Moving the Kinect into Unknown Territory

The Kinect has had a lackluster lifetime, with few developers using it as more than a gimmick to translate some dance moves or make their arcade shooter slightly more interactive. It’s rare for the Kinect to have interesting functionality at all, with the few games that do use it focusing in on its microphone capabilities. Even then, they focus on voice commands—something convenient, but nothing new. In a recent interview with Dead Space 3 executive producer Steve Papoutsis, he revealed that Dead Space 3 will be using the Kinect to give voice commands—although not all of them will be intentional.

They plan on making the game recognize when you swear, curse, or shoot expletives at the hallucinations you see. Putting aside what they’re attempting at co-op (which actually seems interesting with the element of dementia playing a huge role), this is one of the first moves of a game company to make a horror game interactive with the Kinect’s microphone in a way that can’t be emulated by other genres. Carrying over English voice commands to other languages may not be as hard as it seems, since cursing is mainly about intonation than it is about pronouncing words clearly. They are truly expanding the use of the Kinect, even if they’re still sticking to microphone input.

Building on their idea, there’s a lot of potential for players to unwittingly make commands using the Kinect. While the Dead Space 3 developers intend to use the feature for giving you an advantage, there are other ways to use that kind of input that they will hopefully expand on. Picking up on unintended language is a good way to…’improve’…the experience of horror and stealth games. Trying to sneak up on an enemy? Now you can’t make any noise when it gets too close. These kinds of detrimental effects, while not very kind to players, do add to the immersion of playing the game. It’s a small step towards moving into unknown territory with the Kinect, finally. Hopefully more developers follow this example and continue to explore the limitations of the Kinect without detracting from usual gameplay.

Unfortunately, this still isn’t a new way of using the Kinect’s main function, and can be achieved through means other than the Kinect. You can use any old microphone compatible with the XBOX 360 to issue voice commands. In that regard, it still hasn’t improved the Kinect’s long-term outlook. However, the feature is still impressive, and should encourage more people to use the system. With more people using it, more publishers will be interested in it, and developers can go on to make more features for it. Since the Kinect will likely be compatible—perhaps even incorporated—with the next generation of XBOX console, this is all the more reason for developers to be interested in it. Moving the Kinect into unknown territory is going to be difficult, but the lack of good games for it despite its technical specialties show that there is still a huge amount of uses left to be explored by developers.