Talking Kinect With Kudo
In another shotgun Microsoft interview, we talk with Kinect creator Kudo Tsunoda about the casual versus core school of thought and the “go big or go home” approach to integrating Kinect technology.
Game Informer: The perception out of E3 was that the bulk of products announced for Kinect were casual in nature. The Japanese games that debuted at TGS seem to have been developed with the core in mind. Do you subscribe to that casual versus core argument? Or do you instead see the suite of products as different facets of the Kinect experience?
Kudo Tsunoda: I think it’s funny. Nobody has a standard definition of what is a casual and what is a core. So the tricky thing about that question is you don’t have a measuring stick for what a core game is. I guess for me, it isn’t about it being core versus not core; it’s about how lots of different people like to play games. Whether it is video games or other types of games, it is still gameplay. And instead of trying to highlight the difference between people, we want to try and find what is similar about people and what brings them together. And I think there are very similar traits between people in terms of what they like to play – skill based play or games that have a lot of depth to them so that you feel like the time you have invested in the game has helped you learn to be better at it than someone who has just started playing.
I’ve played games that have been called casual before, and what frustrates me is when someone who has never played before shows up and they can beat me at the game. Then it feels like the two months I invested playing the game were a waste of time. So what we’ve been focusing on is getting very skill-based gameplay into the games and giving them good depth, so that the longer you play them, the more you are going to learn and the better you are going to get. And I think that is something that all gamers love. And that is the weird thing to me about technology – it has really started to divide people up into this type of person or that type of person. And it is one of the reasons that it is called Kinect in the first place. From a design perspective, bringing people together so that they can have fun together. That is our focus with all the Kinect games.
GI: Do you feel that because Nintendo and Sony are native to Japan and Microsoft has a higher barrier to entry, that the social nature of Kinect will help bolster sales and reach a higher saturation point of 360 sales?
Tsunoda: For sure. Quite frankly, I think that the good things about Kinect will appeal to people all over the world. So I think it will be a big momentum builder for the 360 here in Japan, but I wouldn’t localize that to Japan. I think Kinect will be a big momentum builder in all different regions. I do think it is something that Japanese designers have been good at – building something that is true to the philosophies of Kinect. Something that is easy to get into, but has a huge amount of depth over time.
GI: Looking at first-party games and 360 exclusives in the future, are we going to start to see Kinect integrated in small or nuanced ways? Or is it a "go big or go home" approach to gameplay?
Tsunoda: I think that the stuff we have learned about Kinect is that you don’t want to take it and port a experience over to Kinect or force it into things. You see a lot of motion control games that put the motion technology into a random game and that isn’t the way to make an awesome experience. If you think about the way that first person shooters evolved, they started on the PC. People for the longest time tried to port shooters from the PC onto the console. And people said the same things that they are saying now about Kinect – “It’s never going to be responsive enough to do this,” or “You’re never going to get a fun first person shooter on the console – it’s only made for a keyboard and mouse and that is the way it is supposed to be played.” And as long as everyone was just porting the existing shooters over to console, they weren’t as fun as the PC ones. Of course, they were built for the PC.
Halo did an awesome job of building a first-person shooter exclusively for the console, and now hardly anyone plays first person shooters on the PC anymore. It’s all about the console. And I feel it is the same with Kinect stuff. If you are constantly trying to take something that is made for a controller and port it over to Kinect, it’s not going to be a good experience because it is made for a controller. If you take the time to build it for Kinect from the ground up, however, you can make something that is a very new experience, but lots of times even more fun than it was before.
GI: From a non-gaming standpoint, are there any features that you are particularly excited about, or, looking into the future, new interactions and functionality that you would like to see added to Kinect?
Tsunoda: I think it’s awesome that all the stuff on Xbox Live that you can do with entertainment and has nothing to do with gaming. One, you can control movies with your voice. If you go to my house there are seven remote controls hanging out on my coffee table and I have to do some sort of weird Rosetta Stone combination of button presses to get the movie to play. Being able to use voice technology to say “Xbox play movie” or “Xbox fast forward” is super awesome and compelling. Looking forward, I think we are very focused on Kinect for Xbox launch, but I do think that it is technology that could be used on all different kinds of devices and mediums. So, hypothetically, if I worked at a company that actually did stuff on other devices and they were pioneering something like Kinect, I think that would be something I would be very excited to see – Kinect technology applied into other mediums. [Laughs]