By DrRandle 34 Comments
Yes, This is Me Hating on Natal Think of me what you will. Don't read this article, just go ahead and start posting about what a "360 hater" I am, or how I'm apparently not allowed to have opinions on games I haven't played yet, or whatever you want. I'm here to have an honest discussion on why I think this camera, this whole Natal initiative, is not looking good. Who knows, maybe I am wrong and maybe there's a developer right now who's going to cook up a game that throws everything I have to say out the window. Honestly, and please understand this: I fucking hope so. I want to be wrong about this. I want to have more fun. I would be some kind of special brand of stupid to be against this idea of more fun, but I just don't see it. And I'm not saying Natal is completely without merit; maybe it can give me a You're in the Movies sequel that works.
I wrote this all out in bullet point as I watched the event, so I'm going to discuss my ideas in an order roughly equivilant to the time line of the presentation.
My first problem with the camera-as-a-controller is that you can’t have games where characters do over-the-top, crazy ass things. First thought to mind: Devil May Cry will never see any typical game using this device. There is no way you can re-enact these kinds of crazy, high-falutin' moves in any sort of accurate way. Maybe M-soft will take a page out of the Wii's success and make a mini-game collection for Devil May Cry where you have to dodge bullets on-rails and make little shooting gestures with your hand like a 5 year old playing cowboys. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw will never allow you to actually bodyslam your friend through a glass table, because the lawsuits would be ri-donkey-kong-ulous. Also, that clip of the girl driving a car? Nuh-uh. The lack of tactile response with the Wii-mote was enough loss; that whole process just looks ridiculous and unusable. Putting something tactile into a person's hand is much more comprehendable, I think.
I don't care if you're having a three-way with Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy while you're shuffling through your Netflix account: navigating a menu is NEVER a “magical experience."
While I can pretend to see Natal being good for normal types of people, gamers generally want a controller of at least some type. I've heard plenty of people who complain that they don't want to move around for what little many Wii games make them (such as Metroid Prime, which is just IR control.) They just want to sit back and veg out (to paraphrase Deamon Hatfield of IGN.) What on Earth does M-soft think they're accomplishing by making us play games that can ONLY be played by jumping and waving around like loony bastards? It won't go over well. And again, the best Wii games do not require this.
The following is a response to the paint "game:" Are you fucking high? That does not like responsive, it does not look remotely accurate, and it looks like somebody could actually paint better if they were riding a bumpy wagon down a hill and dodging bullet fire (see Devil May Cry ideas for Natal above). While I wholly endorse looking like an ass for the camera (even if it looks like you're re-enacting the scene from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me where it would appear that Felecity is pulling random campinging and spy equipment out of Austin's ass. Watch them make an elephant again. You'll see it.), I still prefer it to be in some sort of game context.
Now, all of my complaints thus far kind of hinge on the hope and wish that this thing is actually as accurate as it looks. Show me doctored and canned footage all you want, but after You're in the Movies, Wario Ware: Snapped, and Eye Toy... feel free to call me skeptical. I don't think this thing will be at all as accurate as you would want it to be. Despite Tad Disingenuious' (I don't know M-soft exec's and it's late, already) attempted clever quip against Nintendo, anybody with half a brain knows that the best Wii games don't use the waggle. The better games tend to either use what little 1:1 capabilities the Wii-motes have to this point and/or the IR. Wii Motion Plus might fix that, but we're not here to talk about that, we're here to talk about the Natal. The Natal has no way of immediatly recognizing your motions: it just doesn't. I've read a comment from somebody who tested the 1 vs. 100 beta and you need split second accuracy that the camera just won't have with you slapping your palm. Watching that girl bounce those balls around on stage (can I say that?) only furthered my suspicions. There was lag, pure and simple. Maybe only a half-second of lag, but anybody who plays video games knows that the difference matters.
Peter Molyneux has made a creepy-the-fuck-ass program for Natal about a kid named Milo who can interact with you to a surprising degree. And it scares the fuck out of me. Aside from the fact that Milo crawled out of the primordial ooze found deep in the furthest trenches of the Uncanny Valley, his interactions with people just seem too weird. I'm not sure how he'll be able to indentify every weird name that you give tell him, and I have to admit I'm afraid of how far people can take this. At what point does he stop reacting to everything you do and at what point does he become "real?" At what point do we get to start having all those fun questions about the ethics of AI. If I put my penis against my TV and tell him to touch it does it become child molestation? Or am I just a desperate pervert at that point? (I'm probably bad enough considering I at least thought of the idea, though to ease your mind I wouldn't do it. (I have a boyfriend.)) Furthermore? How does he react? Is it a general "I'm sorry, please input a command I know" or does he freak out and run to his little house?
Despite what Pete says about "Science fiction authors not having written about what we're doing today," they have. There are plenty of stories about humans who start interacting with robots or programs and forget what real people are like. There are also hundreds stories about ROGUE AI DESTROYING US ALL.
Will I be proven wrong? Will this really turn the 360 into some crazy ass main-stream break-away success like the Wii, despite my (am I self-centered for saying this?) observations into the obvious facts of the matter? Will X-BOX Live become the SkyNet? So many questions... and I'm honeslty more concerned with whether or not Left 4 Dead 2 will be any good...
-Make it a Good One
Randy "Dr. Randle" Marr