So, if you haven’t heard, there’s 13 Macy’s stores around the nation that have Kinect demo stations available to try. I happen to live in Nerdtopia, so of course the local Macy’s was Kinect-enabled. So today I put on my best Harry Potter shirt, my mommiest jeans, and went to bore my child while I waggled in public.
I am not biased against waggle. I own a Wii and after E3 I was pretty Kinect-positive.
I had a short wait since the demonstrator was on break and they have to keep the Kinect on their person at all times. He returned to a small crowd and people oohed and aahed over the Xbox slim while he was getting things set up. Then he asked who wanted to volunteer. No one jumped up. Everyone still suspects that waggle makes you look like an asshole. No matter, I’ve been looking like an asshole for years and it’s never hurt me, so I got in.
I played River Rapids. As everyone noticed in the demonstrations during E3, there is lag. It was easy to adjust to, but it actively kept me out of the game because I was constantly thinking “Ok, if I want my dude to jump there I need to move now,” every time I needed to do something. Aside from that, the game wasn’t half bad. It did a good job of recognizing when I was leaning, taking a small step, or taking a big step and adjusting the course of the boat to match my degree of motion.
It took three pictures of me, one of my frowny “I need to jump now if I want my guy to jump at the right time” face and two of my crotch. Asshole barrier now thoroughly breached, others stepped up to give it a try. So I wandered off to do something that would entertain the child for a bit.
When we came back, Kinectimals was up. That was a struggle. You get a weird wavery impact-like special effect when the kinect recognizes a motion. And then it seems to just do whatever it feels like. That’s not strictly true, but it often felt that way. This may be a function of the game recognizing too many motions that are too similar, or of it being too rigid in what it requires for some motions. Still, the game was cute even when it wasn’t doing what anyone wanted it to do.
But there was one big problem with both the rapids game and Kinectimals. Buttons.
To start a course in the rapids game, you have to unzip a very short zipper. Even though you have a semi-transparent avatar in the background showing you the position of your hands vs the zipper, getting it to recognize that you have gotten it is tricky. Especially if you have a partner waving their arms around like they just don’t care, making the avatar’s arms break in entertaining ways.
It’s infinitely worse in Kinectimals. To start an obstacle course, you have a checkmark on one side of the screen or an X on the other. There’s no semi-transparent hands to give you any indication where it thinks your hands are in relation to the buttons, so you just have to slide around, waving your arms, and pray. Even the demonstrator apologized and said he can’t get it very often and to just keep trying.
Designing an interface that relies on buttons for a buttonless control system just ain’t working. But that’s on the developers of those games (or possibly the cert standards for the Kinect, I don’t know) and not on the motion control itself.
With the lag and the iffy choices for demo games, it felt, to me, like a very promising proof-of-concept, but not a baked-and-ready commercial product.