Saturday, May 15, 2010

Good god, I hate "Project Natal."

I know that it seems bitter and vindictive to hate something that I've never tried and that I've only seen in videos, so perhaps the more appropriate title to this article is that I hate the very idea of Project Natal.

People who are excited over this often times don't put the observation into certain facts about the demonstrations and the state of certain things.  I would like to examine some of those facts for those people who still insist that this is going to be the next gaming phenomenon.

1. In any of the widely available online videos, you will see a family with what is possibly the world's largest living room huddled around their television playing with this... abomination.  Kids, do you really think that there's enough room in your college dorm or bedroom to play with this thing?

2. My controller works.  It took them almost 30 years to make wireless controllers even semi-standard (and man, what a freeing feeling that is, right?) and now you want us to give up our complex button-intensive game so that we can wave our arms like morons in front of the TV?  Why?  I've never used a camera or gesture-based  system that was accurate enough to be fun (Sony EyeToy), or that didn't involve unrealistic waggling to do simple tasks (Nintendo Wii).  I don't see this as being any different.  What happens when you sneeze in the middle of a game, or stub your toe on some carelessly conveniently placed furniture?

3. Lag.  I have yet to see a "live" demo where an impartial person (read: not Peter Molyneaux) has failed to mention that the lag on this thing is noticeable.  Because much of Project Natal's reputed use is for action games, this seems more than a little broken.  Lag has destroyed button-based games in the past, so why is it okay with gesture-based games all of a sudden?  

4. Buggy.  Also, notice that when people say that the motion recognition "works great" they're usually in a well-lit room with a light background.  How many of you have that in your home?  Ever notice how natural light washes out or causes glare on your television screen?  I'm willing to bet most of what Microsoft is doing right now is tweaking the detection to recognize different lighting conditions and skin colors.  In other words, if you have any decorations, reflective surfaces, or windows in your house this probably isn't going to work too well.

5. Not everything has to be Wii.  Look, I appreciate that the Wii made Nintendo oodles of money, brought back third party support to the company, and invited average non-gaming people into the world of video games.  Bravo.  The problem is... have you ever actually played a third-party Wii game that didn't suck?  There's only a few out of the hundreds and hundreds on the market, and most "average" consumers only use the system to play Wii Sports and never buy another game.  This is starting to be a real problem for Nintendo who has now become the industry-collapsing danger to the industry that Atari was in the early 1980s.  Microsoft and Sony, please: no good can come from emulating Nintendo's business model, because the people who are buying your games now aren't going to be swayed by the hype once they see how derivative your product is.  It's a fad and a cash-grab.  It will not last.

6. This is Microsoft.  Don't get me wrong, I like Windows, and I was a huge advocate of the original Xbox when it was released, but Project Natal has hints of the taste of Microsoft Soundsmith, and I don't think that any of us need to relive that nightmare.

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