Thursday, November 25, 2010

Will Kinect take us beyond casual gaming ?

Kinect has just been launched along about 20 games. Nearly all of them are targeting the casual or the fitness market. There is only one title, Fighters Uncaged, that is targeting at a more gamer  public. So, what future do we see for Kinect ? Will it remain a peripheral devoted to casual applications or will it attract mainstream gamers as well  ?

In my opinion, it will be the case.Why ?  Kinect forces us to design from a blank page. We cannot simply adapt existing game mechanisms to a Kinect game because the control method is radically different. As a result, I expect entirely new game concepts to emerge. That is what happened with the DS, the Wii and the iPhone. The apparition on those platforms of new control mechanisms led to new game concepts with the success we know.

Kinect offers also a new gameplay dimension to explore: The physical abilities of the players. We all have different ways to execute a given movement, depending on the speed, trajectory and amplitude we give them.  There is room for design innovations and the development of new players experiences.

Last, but not least, Kinect also features vocal command. By combining motion and vocal commands, new gameplays will emerge for sure. Maybe Kinect is the key to develop strategy games on consoles ?

A last word, I had the chance to work as lead game designer on Fighters Uncaged, the first combat game for Kinect. We did a lot of playtest with all sort of players, casual, mainstream, even hardcore gamers and non-gamers.  Nearly all of them enjoyed the game. Why ? Because it offered them a new experience. Players exhausted themselves and they enjoyed that because they were doing gratifying actions; we offered them the experience of being martial arts champions.

Designing for Kinect requires an open mind and the will to explore new paths. Games for Kinect WILL be different from what we are used to.

Let's open the debate. What future do you see for Kinect ?

Friday, October 8, 2010

1378 - A game among others or a preview of what gaming can bring to the society ?

My attention has been caught by the controversy surrounding this upcoming title.

1378 is about the Berlin Wall (1378 refers to its length in kms). In that game you can either play as a candidate to exile, attempting to cross the wall at the peril of your life, or a border guard whose objective is the opposite: Preventing refugees from fleeing, even if it means shooting at them. The game shocked some people in Germany for two reasons:

- 200 people were killed while attemting to flee East Germany, German folks were shot by other Germans. Making a game on such a painful event is seen, by certain people, as immoral.
- Letting a gamer shoot at innocent and unharmed people is seen by others as flattering the basest of human instincts.

Are there good reasons for people to feel offended ?

On the first count, I say no. Nobody feels offended by movies or books talking about painful historical events. Why would a game desserve a different treatment ?

On the second count, possibly. However, in my opinion, it all depends on the way the game is designed. If you play a guard and end up feeling disgusted by what you have to do, then the game will have become a new way to develop our civic values, a tool to show people how easy it is for a political regim to ask his own citizens to do non-ethical things. A video game would have contributed to our societes by making us better-informed citizens.

I have not played the game yet but I am curious to see how it will play. It is scheduled to be released in December.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The expected price increase of the Xbox Live annual subscription : The tip of the iceberg

Hello all,

After a (too) long pause due to a heavy workload, I resume writing in my blog. Some friends told me I should post more and worry less about my writing style and that is exactly what I intend to do.

Last month, a well-informed source inside Microsoft hinted that the 12-month Xbox Live Gold subscription will increase from $50 to $60 in the US. A similar price hike would also be planned for the UK.

At first, I was surprised. Why would Microsoft take the risk of alienating its users when Sony is offering nearly the same service, for free, on its Playstation Network ? Then, I crossed that information with another one: The current debate on how to charge users of multiplayer games. Publishers are realizing that their players are sometimes spending far more time on the multiplayer mode of their game than the solo one ... and that does not yield a single cent. By charging more for the annual Xbox Live subscription, Microsoft might be planning to pay publishers whose titles are heavily played on the Live. That would be a smart move, probably far more acceptable to players that prohibiting the sales of used games, another hotly debated issue. Microsoft could develop thisbusiness model known as Games-on-Demand. Metaboli/Gametap is already doing it and it works.

Of course, this is only a speculation from my part but who knows ?