Introduction.What is Moto?‘Moto’ is an interactive music making experience played using Kinect. Play virtual instruments such as air guitar or air drumsor use your whole body to affect audio with the Wall of Sound.
The user is going to interact with the game using natural body movements using Microsoft’s Kinect sensor. But other music games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band use their own specific peripherals, some even use the keyboard and mouse and maybe even the webcam.But what can Kinect bring to the party? Isn’t it just a glorified webcam? Why would developing with Kinect make for an awesome music gaming experience?
Kinect was released on November 4th 2010 (November 10th in Europe)It had 15 titles available on launch including the bundled title Kinect Adventures.As of March 2011, it had sold 10 million units and 8 million of those were sold in the first 60 days making it the fastest selling console accessory ever. So there’s obviously a market for it.The third most popular title to date, behind Kinect Adventures and often bundled Kinect Sports, is Dance Central. The game requires the user to perform dance moves to the beat of a track, making sure to mimic the person on screen. As of August, this game had sold 2.5 million copies worldwide. Obviously a popular title.So from this information we can see the Kinect is a popular platform for consumers…
…but it’s also a popular platform for amateur developers, too.Within two weeks of the Kinect being released, a man had already hacked together the depth and image data from the Kinect to create a 3D image of his room. While not exactly exciting, it paved the way for developers to utilise an extra dimension from the tradition 2D images from webcams. It was all change.Within a couple of months, unofficial drivers were made available to allow amateur coders the chance to utilise the tech for their own, homebrew projects through use of skeletal tracking (tracking 20 different points on the users body and relaying that information to the program)Rapidly more and more projects were appearing online where people had taken the technology to more than just playing Xbox games, thanks to the availability of open source drivers (OpenNI/OpenKinect)These projects varied from creating a way to navigate your computer using hand gestures, to a projector which covered the users nipples. All of these great ideas game designers could neverthink of.
It took them a while but by June 16th, Microsoft Research released an official SDK for developers to use in their own research and development projects (non-commercial).The SDK enables all the functionality of the Kinect similar to how it works when developing games for Xbox 360. Features such as motorised tilt to track tall and short players, a microphone array to detect where in a room someone is talking for example, as well as voice recognition as part of the SDK to allow voice commands with a few lines of code.It works with C# through Visual Studio, which is what Moto will be developed in.
I knew I wanted to do my project with Kinect, but to find out exactly what, I did some audience research. I asked a variety of sources both techies (Microsoft employees/student partners), non-techies (friends and family) as well as Kinect’s target market who sit right in the middle of those two extremes (casual gamers).Of the 40 respondents to the survey, two-thirds of those had played a Kinect before, and more than half of those own one. While the technology is still new and emerging, there are people who have some experience with Natural User Interfaces.
When asked what titles they preferred playing on the Kinect, there were two clear winners – Mini-games and Music/Dance games.Mini-games is a genre that’s come into its own thanks to the inclusion of the Kinect Fun Labs on the Xbox itself. Kinect Fun Labs allows developers to put projects to the Xbox community that wouldn’t necessarily make a fully-featured game but are still nice to play and show of the unique aspects of the Kinect.What these games deliver is a short-term fix of fun. Kinect can get quite tiring if played for long periods of time so if your game tires people out too much, people won’t want to play it. The games on Kinect Fun Labs are the quick fix – no longer than 20 minutes of gameplay – and capitalise on that little bit of silly, not-so-serious wind-down time.The other key area of popularity are the music games. Games such as Rock Band and singing games such as Lips or Singstar often come out at parties and social gatherings. Kinect is designed to be a social platform, too. It can track up to 6 people at once, 2 of which in great detail. Music games bring people together and Kinect allows them to do that.Those who responded to the survey who have played a Kinect overwhelmingly preferred to play Kinect games with friends as opposed to by themselves or over Xbox Live. So I needed to make a Kinect game that was a jump in/jump out social music experience, which is exactly what Moto has become.
I also polled respondents about other factors about Kinect.38% preferred skeletal tracking over any other feature of Kinect, with voice navigation coming a close second.Navigation has become Kinect’s only real stumbling block. There’s no predefined norms of how to interact with no controller whatsoever, and so problems have arisen with different UI styles with varying degrees of success. Users respond to voice navigation well as it doesn’t require learning any specific way of interacting with the product.While most respondents felt the Kinect aided them with navigation through game menus, the standard first-party approach of“hover-over-and-wait” selection method wasn’t the best solution possible. The best navigation styles are done on a per-case basis to overcome a problem. For example Dance Central overcomes it’s problem of scrolling through a long list of songs by sticking the user’s left hand up to scroll up, down to scroll down, and selecting an item is done using a swipe.
I came up with a visual design after being inspired by various sources, both music (AudioSurf) and Kinect games (Child of Eden) as well as other sources such as Tron.The style I liked was the dark background and light visuals to bring the music to the foreground. It also conveys movement and energy which is key to Moto.
Here’s a visualmockup of the start screen I hope to create. I’m no graphic designer, but it has the general look and feel of how I see it finishing.
In terms of outside help, I’m going to need a graphic designer, as well as a sound designer.While I could do both, I would certainly prefer someone more specialised to do them so I know it will work best. Sound designer is especially key as, if there’s rubbish sound, it’s going to be a rubbish music game.
The production of the project will loosely follow these four key areas of focus. These are the four areas I believe require the most time spent on them in a general sense. Usability testing needs to be carried out throughout, but I set aside a couple of months to make sure once all the functionality is in, users can navigate as easy as possible.Code optimisation is also key right at the end of the project as I’ve never used C# before and I want the code to run as best as it can on as wider range of machines as it can.
That’s Moto. You can find out more at http://www.mattcrouch.net/moto or @MotoKinect on Twitter.
November 4 th 2010 Kinect released 10 million units (March 2011)Stevens, T., 2011. Microsoft sells 10 million Kinects, 10 million Kinect games. New York: Engadget. Available from:http://engt.co/tSvUZE [Accessed 29 October 2011].Sinclair, B., 2011. Kinect Sports scores 3 million sales, Dance Central sells 2.5 million. London: Gamespot. Available from:http://l.gamespot.com/sOk8JX [Accessed 29 October 2011].
November 14 th 2010First Kinect hack appears on YouTube
Production ScheduleNovember - January Core functionality and navigationJanuary - February Audio recorded and implementedFebruary - March Usability testing and UI optimisationApril - May Code optimisation and polishing