Hudson is kicking off Kinect development with Deca Sports Freedom, a launch window title with dodgeball, kendo, tennis, and, at one time, surfing. The concept for the surfing game had players paddle on to a wave by lying on a board then turning their bodies to do tricks. Makoto Kawaguchi, Producer of Deca Sports Freedom, revealed the lost Kinect powered surfing game in this interview where we talked about developing for Microsoft’s hands free controller.
What were your thoughts when you first got your hands on a Kinect development kit?
Makoto Kawaguchi, Producer: I was overwhelmed with the possibilities of new gaming experiences that Kinect has to offer!
What challenges did you run into when developing your first Kinect title?
Since no one had any previous experiences working with Kinect, we spent a huge amount of time trying to determine the game design and specs without any historical precedents. But looking at it from another point of view, the fact that no one’s had done it before meant that we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted with the game! So in that sense, it wasn’t really a burden at all.
The game’s graphical style is quite different from other Deca Sports games. Why did the team opt for a more realistic look?
One thing that was a given was that the graphics had to be, at least, at par with the high-definition platform. We saw Deca Sports Freedom as a chance for us to expand the Deca world by not limiting the playing field to a mere stadium, but expanding it to various locations like a beach resort or in the middle of an ancient ruin. We hope to give the player a quick trip around various parts of the world.
The E3 build of Deca Sports Freedom had hand slapping controls for tennis and a creative control scheme for archery where players extend their arm to aim. How did you come up with controller-free motions for the game?
One of the reasons we selected Tennis for Deca Sports Freedom was because of its level of physical activity allowed us to push Kinect’s sensing function to the max. We believe that the envelope for this function is definitely being pushed with Tennis, so please check it out when you have the chance! Once you get used to playing the game, you’ll be able to add spins – such as a topspin or backspin – to the ball, too.
We went through some major trial-and-error to try to figure out how to implement each of the sports without using controllers. Archery had almost no movement, so we focused on how accurate the aim can be with minimal movement.
All the selected sports and their controls were decided by actually enacting the movements with our staff, brainstorming fun ideas and determining what movements Kinect was not likely to sense. No one sat down at these brainstorming sessions. Each person had to model their ideal poses for the team, moving around like a maniac –I can’t imagine what people would have thought of us if someone were to walk in on us… To me, Kinect is a system that allows both the players and also the developers to have new, exciting and sometimes bizarre experiences.
I’m curious about Kendo… how do players control a sword with Kinect?
Kendo is a sport that is determined by a player’s reflexes and split-second decisions. My advice to players is to reach out and feel the Bushido within!
The player holds a type of a Japanese sword made of bamboo with both hands, similar to holding a bat in front of one’s chest. After determining the distance between oneself and one’s opponent, and the striking opportunities, the best move is to aim for the head, body or the hand by swinging down, slash sideways, or slap it just like with a real Japanese sword. It’s important to use skill, rather than just swinging every which way like a baboon… Aim for the samurai’s code; “One strike, one kill.”
Which control scheme do you feel is the most intuitive?
I would have to say Boxing! It’s been proven to be the best of the lot in focus testing as well, so check it out when you can!
Which is the most creative?
I feel Paintball is the most creative of them all, in a sense that it offers a completely new way of playing a first-person shooter!
Can you tell us about any control schemes or sports that didn’t make it into Deca Sports Freedom?
Surfing would be one that didn’t make it. In Surfing, players would have started out by lying on the board and paddling onto the wave. Turns and aerials were to be determined by shifting and turning the body. Another one was Air Racing, where players would have held out their arms to the side and become the plane – like a schoolchildren’s game!
Kinect is launching with a handful of motion controlled sports games. Are you concerned about oversaturation in the market?
The main attraction of the Deca series is that each game in the series is a sports compilation title with 10 sports, some very aggressive and others not so much. There are so many varied play styles in each game! I can safely say that everyone will be able to find a sport in Deca Sports Freedom that is to his or her preference! I strongly believe that even if the market is oversaturated, the appeal of the Deca series will prevail amongst players.
What other types of games would you like to create with Kinect?
I believe that the fully interactive, controller-free environment that Kinect offers opens a whole new door to ideas that were rarely associated with games in the past, like intellectual education and rehabilitation for the young and elderly. I hope to create games that educate all kinds of people through the use of gameplay and interactivity, like an interactive coloring book that you play with your whole body.