Nostalgia can be a funny thing. Gamers often look back on games or consoles that defined their childhoods with rose-tinted glasses that often adjust their view of history. I fondly remember placing the disc for Panzer Dragoon into my Sega Saturn for the first time in 1995. The first stage opened with the beautifully orchestrated track Flight, and an oceanic ruin appeared before me as I rode gracefully on the back of an armored dragon. I remember thinking “This is it. This is the next generation of gaming.”
I went back to play all three of the Saturn’s Panzer Dragoon titles earlier this year, and soon came to the realization that while they do not hold up by any means visually, the gameplay and incredible soundtracks are still in tip-top shape. We haven’t had a title in the series since Panzer Dragoon Orta’s appearance on the original Xbox in 2002. Imagine my amazement when walking across the show floor at PAX East this weekend I spotted what seemed to be a Panzer Dragoon game on display at Microsoft’s Kinect booth.
As I made my way through the expo floor at GDC, I had but one burning thought racing through my mind: what was that 6-foot bi-pedal octopus I just saw walk past me? My question was quickly answered as I approached the DePaul University booth, where students were demonstrating their latest project, Octodad.
I had an opportunity to speak with Lead Designer Jake Anderson, who said when developing Octodad, the students realized “nothing is too crazy.” This is fitting, considering you play as an octopus masquerading as a bi-pedal human. Even the most mundane of daily tasks become daunting and intriguing when players try not to arouse suspicion from passing NPCs. The game was designed before the Kinect was available, but the clumsy control scheme lends itself well to the technology, because naturally, an octopus wouldn’t share the graceful movements of a human.
Alex Kipman, Director of Incubation for Xbox at Microsoft (yes, that’s a real position), recently stated during an interview on NRP’s Talk of the Nation that “There’s no Kinect support through XNA today, but that is something that we will support in the future.” This comes to much of a surprise to indie developers who have been urging for support on the platform. Dave Mitchell, an XNA founding member, revealed earlier this month on the App Hub (XNA) forums that Microsoft was evaluating adding XNA Kinect API support in future updates.
Despite not offering tools at the moment, a number of interesting hacks have been put together, for example, putting a true 3D camera together using open source drivers. While no formal hacks have been made at the moment, Microsoft claims that users have been able to “open the USB connection, which we didn’t protect by design, and reads the inputs from the sensor.”
This could prove to be a major vaulting point on a platform which is currently lacking strong support from Microsoft. XNA is a community which thrives from user creativity, much like the Kinect. A combination of the two forces could lead the way for pioneering movements within game development.
A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to Digital Spy that there are “no current plans” to allow indie developers to develop for Kinect on the Xbox Live Indie Game platform. The spokesperson went on to explain that they may allow indie developers to create games for the motion-sensing device in the future, but “no plans can be confirmed at this time.”
This news comes a few days after Microsoft Game Studios general manager Kudo Tsunoda hinted that indie developers would get access to Kinect in due time. “Indie games a big part of the platform, and timelines will come later,” he explained to Edge Magazine.