In my last piece, I was questioned, and rightfully so, about what Kinect could bring to several genre's of games. The question is entirely valid, as most of my experience with Kinect revolved around Dance Central. Dancing games may be fun and all, but they're hardly anyone's cup of tea. Which is what prompted this question from regular Time Enforcer Anubis:
What will control systems like Kinect do for the games that I play to make them better?
Its a great question, and something I immediately put my mind to. After all, my point with Kinect wasn't that it would be an instant revolution, but that it would be something that would grow to be a tangible part of every gaming experience. So, I spent some time thinking away on how exactly I would use Kinect with most major genre's of Video Games, including uncommon ones. It's times like these I love being a Game Designer.
I will start off with one strong point: Kinect games will only truly take off when the initial "no controller but you" fad dies down and developers start doing the obvious by using a controller with Kinect inside the games. I will dispell a myth here: The Kinect does support the X-box Controller. At the demo I attended, we were shown that the 360 controller is compatible with Kinect, and a controller was used to jump around various game menus. So this whole "there are no buttons" complaint is nothing more then a fallacy. The Kinect has buttons. No one has bothered to use them yet. But here is how they will...
Mech Simulators and Related
The first Genre I tackled was the one Anubis suggested, the Mech Simulator. Anubis raised a key point with Steel Battalion (a well loved Mech sim for the 360 famous for its hundred dollar 40+ button control console): A game like that can't work without the experience of the controller. The game was built around that experience. I agree completely, and I think that unless the new Steel Battalion game has that controller, it'll be a bit less of a success then its developers may think it.
But what could Kinect add to the experience? The first thing that jumped to my mind was head tracking for camera and targeting systems. By this, I mean that as you played the game, Kinect would track your head in order to adjust your view inside the cockpit based on where your head would look. With face recognition like the Kinect's, you could use your own head to look around. Need to look to your left? Turn your head to the left just a little (you would want to exaggerate the motion of view on the screen, assuming that if you look a little to the left would result in a large turn to the left on screen). It could be done in many different ways (have zones of the TV that when looked at trigger the shift), but the result would be you being able to look in one direction while still moving/shooting in another without some sort of head-twistingly complex control problems. Worried that someone is sneaking up on you? Take a quick peek left without stopping your suppressing fire forward. This could also work for first person shooters, but would work best for Simulations of all kinds.
To be honest, much of how Kinect would work for a fighting game depends on the game itself. I can't see Kinect adding anything to something like Street Fighter with it's carefully fine-tuned combat. But I could see it spawning its own strangely workable games. Much like Smash Brothers became a very new kind of fighting game with its odd combat system, so could Kinect bring it's own strange combination of fighting games. Imagine if you had a fighting game where the speed with which you moved your controller determined some factor in your attacks. Or where you could charge up some sort of special bar by making symbols with your hands. With a fighting game for the Kinect, you would need to build it from the ground up for Kinect and for Kinect only, but it could be wholly unique.
The idea of sight tracking could be used to great effect in a platformer. How many 3D platforming games have been struck down because of the difficulties in telling where exactly your character is while jumping? What if you could simply look at your target and the game would "nudge" you in that direction as you jumped?
The limit isn't there either. What sort of levels could you design interacting in the real world? Imagine a level for a platformer where you leaning your body left and right tilts the level left and right. Or rotates it in some way? What if at any moment you could set the controller down and interact with the level itself on the screen, pushing objects and picking them up to change how the level operated. You could place your arm across a water flow and then use the controller to run your character across it. This is just a start, there are levels of interaction here no one has even considered yet.
Again, this is an area where the ability to look by using your head rather then buttons would be very useful. But what about in the garage? You could rotate, flip, and tune a car with your hands, no need for buttons, much like the computer hologram system in the Iron Man film. Combine it with a 3D display and it is the computer system from Iron Man.
Of course then there are the races themselves. What if you could use your hand to wipe steam off of the window? Or throw your body to one side to balance weight as your light little sport car whipped around a turn? Or even do something as simple as rolling down a window? Racing Kart games could benefit as well. Lean back when going off of a jump to flip backwards. Forward for a frontal flip. Whatever designers can come up with.
First Person Shooters
There's a slew of easy applications here, so many that I'm not even going to mention them all (after all, I'd like to use most of these at some point). Imagine reloading, not by button tap, but by using your hand to tap the bottom of your controller. Imagine leaning left and right to lean into and out of cover, or to steer a glider. Imagine spreading both hands wide, the width determining how fast you drop along a zipline.
I've got many more, but that should serve to get you thinking.
This one's easy. Puzzle manipulation of the real world. Done.
With the Kinect, the RTS genre could finally have a decent control scheme on the console. This one is again very easy to picture. Controlling your forces would be a lot easier.
Finally, the last genre I'll cover with this, the RPG. Kinect could do some neat stuff for RPGs. Pretty much any command for combat could be mapped to an arm movement or a quick signal. It would be much easier to make a quick motion for a heal then scrolling through an item menu. Combat could be streamlined quite a bit.
So there you have it. A few solid uses for the Kinect. What do you think?