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Kinect Sports Rivals dev Rare has "unfinished business" with Kinect

Xbox 360 Kinect was "80 per cent magical".

Wake racing is a free download as part of Xbox One launch game Kinect Sports Rivals Preseason.

Microsoft-owned developer Rare wanted to make another entry in the Kinect Sports series for Xbox One because it felt it had "unfinished business" with the sensor.

Rare, creator of Kinect Sports 1 and 2 for Xbox 360, is developer of Xbox One Kinect game Kinect Sports Rivals.

Kinect 2.0 is more powerful than its predecessor, and is able to detect more subtle body movements, including even finger tracking.

The first Kinect, which launched on Xbox 360 in November 2010, enjoyed sales success but was criticised by many gamers for its poor accuracy.

As Rare executive producer Danny Isaac put it to Eurogamer in a recent interview, the original Kinect was "80 per cent magical"

"We just had great success with the Kinect Sports franchise," he said. "Up to now we're over eight million units sold. People don't realise how popular the franchise is. It's been hugely successful.

"Although everyone knows with Kinect - I call it 80 per cent magical. Sometimes it was really magical. Other times it was like, what the hell is going on? But when we talk to a lot of people they had so much fun with Kinect Sports."

Having established a successful series, and upon learning of Microsoft's plan to bundle a new and improved Kinect with the Xbox One, Rare jumped at the opportunity to make a new Kinect Sports game.

"As we looked at Xbox One a few years ago - and the decision even then was there would be a Kinect sensor in every box - it was quite simple to go, okay, we could have a Kinect Sports experience in that launch time frame," Isaac said.

"Obviously Microsoft talked to us at Rare and we were more than happy to go after it. For a lot of people at Rare, we had some unfinished business with the Kinect sensor. The team did a great job on Kinect Sports 1 and 2, but it didn't quite hit the vision we had for the sensor and the fidelity we wanted to get from it.

"There was definitely a drive [to create another Kinect Sports]. Obviously we're first party, so to support the platform and do what we do best. We love building new technology, and there's nothing more cutting edge in gaming than a Kinect sensor; using light to control where you want to go."

Isaac said one of the challenges Rare faced with Kinect on Xbox 360 was that the tech was "quite noisy". That is, the sensor made it difficult for software to know whether a player had performed an action or hadn't.

Kinect 2.0, however, is a higher fidelity device, and so the amount of noise is reduced. "We still have to work hard to look at how people play, understand their intent and then translate that into the control into the game."

"Up to now we're over eight million units sold. People don't realise how popular the Kinect Sports franchise is. It's been hugely successful."

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Kinect Sports Rivals was intended as an Xbox One launch title, but it was delayed to the spring of 2014 so Rare could improve its quality.

However, one of the Rivals games, wake racing, will be released as a free download at the Xbox One's 22nd November 2013 launch, alongside a new Kinect Sports hub and character creation system.

The Kinect Sports games are considered family-friendly titles, and Rivals is certainly one of the more accessible Xbox One launch titles, but according to Isaac, it has been designed to be more challenging than Kinect Sports 1 and 2.

"We wanted to build an experience that was less family-friendly than we had previously and more talk to the early adopters who are going to turn up on Xbox One," he said.

"As you see from wake racing, it's high fidelity. If you're a good gamer you can understand the racing line and go after that. If you make mistakes you explode. There's a big difference between someone who's good and someone who's done it for the first time.

"Whereas on the Xbox 360 Kinect titles, it was always hard to get that depth and mastery into them, because they were very open and meant to be all encompassing. That gives you some trade-offs. It means you really can't have too much depth and fidelity. You have to make it very accessible.

"So Rivals is probably less accessible than our previous Kinect Sports titles, but they add a lot more depth and gives you more of a chance to get to the mastery aspects you'd see in a traditional game."

"There's also a controller and SmartGlass and cloud services. We're looking at multiple things we can do across multiple controllers."

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So, what's next for Rare? In a recent interview with IGN, Microsoft Studios boss Phil Spencer insisted the UK developer was not forced to make Kinect games, and revealed discussions were underway on potential controller-based games.

Isaac backed this up, telling Eurogamer Rare was looking at games using "multiple controllers" - however, the studio remains keen to work with Kinect and the Kinect Sports series.

"We look at Xbox One as a platform," he said. "Kinect is obviously a big part of that. But there's also a controller and SmartGlass and cloud services. We're looking at multiple things we can do across multiple controllers.

"Hopefully people will like Kinect Sports Rivals so there will be an opportunity for us to do more. I'd like to have this one have a longer tail. I don't think ideally we'd want to release one every year. These sorts of titles tend to be a bit like Monopoly. You get one of them and then you keep it for a long period of time to play."

Ultimately, Rare enjoys working on new technology, Isaac said. "It's more we just love building new technology. Although Kinect is challenging from the human aspect, it really is cutting edge technology. We're doing stuff that really was science fiction a few years ago."