This week saw our Kinect Sports odyssey continue with an event a little closer to home than usual, as Nick headed to Edinburgh to talk all things Rare at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival…
Arrived in Edinburgh after another early start from East Midlands Airport. The afternoon was set aside for interviews with MCV, The List, Z Connect, Eurogamer, NXT Gamer, Ready Up, local papers and a few others. Jerry Johnson (head of Microsoft’s Soho studio) was on hand too, bigging up Xbox Live and Kinect. We also wanted to discuss some of the deeper aspects of Sports‘ gameplay and point out that Kinect is not just for your mum. You really HAVE to play it for yourself to see what I mean.
We had a Kinect setup in the interview room with one of those amazing new Samsung LED TVs that seem to be about 2mm thick, which was great. The only problem was that the room was below the cinema in the Edinburgh Picture House in what seemed to be the basement – pretty cold down there. With that said, it was a nice big space to play Sports and jumping around kept me warm.
Here in England, we already know from (slightly painful) experience how good Germany is at football. We’re not bitter though, we’re really happy that they love putting away goals in Kinect Sports, almost as much as at a major tournament.
Our video diary from Gamescom 2010 features plenty of awesome footballing moments, as well as a spot of Javelin and Sprint. It was a truly incredible show, even bigger than E3, and we were happy to see a broad spectrum of gamers really enjoying the game.
We also got to see our General Manager Kudo Tsunoda giving away Kinect bundles on the impressive Xbox 360 stage, plus former Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann showing off his uncanny striking skills. Check it out below.
The Gamescom Road Trip 2010 is brought to you by Ben “I like meat” Talbot and Nick “I don’t mean to be contentious” Burton…
Day 2 – Thursday 19th August
Some things just get lost in translation, such as the US guys at Gamescom calling football “soccer” – the German guys calling it “fußball” – and the English guys giggling at the idea of ordering a “big wiener” for lunch.
One thing that we all agreed on though, is that Kinect Sports went down a storm at the world’s biggest electronic entertainment show. We had hundreds of members of the press through on the first two days, from GamePro, to Destructoid, to Official Xbox Magazine. There was a bit of a stir about the talk of redesigned avatars – you can see what they’re going to look like in all of the existing Sports screenshots.
The Gamescom Road Trip 2010 is brought to you by Ben “I like meat” Talbot and Nick “I don’t mean to be contentious” Burton…
Day 1 – Wednesday 18th August
It’s the first day of Gamescom and there are already hundreds of people queuing outside the Kinect Sports booth, waiting to have a go at our new Javelin, Long Jump, Football and Sprint events. The convention, based in Cologne, Germany, is only open to the press today – the real spectacle kicks off tomorrow when it opens to the public. It’s going to be chaos, but we’re also going to have as much fun as it’s possible to handle.
Nick, Sav, Shin and myself arrived in Germany on Monday, ready to scout out the show, to make sure our German-speaking booth folks were familiar with the new sports – while also giving Nick some time to prepare for his upcoming speech at Game Developers Conference Europe.
GDCE runs at the Cologne Convention Centre in the two days running up to Gamescom. Nick delivered a speech alongside Andrew Oliver of Blitz Games (the co-creator of Dizzy!), titled Kinecting with a new Audience. The theme was all about the great features that the Kinect hardware offers to developers, including the thermal mapping, skeletal system and voice recognition, to name a few.
The Viva Piñata community are a dedicated bunch. During the game’s four years in the wild, they’ve explored every possible nook and cranny, wringing from it all the Easter Eggs we’d so carefully tucked away. They’ve decoded Piñata Vision Cards and figured out how to mature a Dragonache, but it is their willingness to help others that has always made me so proud of them. In a world of obnoxious potty-mouths who’d rather tea-bag you than exchange pleasantries, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is an island of blessed relief.
Never was this more so than with last Tuesday’s Family Game Night, a joint initiative run by Xbox.com and pinataisland.info in a bid to get reclusive gardeners collaborating online. Due to the time difference between Twycross and our transatlantic friends, it was a midnight start, but tweaked up on a well-known energy drink I plunged online, spade in hand, bidding to visit as many gardens as possible.
The first garden I arrived in couldn’t have been more fitting; it contained only Goobaas. A merry time was spent increasing his flock by a number of wildcards before leaving to another random garden, again suspiciously filled with Goobaas. Was there a lamb-based theme to the evening that I was unaware of?
That was the last sheep I’d see that evening, however. My next stop saw me visit a damsel in distress who had seen her garden ravaged by Ruffians. Cue some time spent reversing the devastation before focusing on happier things by maturing a rather pink Choclodocus.
And so I continued, roaming from garden to garden, sharing rare Piñatas here, tending plants there, and doing a great amount of romance dancing. I healed Bispottis stranded in vast deserts, placed bunny slippers on Custaceans to cheer them up, diverted trains to prevent nasty incidents with Bunnycombs, and discovered many allotments dedicated to their gardener’s favourite Piñata.
In many you could see the effect the wider community has had on individual gardens, as anti-Pester walls, jet-black Piñatas and other notable glitches (read: features) were prominent.
Too quickly the night drew to a close, but rather fittingly in a garden where I shared some pleasant conversation with two young fellows from either side of the US. Chewing the fat surrounding online etiquette, the state of the industry today, and, most importantly, the best way to attract a Rashberry.
James Thomas is a Principal Engineer at Rare and has worked on titles including Grabbed by the Ghoulies and the Viva Piñata series. He can often be found online hiding behind the pseudonym BIGsheep.
More questions, more answers, more evasions. Welcome to the rainy film noir world of Scribes. Special unedited wacky typing edition!
Q: 1.first of all i would like to mention that goldeneye 007 is my favorite game, even to this date. And i will slap any fps gamer if they do not know what it is.\
2. I was wondering if you guys at Rare have any mint or boxed copies of the n64 game goldeneye 007, because i would love to some day buy it from you guys. NO dont say go to ebay their goldeneye 007 boxes and games are usually very warn out.
A: Wax on, wax off.
1) In the interests of fairness, make sure it’s genuine ignorance and not just trouble working out what you’re saying.
2) I’m afraid we don’t have any and I doubt we’d legally be able to sell you a copy anyway. We’re not a retailer, which is just as well because I’d ruin our finances with Star Fox Adventures shopkeeper T-shirts and deluxe Jeff & Barry fountain pens. Why don’t you try going to… oh.
Q: dear rare
you almost caused me to panic when you announced sports champions. i was worried you would become a shovelware developer. but once i saw scribes i think all hope was not lost.
also a few questions
1 is scribes going to have the funny ways you guys anwser the letters again?
2 is sports champions going to have your famous humour?
3 is banjo going to get another game?
4 can you release blast corps on xbox live?
5 you may have heard that another companys releasing your goldeneye game on the wii. how do you feel about this?
and thats all my questions.
A: Shovelware developer! Won’t somebody think of the casuals? Wait, no, last time I cracked that gag the fansites went on a rampage.
1) Even now, everyone in the room is wearing a clown wig – and an expression of simmering violence.
2) Not sure, you might want to ask Sony about that one.
3) Grunty seems to think so, although we’re not officially on board with her yet. Never say never. Gesture-based egg shooting could revolutionise the industry.
4) Technically we could, if MGS wanted it, but I doubt it’s top of their priority heap. They should play it. It stands up well. EVERYTHING EXPLODES. Timeless.
5) Far be it from me to state Rare’s official position on that, on the blog, in a half-arsed letters column.
Have you ever tried taking the stairs at Covent Garden tube station? 193 steps doesn’t sound too bad, but once you get about a third of the way up, it starts to feel like you’re trapped in a sweaty Escher-style optical illusion that goes on forever.
For the more sensible commuter, the lifts work just fine and this will also let you save your energy for visiting the nearby Kinect Galleries. This new installation in the heart of London’s West End is a great opportunity to try out Sports in the comfort of a luxurious Xbox 360-themed living room, or if you prefer, in front of a live audience.
The galleries are neatly divided up into three sections – an interactive art exhibit by the Mega Super Awesome Visuals Company, the impressive Kinect stage and a set of specially constructed Xbox 360 lounges on the lower floor.
No matter how keen you are to play Kinect for the first time, it’s almost impossible to pass by the exhibits without being drawn to the soothing sounds and alluring colours. Webcam Piano 2.0 makes lovely jingle-jangle noises whenever it detects movement (a bit like Jimmy Saville). It’s remarkably hypnotic, even if it does display your picture with creepy black eyeballs.
The second exhibit, Gold reminds us of that old Jackson Five video for ‘Can You Feel It’. It’s quite easy to spend five minutes being dazzled by the effects, before realising that a queue of people has formed behind you. The webcam technology behind these exhibits is completely separate from Kinect, but you can see some similarities in the way they bring sound, motion-tracking and performance together to create a fun experience.
All-comers are free to try out Sports, Joy Ride and Adventures on the main gallery stage. It’s quite a public way to experience Kinect, but you definitely look totally cool playing ten-pin bowling – especially when you get a strike in front of an appreciative audience.
Here’s a PROTIP for when you get up there – try shot-putting the virtual bowling ball over your shoulder instead of rolling it. This always gets a laugh, and it smashes up the lanes too (don’t worry, the floor always repairs itself in time for the next throw).
If you’re looking for a more personal Kinect experience, it’s possible to book half-hour slots in one of three Xbox 360-themed living rooms on the lower floor. If you want to give this a try, you can book for free online at www.facebook.com/kinectforxbox360. It’s pretty important to book because the rooms were really in demand when we were there. Certainly worth taking a few minutes of your time, because you get to try out several of the launch games in very comfortable surroundings. I really, really want one of those Xbox sofas for my living room.
The Kinect Galleries can be found at 4-6 Russell Street, Covent Garden, London – open every day between Sat 31st July and Tuesday 31st August 2010. Admission is free.
Five things we loved about San Diego Comic-Con – the amazing costumes, bumping into celebrities on every corner, demoing Kinect Sports to hundreds of enthusiastic comic fans, booth babes on Segways and the biggest, most terrifying steaks you’re ever likely to see.
Unfortunately, the steaks didn’t make it into our video diary because I quickly devoured them like a T-Rex on the Atkins Diet. Just about everything else in the list is featured though, from Master Chief doing a spot of ten-pin bowling, to one of the developers of Limbo whipping me at the Hurdles.
It was a memorable few days, and I hope that this video captures the fun people were having with Sports. If you fancy having a go yourself, there’s plenty of opportunity this month at the Kinect Tour in the US, and at Alton Towers and Dare to Be Digital’s ProtoPlay event in the UK. For now, here’s a look at our event in beautiful San Diego.