Friday, August 27, 2010

Playstation Move and Microsoft's Kinect

Yesterday I traveled to a GameStop store about 30 miles away from where I live because our Sony representative was demoing Move for us.  Please understand, I don't like highways... they cause anxiety and stress.  For the opportunity to learn more about the Move itself, I was willing to face a bit of anxiety.  Not TOO many people attended the event, and the relatively small group allowed everyone ample opportunity to jump in and play around.

One of the guys played a demo of The Shoot, an on-the-rails shooter, and we were all pleasantly surprised by how responsive the controller really was in that setting.  Plus, it was funny to see one of the attendees nearly knock over a display stand as he spun around to activate the bullet-time-esque slow motion power.  Sure, you've seen the videos and heard the hype about how really accurate it is but there's nothing quite like having it in your hands and experiencing it.

The same held true for the Wii, I feared for Nintendo before the Wii came out because I honestly thought they were dead in the water after Gamecube.  It was a great system, but the introduction of the original Xbox, and the hands-down success of the Playstation 2 left it in a fairly solid third place that generation.  Awesome first party titles sold me on the Gamecube-era titles, and they continue to keep me interested in the Wii-era titles.

That aside, I want to focus briefly on the feeling of holding the Wii Remote in my hands for the first time.

I recall how it felt driving home after I first purchased it, giddy with excitement and trying to ignore that my wallet had just taken a $250 hit (and it would take more later in the day when I grabbed Twilight Princess from another store) and put in the Wii Sports disc.  I immediately launched into playing a tennis match, and it felt good and reasonably responsive, then moved on to bowling.  It remains one of my very favorite events, hands down, on the original disc.  I STILL want them to make a proper singles- and doubles-styled tennis match.

Take all that excitement and nostalgia, and multiply it several times over, and you'll get an idea of how I felt with the Move.  Other games that we touched on were Kung-fu Rider, EyePet, Echochrome II, Time Crisis: Razing Storm, Sports Champions, Start the Party and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.

Kung-fu Rider is just as quirky and weird as you've read about.  If you're unfamiliar with it, here's the rundown.  You play as either a man or woman (I believe office worker and secretary respectively) and control the ride by moving the Move controller with various motions.  Nothing too big, or special.  It's pretty entertaining though... one phrase.  Office Chair Rail Grinding.  Don't try it at home kids, my character face-planted into the tail pipe of a parked car.  Imagine what might happen to you.

EyePet is just darn cute, and it was funny to watch one of the guys play with the pet.  There was a drawing mechanism shown, and it used the Move controller instead of a bit of paper and a pen or crayon to do the create-a-plane-and-fly-around thing.  Here's hoping the paper-scanning stuff will be in the actual game itself.

Echochrome II is a very cool twist on the formula of the original.  The physical world stays stationary, but you move the global light around and the shadows that are cast are where the character walks and moves towards the exit.  It was very intuitive, fun and left me with a 'Whoa-hooa!  That's really cool!' feeling.  It's puzzle solving, but it's done in a slightly new way.

Time Crisis: Razing Storm I didn't see much of, but it looked very pretty.  Explosions, car crashes, and lots of enemies to shoot.  Apply my earlier comments about The Shoot here, as they're very similar games from a play-style perspective.  Minus the motion-activated powerups...

Sports Champions was pretty much what I expected.  The demo itself only featured Frisbee Golf and Table Tennis, of the two I played a couple rounds of the latter against the AI.  I was surprised at how good and natural it felt.  Speed, angle and actual position relative to the table actually matters and you can put spin, backspin and I'm sure a bunch of other things I don't know how to do on the ball itself simply by turning the controller slightly as you would a real paddle.

I really wish I'd been able to try the archery, as that's the one I was excited for most... oh well, when Sports Champions hits I'm sure I'll get a chance to play it.  We never really loaded up Start the Party or Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, so I can't really say much about those unfortunately.

This is one to prepare for, because along with the titles I mentioned about the Move has a bunch of First- and Third- person shooters coming, along with a lot of games in the pipeline for both casual and hardcore gamers.  The Fight: Lights Out, Sorcery, SOCOM 4, LittleBigPlanet 2... they're all titles that are anticipated eagerly, and will go a long way to proving how viable and versatile the Playstation 3 with Move is.

Now, the Move=WiimoteHD thing that people have bandied about is not unfounded.  A lot of what has been shown so far is very reminiscent of Wii titles on the market now, but the main difference I see - attempting to put myself in a Developer's shoes - is the true positional sensing along with the motion sensing.  Moving on to the next part of this wayyyy too long ramble - if Move is akin to Wii then I find that Kinect is akin to PS2's EyeToy.  This is also NOT a new comparison, but let me explain a little bit further.  What I was able to see of Kinect - more on that in a moment - was that it was a significantly upgraded EyeToy... an EyeToy with depth sensing and structural recognition.  Really cool technology, but I'd seen most of it before in various forms.

After I left the Move demo and we went on our way, I realized I was really close to the Microsoft store and knew that Kinect had been demoed in the recent past so I stopped in to ask about it.  The helpful store employee - who I'm sure was humoring me half the time - walked me through some of the basics of the unit itself.  Despite games like Kinectimals and Dance Central being ON the system we used, he could not show them to me for licensing reasons.  Bummer, as I really wanted to see firsthand how well Dance Central picked up my not-so-smooth moves.

Instead, we jumped into Kinect Sports and I bowled 12 frames in total (The demo only went to 6 frames per game) - Bowling itself was fairly responsive and felt good for the most part, but I was surprised at how much having something in my hands helps when gauging power.  My arm was sore after those frames, but that's likely just user error on my part.  We hopped into a competitive hurdle race, and here is where I ran into a few... problems.  Partly user error, partly weird game design, the track in the hurdle race curve out in front of you... you are running with your arms and legs flailing about, and the hurdle flashes yellow, then green.  During the green interval, which lasts about 2 seconds or so you're supposed to jump or else you slam into the hurdle.  I often found myself jumping and continuing to run, and I was physically back on the ground for nearly 2 seconds before my character jumped over the hurdle itself.  When I tried to adjust to eliminate that seemingly long lag time, or that's what it seemed like to me, I found myself plowing through 3 or 4 hurdles.

Needless to say I lost the race thoroughly.

We then moved on to Kinect Adventures, and the demo was set up on an event rotation to give players a taste of several different game modes.  Aside from the boat and the ball bouncing demo, both of which were not too weird, there was a conveyor track that you had to duck, sidestep, or jump  to go under, around or over obstacles.  To run forward you had to jump in place, which seemed a little weird to me.

The boat steering game was actually more fun than I thought it would be... but it's more fun with two people, because when I went through the entire Adventures demo alone it was not only harder, but a lot more frustrating when the slight lag I felt didn't translate my movements quickly enough or it didn't translate my movements at all.  Playing alone, the flaws in the system were far more apparent.

Let me qualify that statement, though, before I dissuade you.  The unit I demoed with was an older demo model with the Natal name still attached inside the system and was NOT the final production hardware, which should have a higher latency overall and should knock out some of those small bugs.  The system itself was a developer's console which ran code directly from the internal hard drive, and there was a security guy 5-6 feet away at all times.  Considering the entrance to the store was 6 feet in the other direction, I don't blame them for the caution.  A dev console in the hands of the wrong people would be very bad for MS,

I was instructed not to step in front of a certain point, indicated by a lighter strip of wood flooring than most of the rest surrounding it which was about 5 or 6 feet away from the screen we were playing with.  If your couch is that far away from your TV, you may want to back it up some.  If that's all the room you have, well... this may not work as well as it should.  The representative told me that stepping too close makes it so the camera can't see your feet, and that apparently requires a lot of room.

Before yesterday I figured Kinect wouldn't go too well... I still feel that to a degree.  I liken it to the Wii Balance Board in this respect.  It was BIG... WAAAAY BIG.... for a year, and then it stopped being a big deal.  I think Kinect has a lot of promise and potential, but if it doesn't REAAAALY step it up with the software offerings and appeal to not only casual but hardcore gamers, the adoption rate will start strong but will drop significantly when nothing comes that appeals to one group or another.  This same thing applies to Move, but I personally feel that the move already has a strong upcoming catalog and a strong back-catalog of games that will be patched with Move support.   Toy Story 3, Heavy Rain, and Resident Evil 5, just to name a few.

You know what Move begs for, in my opinion?  An Okami remake.



  1. hehe, I just want to be the first comment on your brand new blog :)

    cool that you got to see/touch the thing... we'll probably hold off around here. of course, we're always the last on the tech bandwagon anyway!

  2. Nothin' wrong with that, as long as the kids don't fuss and bug you CONSTANTLY for something ALL the friends have. :D