Microsoft’s new groove.

Posted on June 2, 2009 by

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The Following is from an article on the BBC website. My comments today will be brought to you by the colour red.
Microsoft has unveiled its new control system for the Xbox 360, at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles.

 

Project Natal is a fully hands-free control system that will use face recognition and motion sensors to allow users to play games.

Film director Steven Spielberg, attending the launch, said it was “a window into what the future holds”.

A window into what the future holds? A window that someone at sony opened ten years ago with the playstation eye? As I recall, it bombed spectacularly, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t still do everything MS is claiming a decade earlier…

Although still in the early stages, Microsoft has sent prototypes to all the main game developers.

Who probably can’t work out what they’re supposed to do with it. Let’s be honest, when sony tacked on the sixaxis control to the PS3, none of the developers could do anything much with it. In fact, they still can’t. No big name game developer is going to waste time and effort on a prototype system that experience proves the public don’t want. These are also people smart enough to know that the Nintendo Wii has the market pretty much covered.

MS is doing this for the ‘family angle’. Despite the fact that their console is littered with, and is in fact known for, mature, violent games. (Not to mention an insane and hate-fuelled online community.) Any parent with a modicum of sense is going to buy the (cheaper) Wii, with its established family friendly nature (With one or two exceptions, the Wii’s game library consists entirely of games with labels reading 3+) and massive number of well put together games. What sort of muggins would buy the more expensive console with mostly 16+ games, an online scheme you have to pay for, and which doesn’t actually have any competent developers* on-board who know how to make good motion-sense games.

*In much the same way as America kidnapped all of the Nazi scientists at the end of WWII, Nintendo pretty much owns the souls of anyone half decent at making that sort of game.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Spielberg said he had always stated that “the main barrier stopping people getting into video games was the complexity of a games controller,” and that Natal was “a whole new world”.

The what? Complexity? Games controllers are complex now? In my considerable experience, with one of two exceptions (The Dreamcast, Early XBox controllers, The sony ‘boomerang’) games controllers these days are designed to fit the human hand perfectly, while providing the maximum amount of comfort and simplicity. People with masters degrees in ‘ergonomics’ have said so. And I, for one, have never had trouble working out which buttons to press. And if I can do it…

“There is technology now that recognises not just your thumb, it recognises your entire person. The technology knows who you are,” he said.

‘I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t let you do that.’ Am I the only one who finds the sound of this to be more than a little creepy? I don’t want my tech knowing who I am. I want it to sit there quietly and do what it’s told. I don’t want it  working out what and I do, and when I do it, so that when the inevitable robot uprising comes along, they will know how best to casually slaughter us without anyone knowing… ‘You’re Terminated, funker.’

Mr Spielberg drew an analogy with the film industry, saying it was (an) evolutionary step for games.

Perhaps he meant Revolutionary, but it’s hard to be sure with the man who still wears his little E.T. hat all the time. Technology, by it’s very definition, is incapable of evolution. Living things evolve, tech gets upgraded. Why does he keep speaking as if this is a living thing? Maybe he’s in on the conspiracy to murder all the humans…

“It’s like the square screen we saw all of our movies on in the early 1950s. Then The Robe came out in Cinemascope. And then came CinRam and Imax followed. That’s what this [Natal] is.

Natal is like Imax? Does that mean our games are going to played on a screens three stories high? Actually, I rather like the sound of that…

I think the technology looks very interesting but its success depends on the content and how easy it is to use
Piers Harding-Rolls, analyst (By which he means, “I’m not saying anything one way or the other.”)

During the demonstration, British developer Peter Molyneux showed how Natal could not only recognise faces, it could recognise facial expressions to determine what mood a player was in and react accordingly.

And when best to start flooding the room with gas, no doubt.

Mr Spielberg said this offered new opportunities for game development

“The video games industry has not allowed us the opportunity to cry, because we were too busy putting our adrenalin rush into the controller, or wherever we swing our arm with a Wii controller to get a result,” he said.

Wait, what? You wanna cry big fella? Wanna let a little tear roll down your rosy innocent cheek? Why would they need to cry? Are the people at MS being beaten by Bill Gates untill  they do his bidding?

“Because of that, there is no room for a video game to break your heart. We now have a little more room to be a little more emotional with Natal technology than we did before.”

I beg to differ, sir. Video games should very definitely break your heart. They should rend ones heartstrings, bring a tear to the eye, or a smile to the lips. I expect more than 8 hours of mind-numbing mediocrity, you know. I pay £40 a game to have an experience.

Speaking to the BBC, Piers Harding-Rolls, senior analyst with Screen Digest, said the success of Natal depended on a number of different factors.

“I think the technology looks very interesting but its success depends on the content and how easy it is to use,” he said.

“The other aspect is cost and how they will get it out to the user base,” he said.

Knowing MS, it’ll cost five hundred dollars, and will break after two days, whence it will need to be repaired for another two hundred dollars.

“That said, I think Microsoft would like to get it out sooner, rather than later.

“Because the sooner we do, the more broken and crappy it will be.”

“Sales of the Xbox 360 hit their peak in 2008 and are now expected to decline, in terms of console sales, so you would expect them to get it out as soon as possible to rekindle interest in the platform.”

While the Wii and the PS3 still aren’t close to their peak sales dates.

Leak

 

Mr Spielberg said the controller meant a big step forward for gaming (And a Giant leap for gamekind.)

The details of Project Natal had already leaked out a few weeks ago when the US patent office released documents, filed by Microsoft, of a “motion sensor that makes use of face recognition software and biometrics”.

Biometrics? Now hold on. I know what Biometrics is. Biometrics is DNA control. Why do these machines want our DNA? Probably to clone us to work as slaves…

At the time, most experts believed that Microsoft were patenting concepts, rather than an actual application, and would focus on a motion detector similar to the Nintendo’s Wii controller.

Ideas theft, anyone? Ooh, I smell lawsuits…

Speaking to the BBC, Shane Kim, Microsoft’s Cooperate Vice-President of Xbox Strategy and Development, said they were worried the story was going to break before the official launch.

What a job title. What do we know of people with exorbitant job titles? That they were given them so no one could work out what they do, including themselves. That way, they can’t cause any trouble.

“Most of the information was out there, but no one was able to put the full story together,” he said.

Because they don’t care.

Games bonanza

Project Natal was not the only big announcement from Microsoft.

It will let people achieve skate supremacy in the comfort of their own living rooms
Tony Hawk

The company unveiled 10 new games for the Xbox 360, including Beatles Rock Band, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Tony Hawk Ride and Final Fantasy XIII.

Ten new games, MS. Not ten games we’ve known about for months (And in some cases, years) courtesy of Sony.

Tony Hawk Ride comes with its own skateboard controller, similar to the Wii Balance board, although this is the first time such a device had been available for the Xbox 360.

That much is true, but the skateboard controller is hardly a new idea. It has in fact been around since 2002, where it was available for the Playstation 2. It was, again, an unmitigated failure, but again, that’s not the point.

Tony Hawks, who was at the launch to promote his game, said it was something he had wanted for some time.

Because the Tony hawks franchise (It is worth pointing out that ‘Hawks’ should really be apostrophised, as his surname is a singular word. Tony clearly doesn’t understand plain english.) peaked in 2003, with Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3, which was one of the few games to be awared GameSpots hallowed ‘Perfect’ rating, (This was before they sacked their good reviewers, and threw their integrity into a dumpster, before throwing perfect ratings at every game that paid them enough) and has since fallen flat on it’s face in the wake of EA’s Skate series, which really did revolutionise the way people pretend to be skaters; Hawk is desperate for a new gimmick to sell more games, as he is fast becoming a very bad skater as he gets older.

“I always wanted to do a game with a skateboard controller but the technology wasn’t there until now,” he said.

Yes. Yes it was. It was there six years ago. I think you landed on your head a few too many times there, Tony.

“It will allow anyone to grind rails and catch big airs; even if you have never been on a skateboard, it will let people achieve skate supremacy in the comfort of their own living rooms.”

…Hold on. How exactly will it do that, pray? I can’t imagine for a minute that it wont be something that lives on the floor, where it will stay. Does this statement suggest that you will be jumping up and down on it? One can only assume it’s going to be made of adamantium in order to last more that three days, given the fact the the ollie (That’s where you jump up with the board) is the most common move in skating.

And in a follow up to the news that Microsoft had tied up a deal with Sky to show content via Xbox Live, Microsoft said they had entered a joint agreement with Facebook and Twitter to create what Mr Kim called “full integration between three of the largest social networking sites on the planet.

And thus ensure that no one ever leaves the living room again. So they they became fat, and slow, and stupid. So that the machines can take over with the minimum of effort.

“For us, it’s a very big priority to make Xbox live the next generation of social networking,” he said.

Both Nintendo and Sony consoles stream video content using the BBC iPlayer.

(Provided you have a ridiculously high bandwidth level in your area, and the woman next door isn’t using her hairdryer.)

Mr Kim played down allegations that Microsoft had opted to team up with Sky purely to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Because they had.

“Our partnership with Sky is about bringing great video and entertainment to our UK customers. That was our focus,” he said.

“As was making as much money as possible, so can fill our swimming pools with hundred dollar bills.” He chuckled, smiling knowingly at the camera, before adding under his breath, “Hail our robot overlords.”

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Posted in: Games