Project Natal will be used in triple A titles

Alex Kipman, project director of Microsoft's new innovation, Project Natal has revealed to Eurogamer one of the long term goals is to release triple A titles on the Xbox 360 which use the technology.

Kipman also revealed some more details about the project's beginnings and ways it's already being used in games out on the market today.

"I've been working at Microsoft for about eight years, so I've been there for some time [...]. Don Mattrick challenged us to think ahead - to think beyond, to be innovative. We thought about a wide range of things and made a team effort within Xbox to figure out where we want interactive entertainment to go. After quite a collaborative effort we landed on this, and a lot of research and a lot of sweat blended into something I think we're all very proud of."

He continued to explain the methods behind using Natal and Criterion's Burnout Paradise. The camera takes a 3D scan of the player's body, which is then broken down into 48 joints which are tracked in real time. In the case of Burnout, the camera cleverly tracks the wrist of the gamer using a single frame. The camera then uses predictive behaviour, monitoring the direction, acceleration and confidence of that joint.

During the interview he then confirmed Microsoft are looking at ways to include in their own games.

"We'll have games that are specifically designed to work only with Natal - not just arcadey games, but real, hardcore, triple-A titles.Then you'll have some games that are essentially a hybrid - games that work both with the controller and with Natal. Why is that interesting? Think about a first-person shooter where I'm using the controller but I'm doing facial tracking by just moving around and looking round corners."

Kipman also proposed the idea of a co-op game where one player used the controller while the camera is tracking the face and body of another.

"Or you could have a hardcore gamer like me playing a game with a controller, while a non-hardcore person sitting next to me enjoys the experience by playing with Natal. I could be having my Halo experience with the controller and the friend next to me, who's not a hardcore gamer, could be throwing grenades or driving the Warthog or doing any number of things with Natal."

Project Natal has impressed and been well received so far by the gaming press. There isn't a solid release date for the camera yet, but expect to hear lots more about the device and the software making use of it in the coming months.

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The problem with "alternative" input devices like touchscreens, and now Project Natal, is that the hardware/software companies keep trying to replace current input methods. Why not use new input methods to augment them? Imagine instead of making your computer monitor touch-enabled and removing the keyboard, why not keep the traditional monitor and keyboard and make the mouse pad a touch screen? Same thing with the cell phones, and the upcoming Zune HD. I'd be much more interested if they kept the buttons, and added a touch screen.

With Natal, why not keep the wireless 360 controller, and add motion tracking on top? Of course, it would be best if they had a Wii-like split controller...

I haven't read anywhere that they are going to be removing the controller... If anything, they are doing exactly what you said...

"I could be having my Halo experience with the controller and the friend next to me, who's not a hardcore gamer, could be throwing grenades or driving the Warthog or doing any number of things with Natal."

Artists are already using a "touch-screen mouse pad" to draw since quite a while a go. As for buttons, isn't a touch screen an advanced version of buttons?

This is kinda what the PS3 motion controller will do, have a physical controller with a high res camera to capture the movement of the glowing ball.

While the PS3's version is also interesting, it's also limited. You need to have that glowing ball-wiimote-lookalike. So how do you add this into some controller heavy game? Now you're telling me I have to use the dualshock AND the glowing-ball-stick? So now that's two controllers? Isn't that going backwards?

The thing is, you can use Natal in ANY game, you can use more of it for casual games like the Wii does, or you can use it at specific points in a hardcore game along with using the controller. Game developers just have to think about where it fits best and use it there.

An RPG could use face+voice to interact with NPCs in the world.
Some hardcore games like say, splinter cell, could use it when you're picking a lock (just use your hands). Just think about it, picking a lock using your hands, how could would that be?

Some other games could also use parts of natal, if not all of it at specific times as well. Hell I think ALL games could use it if the devs are creative enough to find new ways to.

Use the controller were it makes sense, and use Natal where it makes sense. It all works out.

Shokus said,
I haven't read anywhere that they are going to be removing the controller... If anything, they are doing exactly what you said...


They aren't removing it, but Project Natal is being marketed as a replacement. To quote the first line of the Project Natal web site:
Introducing Project Natal, a revolutionary new way to play: no controller required.

kheldorin said,
As for buttons, isn't a touch screen an advanced version of buttons?

No, a touch screen is not an improved version of the button. It's totally different from a button. Buttons are in consistent locations, you can feel where they are, and you can rest your fingers on them without actually pressing them.

Stepping away from the PC and back to the cell phone/mp3 player example, with buttons, I can reach into my pocket and tell my phone to reject the call without taking it out. I can skip tracks, or change volume on my mp3 player without looking at it. I can type a text message using the keypad on my cell phone without staring down at it the screen the whole time.

Try doing any of these with a device that only has a touch screen. Touch screens are not and never will be replacements for buttons!

Bleh, quit thinking so inside the box.

I do agree with your comments on buttons, as a keyboard I prefer them, hence me using a Blackberry Bold over a Storm.

However, there are so many inventive ways around the problems you've mentioned, I remember an older Sony Walkman phone I had, you could chage tracks simply by flicking the phone either left or right to skip forwards or backwards. Likewise, my current second phone, I can simply give a shake to reject a call, no button presses needed.

JonathanMarston said,
They aren't removing it, but Project Natal is being marketed as a replacement. To quote the first line of the Project Natal web site:


You're misreading it then?

It says there's a new way to play, without a controller. It doesn't say you'll never use a controller again...

how long until the lawsuits start that someone that was unhealthy had a heart attack playing a fighting game?

They can't sue, all games have to do are include a disclaimer warning people that you shouldn't do this if you have a heart condition and so forth. The same sorta thing theme parks have up for their roller coasters.

Simple enough.

Personally I will not play these games. I am not fat or lazy, I just want to hold a controller and relax while playing.

Sometimes I feel the same way. But I have to admit that this technology holds an immense amount of promise (if used correctly)

From what I hear so far, it sounds like they are going about it the right way. Not saying that every new game will be required to support it, but allowing the developers to work it into their games in new ways in how they see fit.

I personally think that with the right minds on it, a Natal controlled FPS with the right control scheme would be very close to nirvana.

Honestly, as someone said before, if they can control something as analog as a gas pedal by using video footage of someones foot, then they can devise a control scheme that is intuitive for most systems.

Will everyone choose to play that way? No. But the 360 comes with controllers, and you have to buy Natal seperately, not the other way around.

I like that you can control multiple players with one Natal camera. It's alot better than having to buy 200 dollars worth of gamepads so that four friends can play.

I could be having my Halo experience with the controller and the friend next to me, who's not a hardcore gamer, could be throwing grenades or driving the Warthog or doing any number of things with Natal.

So it takes two console monkeys to equal a single PC player.

Meanwhile, there's nothing stopping from a system like Natal being made for the PC too. So then it will take an entire army of console monkeys to defeat a single PC player.

Ummm MS has already said that they want to use it on the PC. And why are they console monkeys? 2 pc players could do the same thing and does that make them monkeys?

It's really annoying because things like this and innovative devices like the Wii don't take advantage of the potential they obviously have. They keep on doing "alternative gaming" for the "average" person, completely ignoring traditional games. Like paint? Fitness? Throwing and catching balls? Bowling? Moving your hands for the same type of game? That kind of crap gets SO boring within 15 minutes.

Could you imagine playing a FPS, fighter, or RPG with this type of technology? It'd be mind blowing. I know that movement is an enormous obstacle, but I'm sure they could develop something within the next few years. Even a game that doesn't have a lot of movement, but one with story or truly epic multiplayer. No more of this cartoony ****.

What's really annoying is people not reading the news before making a comment.

We'll have games that are specifically designed to work only with Natal - not just arcadey games, but real, hardcore, triple-A titles

Do I need to buy new xbox 360 for this technology? Or I keep my existing xbox 360 and upgrade it with Natal addons such as firmware and stuff? I have been wondering about this.

shozilla said,
Do I need to buy new xbox 360 for this technology? Or I keep my existing xbox 360 and upgrade it with Natal addons such as firmware and stuff? I have been wondering about this.

No, Natal works with all XBOX 360s, but you will need to buy the Natal peripheral. Assumably, you'll also need to get a firmware update to the XBOX 360, but those are always provided free anyway.

Peripherals never work. Not enough people buy them for developers to care. Natal will get some games at first and will then be buried in the cemetery of peripherals with the 32x, Sega CD, Super Scope, Power Glove, Eye Toy, ...

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