Microsoft’s Kinect sensor offers a fresh perspective on motion control gaming by giving players a completely controller-free experience on the Xbox 360. The technology’s motion, facial, and voice recognition has opened new opportunities for innovation, and to learn more about what goes into developing a Kinect title, we spoke with Game Development graduate Simon Strand, who did contract work for Microsoft as a software test engineer on Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Kinect Star Wars.
“Our main goal was to make these games comfortable for people,” he says. “When you’re using a controller you can just sit on the couch for hours. With Kinect you’re on your feet, jumping around, waving your arms, which can be tiring. So we had to examine different ways of playing.”
That comfort factor was a notable issue for Kinect Disneyland Adventures, which offers a recreation of California’s Disneyland theme park for players to explore in real time.
“It’s the first Kinect title with an open world environment, so we had to solve the problem of accurately walking around a large space without a controller,” he says. “One of the coolest things is we’d bring children in to play test so we could better tune the gameplay. It was such a blast to see them scream and laugh and have such a good time.”
Working with Kinect has been a welcome change of pace for Simon, who has since moved on to a new contract position with Microsoft developing video applications for the Xbox 360 dashboard. Based on his work over the past year, he’s looking forward to seeing how other developers will continue to evolve the Kinect experience.
“It’s interesting to work with because you have to find the best way to play towards its strengths,” he says. “As time goes on more designers are finding unique things they can do, and it’s going to be cool to see what the games are like in three years. We need people who are really willing to take risks with it.”