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Rare on Kinect Sports

Nick Burton on how Rare got involved with Kinect and why you should give it a try.
Eurogamer I can't believe you said that.
Nick Burton

I've spent so long on conference calls to the States.

We were just taking goal kicks, and it was a rough wireframe stick man with a ball. What we were trying to prove out was you could interact with a virtual object. So to put a virtual object in front of you and your skeleton could move around. You could visualise it was there.

We found you could put a virtual ball a metre in front of the stick-man in the game space, and the player in the real world would go and move around and address a ball a metre in front of them in the real world.

This is probably going back 18 months from now. It became quite clear, we didn't know why at the time, that sports was something everybody related to. We were putting these very early prototypes into user research as well, and they were always the things that came back as people just got [clicks fingers], like that.

We wouldn't tell them anything. You just put a stick-man on the screen with a wireframe table tennis table and then go, 'Here you go.' People worked these out much quicker. And it turned out in the end it was all about the relate-ability of sports, because everybody, even if they've never played the sports, knows of them, either through TV or friends that play it or school. You've got some good idea of how to play it. And also just by watching somebody play you can get what you're supposed to do, even if there's a lot of skill involved.

We look back now, it was a no-brainer. It's an obvious thing. If you do something that everybody's going to get and go, 'Oh, I can do that. I can watch you. You actually look like you're bowling, and I've been bowling. Therefore, get out of the way and give me a go.' No more training required. Lowering the barrier to entry.

That was pretty much it, even though we were going, "should we do a sports game?" We had all these other crazy ideas for things, and we've still got them - there's going to be some bonkers things with Kinect in the future. We're scratching the surface.

If you like we're doing the obvious gateway things. The things that lend themselves initially, the thing people are going to go [clicks fingers] I get that straight away. If you hit them with something really off the wall, it's like, 'Whoa, what does that even mean?'

Eurogamer So the most important thing initially was to get people to wrap their heads around it, and a game like Kinect Sports will easily do that?
Nick Burton

Yeah. It's like the old Ronseal adverts, where you say, 'Okay, it does exactly what it says on the tin.' Doesn't mean that's not a challenge to make it do that and to get a really finessed deep experience.

The other thing I feel with Sports is a lot of people are labelling this as broad, easy access, kind of like casual games. But they're anything but casual once you get into them. They're incredibly competitive. We've got an internal leaderboard at Rare that we run with this, and literally the last time I was this competitive was playing Mario Kart.

Eurogamer You must keep an eye on forums, and you must have predicted the reaction from core gamers to what you're doing. It must have come as no surprise to you.
Nick Burton

None at all. But the thing is, until people play Kinect, and they play it for more than a couple of seconds, which is unfortunately practically what you get in the trade shows... But you know hardly anybody's getting a chance to play it.

It's one of those things you've got to have what I call your Kinect moment, when you realise... And we see this, we saw it at gamescom and E3, people go, 'Oh, it's way better than I expected. It's way more high fidelity than I expected.'

But when you're looking at a video on the internet and you're reading the write-ups, it's very difficult to get, well I think it's probably impossible to get that feeling.

Eurogamer Some gamers look at the promotional videos Microsoft is putting out for Kinect Sports and they say, that doesn't relate to me.
Nick Burton

That's very true. But, how else would you actually market that? That's the right way to market it to everybody. All I can say to the core is go and have a go. It doesn't even have to be necessarily Kinect Sports. Go and have a go on Kinect, period.

Try out all the games. The interesting thing for us as developers is, if you take something like bowling for instance, it's easier on you. I can get my little six-year-old girl playing it with me. But I've got good enough, and I can still get better, that I am almost a world-class bowler in bowling.

You can do trick shots. You can run the ball down the rail and screw it off to the side and pick different pins off. There's a real depth to the gameplay. There's discoverability for people who really get games and play games.

That sounds probably mad to you, but when you run 100 metres, now I'm not saying you've got to be as fit as Usain Bolt, because that would be a bit crazy, but when you first run it you're going to get a time of nine-and-a-half seconds. Then as you get better, my best time is about seven-and-a-half seconds.

One of the guys on Sports, doing no more exertion than me, can get 6.9 seconds because he's worked out all of the little wrinkles in the gesture-recognition system to absolutely rinse - probably not as much out as you can, there are probably still a couple of fractions of a second more.

You think, well yeah, but that's just 100 metres. All right, you put online leaderboards on there, get your mates round after the pub, you're all one-upping each other. How is that still not that similar kind of hardcore experience to saying, 'Well actually, I know the best spawn point in a Halo map?'

That's something really simple. Then you take something like football, which is a much more complex game, then it's going to get very - well it does, I speak from experience - get very, very competitive.

I've got a hardcore head on one side and a family man head on the other side. I'll play Lips but I love Halo and Crackdown. But, I can play something like this with the guys in the office and be ultra competitive and I can still play with my daughter. I have to go easy on her because she's only six.

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About the Author

Wesley Yin-Poole avatar

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editorial Director

Wesley is deputy editorial director of ReedPop. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.


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