Why A Camera Isn't Going to Revolutionize Gaming

Yes, This is Me Hating on Natal

The future for 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 Yo
u'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
34 Comments
35 Comments
Posted by DrRandle

Yes, This is Me Hating on Natal

The future for 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 Yo
u'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
Posted by Al3xand3r

People have discussed such points in the main Natal threads, no point to make a new one for it. Or at least don't expect everyone to re-type everything they wanted...

Posted by Raydanger

Very nice article, and while it might be a bit too soon to see what the Natal really does, I agree with you on all points. That thing looks, as of right now, just straight jankey.

Posted by Cazamalos

dood. controllers always going to exist i mean crysys thats something that aint not going to happen with a camera on you, and now with the wii, this motion sens controll will be always co exist with the classic controller, no one is the killer of the other.

Posted by PercyChuggs

Or, Microsoft has no intention of revolutionizing anything, and just want a piece of the casual market with this. There, didn't even need to 3 sentences.

Posted by slinky6

I'm going to try it or hear about it from trusted critics before I pass judgment.   If it can do all the shit they claimed, it could be pretty neat.

Posted by cc23574

It depends on they use it, are they going to target the 'hardcore' gamers with it, or the casual ones? I think the casual ones, if they do target the casual ones this thing is gonna flop IMO. But it does have potential.

Posted by deathswhisper
@slinky6 said:
" I'm going to try it or hear about it from trusted critics before I pass judgment.   If it can do all the shit they claimed, it could be pretty neat. "
yes and if peter molyneux's games did all the stuff he said they would Fable II would be the "most revolutionary game in history". i'm just saying dont take Molyneux's word on anything
Posted by Linkyshinks
@PercyChuggs said:
" Or, Microsoft has no intention of revolutionizing anything, and just want a piece of the casual market with this. There, didn't even need to 3 sentences. "

They said they aim to revolutionize the way people play.
Posted by slinky6
@deathswhisper said:
"
@slinky6 said:
" I'm going to try it or hear about it from trusted critics before I pass judgment.   If it can do all the shit they claimed, it could be pretty neat. "
yes and if peter molyneux's games did all the stuff he said they would Fable II would be the "most revolutionary game in history". i'm just saying dont take Molyneux's word on anything "
I wasn't even talking about that milo thing.   I have my doubts about that.   The actual functionality of the hardware is what I am wondering about.
Posted by UsbCable

I kinda like my controller, please don't take that away from me....... The camera thingy is interesting and I look forward to getting one in the future but I don't need any replacing happening. O_O

Posted by goodwood
@UsbCable said:
" I kinda like my controller, please don't take that away from me....... The camera thingy is interesting and I look forward to getting one in the future but I don't need any replacing happening. O_O "
Natal is only a add-on and not a replacement. They are only reaching for a bigger audience withit. Most games will still only use the controller while having the option to use this.
Posted by DrRandle

I figured there would be threads on this and all but... well that's not stopping me from making my blog posts. Kinda what it's there for, isn't it?

Posted by Red

Dudes haven't thought of Milo because Milo is freaking useless.

Good blog, this camera and motion stuff is just a load of crap and marketing.
Edited by LordXavierBritish

I mean, you are right.

But you are coming from the wrong angle.

No one said Natal was trying to replace the controller, it's just a new way to play. Oh course they could try to do that, but that would look like idiots. At least the good thing about Wii is that it still has buttons for contextual commands, but Natal could never had an entire console built around it. This seems more like Eyetoy 3.0 to me.

Posted by EpicSteve

I think the nah-sayers don't understand something...no one's played it, and it looks cool.

Posted by cdstacker

If they take that milo stuff, put it in a detective game where i interview serial killers and then go as a lawyer or something I think that would be pretty cool. Of course I'm never going to play a shooter or devil may cry with Natal, but if it is as precise as they say you could RTS games, adventure games or Heavy Rain type stuff. Microsoft aren't scraping their controllers, they've just made an optional camera, if they (or someone they hire) can make a cool experience with it then that should be all that matters, if they can't will still have all the stuff we already have.

Posted by Alex_V

Nice article, but I totally disagree.

You can't judge a thing like this only on the quality of tech demos - we're talking about the potential of a device. If you think the only thing it could potentially ever do was an Arkanoid clone and throwing paint at a wall then you'd have a point.

You say that gamers want controllers, but that's missing the point - they are talking about reaching out to people who would never touch a controller. 

If some people don't want to be jumping around - that's fine by me, there are plenty of traditional games for controllers.

It certainly won't affect the next Gears or the next Devil May Cry - I totally accept that. It's not for all games - that doesn't mean it's a waste of time.

I could imagine all of these same criticisms coming when the Wii first launched - who wants silly motion controllers? The answer is that millions upon millions have responded to those controllers. And this may be the next step.

I'm really excited about it, and the Milo concept is about the most exciting prospect I've ever seen, and would be a genuine revolution in gaming. Good luck Peter Molyneux - hope you pull it off.

Posted by TobyD81

I keep seeing this irrational reaction that just because someone invents a new toy, people act like that toy is going to render all other toys obsolete and that games forever are going to use the new toy. This has never happened, and it's not happening anytime soon. Controllers aren't going anywhere, Natal is just a new way to do things in addition to what's already available.
As for Milo, I kinda doubt that's going to be released in its current tech-demo form. Right now it's just a good way to show off what Natal can do. But when the Milo tech gets into Fable 3...

Posted by DrRandle

Alrighty then, explenation time. No where in my article did I say I think this was replacing all video games. If you look very closely at my title you'll see why this isn't going to revolutionize gaming, and yes, yes they most certainly DID say that this was going to do just that.

Also, (Didn't i say this would happen?) I do think there IS potential in there, I said as much. I also said that I don't believe this thing is going to work as well as they said itt will. Why don't I believe this? The Wii-mote didn't work as well as they said it would, and no other camera device has ever come close to working as well as it should. Also, watching them up on stage I saw the things that make me suspicious. The Milo concept is okay, but I'm interested that none of you find it as much of a nightmare-program as I do. I wasn't kidding: That thing really is the nexst step in AI and it's not a direction I want to be going.

You are right if you say the camera won't replace the controller, I am aware of that. I didn't make it clear but my main problem here is that the 360 is primarily a hardcore gamers device, and always will be. I don't see this camera breaking that stigma and making it a super-popular everyone device that's going to "put smiles on more faces."

Also I like hwo nobody defended using it as a menu navigation device. God that sounds so stupid, reading over my article again.

Posted by TobyD81
@DrRandle: Fair enough, but I disagree that the Xbox will always be a platform for the most hardcore gamers. I think that Microsoft has wanted to break into or at least be a part of the Wii's market for a long time (remember when they told you to buy a Wii and a 360 instead of a PS3?) Now Natal is getting mainstream media coverage in CNN and Time, and it can be strapped to a box that costs 50 bucks less than a Wii. It's clear they're gunning for the broad market, while still staying close to developers who will make games for the enthusiasts, possibly even ones that incorporate Natal. I don't know if it'll work, but it's a damn good first step.
Posted by DrRandle
@TobyD81:
Yeah, it's certainly the right place to display it, and I totally see where they're going, but just like You're in the Movies didn't sell, I don't think the typical, average person would see the difference. Maybe that's just my low faith in humanity speaking at this point? Sure, we'll go with that. Maybe I'm wrong, and I hope I am. I want more people playing video games. I want more people to feel the joy that I do out of this glorious pastime. I'm just not sure this is the way to go.

I just want to thank everybody for their wonderful comments, no matter what your perspective. It just means a lot to me that nobody has called me stupid or a retard thus far. I'm almost getting choked up... No wait... Just put to much onion in my pasta... It's still good though, don't worry.
Edited by Plasma

Seriously, they didnt stamp on a controller and shout "Fuck this old tech!"

"All our games are now INCOMPATABLE with controllers, Project Natal is the ONLY solution!"


Its just like a lightgun, it can be used to bring new genres to light. Or just enhancing games, like motion control in Wii games (bad example :P)
Posted by natetodamax

I think all of this motion capture crap is stupid except for Natal, which is just amazing. I'd much rather have a controller in hand and an awesome game on the TV

Posted by DrRandle
@natetodamax said:
" I think all of this motion capture crap is stupid except for Natal, which is just amazing. I'd much rather have a controller in hand and an awesome game on the TV "
Hey hey now. I'm actually pretty psyched about Wii Motion Plus after watching Nintendo's press conference. That bow and arrow game from Resort looks pretty damn awesome. But that's because the Motion Plus looks incredibly accurate and functional. I don't want it for every game, but I think it's hard to deny how awesome it can make some kinds of gaming experiences.

Again, there are those of you (Plasma, for instance) who aren't getting what I'm saying. It's not that I don't like the concept (I own You're in the Movies, after all.) I just don't think this thing is going to work as well as they want it to, and I think the reasoning behind their development of it is short of intelligent.

On he subject of bad peripherals this E3, what the fresh hell am I going to do with a heart moniter, Nintendo? That's not a gaming device at all, there's just no way that's going to be useful. The best I could do was come up with a game that measures how scared you are, but here's the bitch: If you're not scared by a game, then there's not likely anything more that game can do to try and scare you. Measuring your level of fear and trying to pump more or less scary into the game probably won't do anything. I'd rather leave it to random chance or guided experience like Eternal Darkness or The Grudge (coming soon to Wii.) But that's off topic.
Posted by natetodamax
@DrRandle: I actually missed Nintendo's entire Press Conference because I was in English class at the time. I got home when Sony was doing theirs
Posted by DrRandle
@natetodamax: Welcome home then, and glad to see you still learning.
Posted by parrot_of_adun

Why does everyone seem to think this Milo thing is some sort of technological innovation in itself?

Its like context sensitive animations as opposed to a physics engine. Milo IS NOT some sort of amazingly intelligent robo-child that utilizes "Natal" in any special way. Milo does NOT create unforseen outcomes based on a set of rules, he has a bunch pre-canned responses to user interaction. And it just so happens to use a camera to do that.

Swirling your hand around in fake water is not new or exciting. Having a primitive AI respond predictably to a user with facial recognition is not new or exciting. Flailing madly while attempting to play a solo version of dodgeball is NOT new or exciting. Microsoft is quite clearly attempting to tap into the Wii's non-gamer audience, that's it.

This "Natal" was by far lamest thing I've seen so far this E3 (facebook on XBL being a close 2nd).

Posted by CharlieTuna

I agree with the good doctor here, while the stuff on Wii Sports Resort and Sonys dildo look like they have an impact on gaming Natal seems more like an interface and the games demoed for it seem disjointed from the player in a way. Milo (Peter is starting to freak me the f out) and the paint program in particular looked godawful to me. I mean the Sony dudes were touching that skeleton dummy 1 to 1 with full physics in play, it looked like you were touching the game more or less.

Posted by DrRandle
@parrot_of_adun said:
"

Why does everyone seem to think this Milo thing is some sort of technological innovation in itself?

Its like context sensitive animations as opposed to a physics engine. Milo IS NOT some sort of amazingly intelligent robo-child that utilizes "Natal" in any special way. Milo does NOT create unforseen outcomes based on a set of rules, he has a bunch pre-canned responses to user interaction. And it just so happens to use a camera to do that.

Swirling your hand around in fake water is not new or exciting. Having a primitive AI respond predictably to a user with facial recognition is not new or exciting. Flailing madly while attempting to play a solo version of dodgeball is NOT new or exciting. Microsoft is quite clearly attempting to tap into the Wii's non-gamer audience, that's it.

This "Natal" was by far lamest thing I've seen so far this E3 (facebook on XBL being a close 2nd).

"
Beeeecause Peter Mollyneux claimed that it was an amazing technological innovation so amazingly technologically innovative that no science fiction author had ever thought of it.

Okay and Charlie, because I misread your last line I just had an idea that, if it comes true, might convince me to love Natal. I want an Oingo Boingo music video simulator where on screen I am represented by a glowing skeleton that dances around to "Dead Man's Party."
Edited by CharlieTuna

Don't we all want that?

Posted by DECA555

i completely agree. 

Posted by parrot_of_adun
@DrRandle said:
"
@parrot_of_adun said:
"

Why does everyone seem to think this Milo thing is some sort of technological innovation in itself?

Its like context sensitive animations as opposed to a physics engine. Milo IS NOT some sort of amazingly intelligent robo-child that utilizes "Natal" in any special way. Milo does NOT create unforseen outcomes based on a set of rules, he has a bunch pre-canned responses to user interaction. And it just so happens to use a camera to do that.

Swirling your hand around in fake water is not new or exciting. Having a primitive AI respond predictably to a user with facial recognition is not new or exciting. Flailing madly while attempting to play a solo version of dodgeball is NOT new or exciting. Microsoft is quite clearly attempting to tap into the Wii's non-gamer audience, that's it.

This "Natal" was by far lamest thing I've seen so far this E3 (facebook on XBL being a close 2nd).

"
Beeeecause Peter Mollyneux claimed that it was an amazing technological innovation so amazingly technologically innovative that no science fiction author had ever thought of it.
Good point...
Posted by Maxszy

I fully agree here. I think the camera thing is a bit..."ugh." Not going to work.

But maybe hardcore gamers are not their target at all and all that will really focus on with the camera is casual type games and workout games or something. *shrug* I think there will always be a controller as plenty of us (myself for sure included) would want it no other way.

Edited by UsbCable
@goodwood said:
"
@UsbCable said:
" I kinda like my controller, please don't take that away from me....... The camera thingy is interesting and I look forward to getting one in the future but I don't need any replacing happening. O_O "
Natal is only a add-on and not a replacement. They are only reaching for a bigger audience withit. Most games will still only use the controller while having the option to use this. "
I know, I'm just hoping it stays that way. I hear a lot of "This is the future, no more controllers. Controllers are totally complicated" from the big wigs. No Mr. Big Wig! lol I can already imagine how dumb I'm gonna look using all this new motion sensing tech, I can't wait...... Robots are going to take over soon though and it all begins with Milo.  O_O