I've spent a lot of time this month listening to and reading about E3, as I suspect most people on the site have. Of all the opinions given out, the ones regarding Microsoft's showing of Kinect really stuck with me. Before I get too far, three things: Mostly due to finances, the 360 was the first, and probably will be the only console in my house this generation. I bought a Kinect. I've been mostly underwhelmed with it. Let those color your opinions as you see fit. I'm not sure if I picked it up on one of the shows, but I've started thinking of games where Kinect is optional as +Kinect games. Sort of like having a +1 on an invite.
That out of the way, the thing that sparked this post was discussion over Kinect features being added to other games. In my case specifically Mass Effect 3, since I'm more likely to play that than any other +Kinect games I've seen so far. Listening to some of the back and forth over this reminds me of discussions I've heard between car enthusiasts about manual (stick) vs. automatic transmissions.
It might be presumptuous, but I'm going to guess that most people who come to the site learned how to drive, or at least took driving lessons using a car with an automatic transmission. Also, going on generalities I'm going to guess that of the people who can drive both, you probably don't really care which you drive, as long as it gets from point A to point B with a minimum of hassle along the way.
Similarly, I'm going to guess that most people on the site are predominantly console gamers, with the occasional boot into Steam or WoW on the PC. As with those who can or do drive manual and automatic, I suspect you mostly don't care where you play the game, as long as you're having fun.
There was a time (and for some people it's still here) when cars with automatic transmissions were basically 2nd class citizens. Compared to cars with a standard transmission, automatics were harder to fix, got worse millage, increased the price of the car, and didn't have as much pickup. Depending on who you talk to, some or all of these things are still true. Despite this, a lot of new cars these days have an automatic transmission. I don't know if it's true or not, but I think that a lot of the reason for this is that most drivers don't want to fiddle with a clutch and a gearshift.
I think that some of what's being done with Kinect is getting the same reaction. It was on one of the Bombcasts where this idea was seeded. Stepto and E from Microsoft were on, and of course they were playing up Microsoft things, including some of the Kinect features. I forget if was one or both of them, but there was a mention about how handy it was to be able to speak Shepard's line instead of moving the thumbstick and pressing the button. I didn't really think much about it, because it did seem kind of neat, if pointless. I didn't care if it only saved a half second; neat, if largely pointless.
That germinated while I listened to the rest of the bomcasts, and through the last two episodes of Weekend Confirmed (the E3 one of which made me cringe for listening to what seemed like everyone except their Jeff turning into cranky old men for a while). It was listening to something from Experience Points this morning when the idea crystalized. This +Kinect stuff is like the difference between a standard and manual transmission in a car.
For someone who knows what they're doing, the time to manually shift between one gear and the next is minimal. Same for the time difference between thumbstick+button press vs. speaking the line.
Having a Kinect adds an extra bit of hardware that could potentially fail, and adds to the overall cost of the system. Same with an automatic transmission.
Some people swear by a manual transmission, and feel like the lack of fine control in an automatic isn't worth the trade off of having a free hand or foot a little more often. I think the same thing applies here; if used correctly, +Kinect could free up one or more buttons for something else.
So, what do you think, is adding in Kinect features like an automatic transmission?
And if it is, do you care? If this really is the automatic transmission of gaming controls, do you mind sacrificing a bit of fine control in one area to free you up for other things?