Microsoft Explains How Xbox One Features Actually Work in Games
Microsoft has made much of the Xbox One’s new hardware features, but a big part of the many controversies that sprung up around the console’s announcement was the failure of the company to explain how those features actually worked.
When it announced the Xbox One, Microsoft touted features like a fairly persistent Internet connection, always-active Kinect camera sensor, and cloud-computing technology as being revolutionary to the future of video games. At a panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 last week, the tech giant finally got around to explaining what those things will actually bring to gamers — sort of.
The panel, which featured a number of Microsoft developers working on several different Xbox One projects and moderated by Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb, Xbox Live’s director of programming, dealt a lot with how the technical information we’ve seen about the Xbox One actually relates to gameplay. Perhaps the biggest feature discussed at the panel was Kinect 2.0, the always-on, game-enhancing, motion control camera.
When it first debuted in late 2010, Microsoft’s Kinect was an impressive piece of technology, but it couldn’t really do all that much when taxed. As Nick Burton, senior software engineer at Rare, pointed out, there was a lot of guesswork still involved in the technology. For games like bowling on Kinect, for example, developers couldn’t really detect where a player might be “releasing” a virtual bowling ball — the game had to guess at the right moment.
Working on Kinect Sports Rivals, the Xbox One version of Kinect Sports, the developers have a lot more to work with because of the new Kinect’s power. The device can read the movements of fingers at three meters away, Burtons said, and read less than a centimeter of movement. As a result, games like Kinect Sports Rivals can offer “real depth and mastery,” he said. You won’t just be flailing around, in an attempt to get the camera to recognize you — the result is a lot more akin to motion capture.
During the panel, Burton demonstrated Kinect Sports Rival’s character creation function, which was more or less a scan of the player’s face and body. The avatar, for all intents and purposes, looked like a stylized version of Burton, and the developer noted that anyone who gets scanned in Kinect Sports Rivals will be treated to an “athletic” build, even as the Kinect pays attention to what you really look like.
Burton also said the Kinect will be functional from as close as a meter away from the sensor, a big change from the large room requirements of the original model. The sensor will also support the ability to play while seated, and covers a much wider area, as well.
“The field of view is significantly wider,” said Ken Lobb, Microsoft’s director of first-party publishing. The sensor can now handle dealing with six people in a room together for gameplay. “I don’t know of anyone making a six-player game yet, but we support it,” he said.
So like current Kinect titles, expect to see lots of motion-control games on Xbox One — but expect them to be much more finely tuned and responsive than the current generation of titles. That could potentially be some very good news, given the high potential the Kinect has and has had, especially when it first popped onto the scene in 2010. It’s possible the Xbox One will finally see motion control games that extend beyond the usual gimmicky, mostly temperamental fare.
We’ve also heard about the Kinect’s recognition capabilities, which will mean that your Xbox One will be able to identify your face, combine that information with your profile, and automatically sign you in when you play XB1 games. Lobb gave an example of a pretty practical use for that recognition: button configurations. Imagine never having to set your control pad to “inverted” again once you’ve done so, because the console will remember who you are and how you like your buttons. No more blaming the controller settings for why you’re getting trampled in Call of Duty multiplayer, Ross Lincoln.