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Microsoft Debuts Full-Body Controller-less Gaming At E3 242

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the just-don't-throw-yourself-through-the-tv dept.
quintin3265 writes "At today's Electronic Entertainment Expo press briefing, Microsoft unveiled Project Natal, a technology that eliminates the controller from gaming on the Xbox 360. In one demo, a player used her arms and legs to hit balls in an attempt to destroy a brick wall, and in another game, an employee threw virtual "paint" on a canvas to create a painting, even drawing an elephant using a silhouette feature. An accompanying video also demonstrated automatic login using facial recognition, videoconferencing with other Xbox Live members, and participating in a gameshow against another family through the Internet using speech recognition."
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Microsoft Debuts Full-Body Controller-less Gaming At E3

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  • too much work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MooseTick (895855) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:19PM (#28174803) Homepage
    This sounds good, but not the end all. The Wii controller can make things fun, but anyone who has used it much know how tiring it can be to have to stand or use full body motions for games for an extended period. Sometimes I just want to veg out on the couch and play a game. If I have to flail my arms all over the place I'm going to often consider it more work than fun.
  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles,jones&zen,co,uk> on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:29PM (#28174923)

    I'm sure it will work fine for some games, that is until someone walks behind you or moves around in the background to ruin your game.

    Also, multiplayer will require a huge room and lots of sensors. But perhaps Microsoft expects people to play online, a console for people with no real friends.

  • Re:Activator (Score:4, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:35PM (#28174987)

    This sounds like an echo of that concept, but with updated technology that might actualy, you know... work.

    The concept of "moving your body to make stuff happen" isn't novel, no. IMHO the value of the concept is beyond question, it's purely a matter of execution - i.e. whether it works. It would seemingly be extremely difficult to get the latency low enough. If the latency is low, even if the motion tracking is fairly crude, they should be able to use it to make a DDR "dance pad" (without the pad) that doesn't wear out and break. But heck, if it worked well enough, they could take all the electronics out of a normal gamepad and just watch your fingers instead. (I'm sure it doesn't have that level of acuity though).

  • by Leafheart (1120885) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:35PM (#28174993)

    But perhaps Microsoft expects people to play online, a console for people with no real friends.

    That's one hell of a big market there. And always go for the biggest market.

  • by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:54PM (#28175193)

    Hmm...

    In one demo, a player used her arms and legs to hit balls in an attempt to destroy a brick wall, and in another game, an employee threw virtual "paint" on a canvas to create a painting, even drawing an elephant using a silhouette feature.

    Sounds great, but I'd be much more impressed if they had a live demo with random untrained people. Even in the demo video [youtube.com], you can see a noticeable input lag, particular when the guy does his "victory dance" at around 27 seconds.

    The devil is in the details with these things, Microsoft is certainly not the first to try at something like this.

  • by jaxtherat (1165473) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:59PM (#28175243) Homepage
    Do not want!

    Seriously, as someone who has been gaming for over 17 years, most of that on PC I don't want my games and their systems dumbed down so that someone's mom can maybe enjoy splattering paint against the wall. I *enjoy* my games being complex, having a learning curve, and not simply something where I flail my arms wildly and stuff happens. If this kind of crap is the future of gaming, say goodbye to serious adult gaming, as everything will be Nintendoo Fisher Price crap, and dumbed down and made cute to appeal to a bigger target market.

    Get off my lawn!
  • by BagOBones (574735) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:05PM (#28175321)

    Other than figuring out how much you weigh this ONE accessory seems to be able to handle the functions of the WiiMote, Nunchuck, BalanceBoard and Motion Plus, without you having to purchase 4 of each and all the batteries to run them.
    O and it ads a camera with mic / voice support. You can get a mic for the Wii now as well but I think animal crossing is the only game that supports it so far.

  • Re:Seriously guys (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kuukai (865890) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:07PM (#28175337) Journal
    The EyeToy/PlayStation Eye has had some pretty amazing demos too, although I think you're right to point out that depth perception is new. This is basically two EyeToys, plus some decent software taking advantage of that fact. I think the Achilles' heel of this kind of technology is the install base, though. The launch will be neat, but more developers aren't going to sign on unless it's wildly popular. You could do an awful lot more with the PlayStation Eye, too, but interest always wanes after E3. I'm not against Natal (except for the name), I hope it succeeds, but history doesn't seem to be on its side...
  • Re:Activator (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:21PM (#28175499)

    "Everything old is new again."

    Well it isn't a surprise. A lot of these concepts are things people have wanted forever. The problem was that the technology to make them work well was prohibitively expensive if even available. The Powerglove is a good example. It was a piece of shit, but there were and are high end controllers like that which work well. It just would have been $2000 to make.

    So it is no surprise that with more advanced technology, there is a resurgence. Now that the shit actually works, people want to try it.

  • Re:Activator (Score:2, Insightful)

    by duiu (1480325) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:43PM (#28175681)

    Everything old is new again. Around and around we go...

    No kidding. "Full-Body Controller-less Gaming" has already been invented. It's called "sport".

    Because I can get together with some friends and play a real game of Family Feud on the spot, without having to come up with categories and such first, just by going outside and getting a ball.

  • Re:Activator (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MooseMuffin (799896) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:58PM (#28175813)

    From purely a tech perspective, it's pretty cool. The facial recognition to login and being able to control the dashboard by waving your hands was impressive. Ultimately though, much like the Wii, I don't think this will lead to many games that will interest me. Maybe even less so than the Wii, since the wiimote at least had buttons.

  • Re:too much work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by quintin3265 (1552941) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:59PM (#28175821)
    DDR is great. I played it all the time and never understood why it became unpopular. What does Guitar Hero have that DDR did not? Especially the "cool" factor - people get amazed when you jump around and pass a song on DDR, but playing a guitar just looks.. boring.
  • by PaganRitual (551879) <.ten.no.edonretni. .ta. .agalps.> on Monday June 01, 2009 @08:08PM (#28175905)

    I agree with the sentiment about wanting complex games and dislike this tech, but I think you're being a bit dramatic.

    This sort of gaming is - from my big gaming nerd point of view - pretty gimmicky, but there is a market for it, and it will be pursued. And you've gotta appreciate that and roll with it.

    What does concern me is when developers, whether it be because someone had a brain fade, or because the people in control of the money see that this sort of thing is 'popular', decide that motion technology needs to be shoehorned into games for which it completely doesn't suit. And to date there hasn't been a platform for which this hasn't happened. Ninja Gaiden Sigma on PS3, the 'hardest of the hardcore' game, requires you to shake the controller to increase the strength of your magic attacks. Uncharted makes you balance the controller to navigate narrow log paths. The DS has plenty of games that push touch screen or motion controls where it's not required. The developers of Nanostray decided that while you're trying to control a ship in a shoot-em up, it would be a great idea to make you have to use the touch screen to change weapons, instead of one of the four free buttons that have no use in the game. Not even as an alternative option.

    Speaking of which, the Wii is the worst one for this sort of thing, and not just because there are games for which there is no option for a standard control set (Excite Truck, I'm looking at you), but because it's inexplicably attracts games which would have otherwise been deemed as more approching the 'hardcore' edge of the gaming spectrum. And yes, I'm specifically talking Tastunoko vs Capcom. And Monster Hunter Tri. How these games came to be released for the Wii over the PS3 I'll never understand. Maybe that's a slightly off-topic point, but it's frustrating, as a gamer, to watch these games go to a platform that won't allow them to reach their full potential, whether it be with tech, or with player base.

    The 360, for all it's faults, is the last bastion of guaranteed normal, non gimmicky gaming. And the concern now is not your over-the-top assessment that this is the death of complex games, because it's obviously not going to be, but that this sort of thing is pushed out to a standard controller, and that developers will decide that it's a good idea to force in stupid motion sensitive crap into games that otherwise don't need it. If the motion sensitive tech could stay completely separate to the normal, 'proper' games, then everyone would be happy. As it stands the only people with a chance of being put offside are the ... damnit, is there another word that can be used to describe the ... 'hardcore' style of gamer, other than hardcore*? I hate having to use the word, and having to describe games as 'normal', or 'proper', but there seems to be no way around it.

    (someone is frantically clicking reply trying to be the first to quote me and reply with, 'loser'?)

  • Re:Swordfighting. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Garrett Fox (970174) on Monday June 01, 2009 @08:24PM (#28176041) Homepage
    Now, with a better sensor system, you have another problem - it's still just a game, the players don't really know how to sword-fight.

    I thought that increased realism was part of the point, though. I'd be interested in a swordfighting game that required learning something resembling a real-world skill, so that I'm prepared to... uh, battle skeleton warriors. More seriously, it seems like there's new gameplay to be found if I have to actually try different parries and attacks instead of just hitting Attack, or even High/Low Attack like in a Street Fighter game. If people don't really want anything resembling a realistic experience, why bother with a Wiimote-style controller at all instead of an old-fashioned controller? I guess the test of this reasoning is, would there be a market for a Guitar Hero imitator where the skills carry over somewhat to actual guitar, instead of being basically Simon with music?
  • by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Monday June 01, 2009 @08:31PM (#28176089)
    There's a long history of innovative, unconventional game controllers. Most of them are nothing more than interesting historical footnotes. Few people bought them and few games used them.

    What makes the Wiimote different is that it's the standard controller for the console. It comes bundled with every single console sold. That's why game developers actually use it: they aren't restricting their market.

    If Microsoft decides to bundle this thing with every Xbox sold, then it's a big deal. If it's an optional accessory that you have to buy separately, then it's another historical footnote.
  • Re:Activator (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SetupWeasel (54062) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @12:33AM (#28177741) Homepage

    "Blue" ...
    "Blue!" ...
    "BLUE!" ...
    "BLOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

    Voice recognition ain't that great. Better get practicing that Midwest accent. I have great doubts that you will get the in game Richard Karn to understand "Bar Harbor" as someone from Bar Harbor would actually say it. Of course that word would have to be in the system. It will be like a text adventure where only special words get recognized. Fun!

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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