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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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, ...

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

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 ****.

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?

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.

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.

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...

What I don't understand with Natal or any camera based replacement for a controller... how would you move around within the environment... you can't exactly walk, jog or run normally without a treadmill. Also how would you fire a weapon... I'm not trying to say Natal is a bad thing, I am just saying that Natal could only be used for games with a forced forward movement, and even then you have no throttle control over that movement. In games that aren't completely designed for the technology I can only ever see it half implemented, like he said, throwing a grenade in Halo. It will be like sixaxis, it is never implemented completely or very effectively if the title isn't entirely designed for it.

Yep, completely agree. That's why these camera control schemes always fail. It will never be for hard-core gamers, only for little mini-games. The PS3 one has a little more potential, since they already recognized that you need a controller, otherwise it "just wouldn't feel right".

But yea, peeking around a corner by just moving your head? How would you even be able to see the screen then, lol?

Maybe by moving your legs up and down (aka walking on the spot) you would go forward? Then head turning for corners, but it would have to be very sensitive. It wouldn't be perfect though unless you were in some kind of virtual reality environment with them funky headsets

I think anything is possible here, guys. If moving your wrist makes you accelerate in burnout, why cant pulling your finger work to shoot a gun? i think this is the beauty of Natal at this point- we have no idea what's in store for us.

dave164 said,
Maybe by moving your legs up and down (aka walking on the spot) you would go forward? Then head turning for corners, but it would have to be very sensitive. It wouldn't be perfect though unless you were in some kind of virtual reality environment with them funky headsets


LOL. That would be a fail. We could all just go back to when we were little kids and just imagine things, then. Walking in place wouldn't be any fun.

Oh and how would pulling a "virtual" trigger be any fun? You need buttons, and Playstation knows that.

dave164 said,
Maybe by moving your legs up and down (aka walking on the spot) you would go forward? Then head turning for corners, but it would have to be very sensitive. It wouldn't be perfect though unless you were in some kind of virtual reality environment with them funky headsets

If you turn your head for corners you won't be able to watch the screen.

That's what I've been thinking. It might be good to augment game control, but trying to make controller-free games is probably going to end up a disaster.

It would be cool for Fable 3 to recognize my expressions and speech, but I'd still rather move with a joystick.

Why are you guys all thinking so square? What that guys said was simply Project Nathan will be used in some triple A titles, not absolutely ALL titles, and that MS will design some games to make use of that technology. Obviously MS knows that P.Nathan will not be suitable for all games, and that guy said as much when he illustrated that a side person could help throw grenades.

Why only think about shooters? What about a Wii-Sport clone for example? That is a type of triple A title that singlehandedly helped sell many Wiis. There are probably other genres (which I can't think of at the moment) that the geniuses in Redmond will craft for their new baby, P.Nathan, and its success is yet to be, immediately deriding the technology as impractical and disastrous when its not even out yet is rather... strange.

Remember guys and gals, Project Nathan is going to be used to complement controller-gaming in many games. Complement, not replacement. It will only be in some games where it will supplant the controller as the mode of play, and these games (which I can't contrive of so far) are not even discussed off yet!

What exactly is the difference between a physical joystick vs an air joystick, or a guitar hero controller vs an air guitar. Depending on the game, moving forward could be as simple as pegging your arms back as if your arms are propelling you. Turning could be as simple as swiping the air ala flipping a book. I'm sure the creative game designers could think of something. If people can think of gestures for multi-touch input, why can't they think of gestures for Natal?

I find it funny how you guys use or think of controller heavy games as reasons why it wouldn't work. When MS says they're thinking abut using it in some AAA titles in the future, it could be in any form. It could be that it will just use voice, or a mix of different things plus the controller.

Like one of the above posters said, why are you guys thinking inside the box? Has the imagination here run dry or something?

Natal does pick up on small hand gestures actually, with your fingers and so on, it was show/seen by different people from tech sites that got to try it out first hand.

Why not add facial recognition + voice into a AAA RPG? Why not have some games where you can do some things using your hands and not just the controller? What if in the Splinter cell game when you are picking a door lock, you could use your hands to do it? Just think about that for a second. You can add in Natal options into ANY hardcore AAA game and keep the controller. Best part is that you don't need to use something else, just your hands. People talk about Sony doing it with it's wiimote-imitation and thus "not forgetting you need a controller." Who at MS said they're going to kill the controller? Are people seriously thinking that? Or is it some mass defensive reaction to change that's taking place?

Why would you want to turn by swiping in the air? lol. This is like working backwards in game development, not forwards.

And as Shokus said, this is for little useless games that "wow" people. Everyone knows that you get the best functionality out of controllers. That's why you'll always have a physical keyboard, and not a touchscreen keyboard. You need that tactile feel to be productive. This Natal is just for wowing people.

TSG said,
What I don't understand with Natal or any camera based replacement for a controller... how would you move around within the environment... you can't exactly walk, jog or run normally without a treadmill. Also how would you fire a weapon... I'm not trying to say Natal is a bad thing, I am just saying that Natal could only be used for games with a forced forward movement, and even then you have no throttle control over that movement. In games that aren't completely designed for the technology I can only ever see it half implemented, like he said, throwing a grenade in Halo. It will be like sixaxis, it is never implemented completely or very effectively if the title isn't entirely designed for it.

how you move forward, possibilities:

1) Lean Forward
2) Put your foot forward like burnout demo

How we turn possibilities

1) tracking head movement
2) tracking torse movement
3) tracking shoulder turn


How would we fire a fun

1) aim like a gun with your fist open, to fire clench your fist
2) wherever your fist goes the gun points


think outside the box and you can image how easy it is. it doesnt take a genius to figure it out. Just think.

You notice when some people play driving games they actually lean their bodies especially if using a steering wheel peripheral or wiimote. I can see a combination of Natal and conventional controllers here at work, well, work seamlessly.

andrewbares said,
Why would you want to turn by swiping in the air? lol. This is like working backwards in game development, not forwards.

And as Shokus said, this is for little useless games that "wow" people. Everyone knows that you get the best functionality out of controllers. That's why you'll always have a physical keyboard, and not a touchscreen keyboard. You need that tactile feel to be productive. This Natal is just for wowing people.


That's absurd. You sound like the shill promoting the horse-and-carriage while Ford is demo'ing the Model A.

Are there some games that will rely mainly on the controller? Sure, why get rid of something that works. I think that's been the Wii's main problem, it drew itself into a corner by not having a very good "normal" control scheme for more traditional games. Not that it's hurt sales or anything... (yet)

But Natal can clearly augment pretty much any gaming experience, while enabling a ton of new ones. Some WiiMote-copy won't do that.

What I'm interested in most about the Natal is the idea of actually using *real objects* like a real baseball bat. What's going to feel more natural than that?

andrewbares said,
LOL. That would be a fail. We could all just go back to when we were little kids and just imagine things, then. Walking in place wouldn't be any fun.

Oh and how would pulling a "virtual" trigger be any fun? You need buttons, and Playstation knows that.


It would be more fun then pulling a trigger button for the billionth time. I think it would be great holding a iar gun making reload movments having to **** the gun intsead of it just doing it for you would be sweet. Hell they could add some frigging sweet pheriphals to this. Doesn't even need to do anything but be held could be awesome.

GP007 said,
I find it funny how you guys use or think of controller heavy games as reasons why it wouldn't work.

What is puzzling me is how so many people think the PS's has to be better because it has tangible buttons. Does anyone ever sit back and think that it probably isn't so hard to also put a controller in one or both of the players hands so that if a game really does require buttons then the player can use that in combination with the Natal gear?

Obviously it won't be suited to EVERY type of game but there's no reason they can't give you a controller also if it absolutely is necessary.

Those games where it make sense will use it. Others will fall back on the wireless controller or they could give you a remote to use in conjunction with Natal so that you have those buttons you desire plus the free motion capabilities in one.