’ve read on Kinect except for the testicle part. We could do without that. Nevertheless, I’m in agreement with most and especially after reading the tons of articles of those who have played with the device. This Kinect is going to fail.

    The guy is leading it this hardware has questionable skills and success in the profession. The hardware is clearly limited and MS have little idea as to who it will be geared towards.

    I’m going to chalk this one up like a RARE game. Looks good, plays okay but no one is interested since there is nothing great about it.


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