E3 2010: Dance Central PreviewBy Patrick Klepek - Posted Jun 18, 2010
What We Already Know
Pretty much nothing. Microsoft kept all third-party Kinect games under wraps prior to the proper E3 unveiling, but there were credible rumors that Harmonix was working on another music game tied to all the hip-hop and dance music they were actively licensing but not putting into Rock Band. Now, we know that work was being put into Dance Central, a Kinect launch title that will attempt to do to dancing what Guitar Hero and Rock Band did to guitars.
What We're Seeing Today
In short, I've now played the most important game in development for Kinect, at least in terms of Microsoft wooing the mainstream audience that's been exclusively Nintendo's playfield for the past few years. Nothing Microsoft has produced internally -- much of which comes across as Wii 2.0 software -- comes close to what Harmonix has pulled off with Dance Central. If Kinect is going to actually connect with casuals, Dance Central is the best bet.
Watching people play Dance Central summarizes most of what you can expect from playing it. The idea of picking up a plastic instrument to pretend you're a guitar god seemed silly a few years ago -- it doesn't anymore. There's potential for Dance Central to do the same thing for dancing. It's a testament to Dance Central's quality that so many E3 goers, a notoriously shy bunch, were happily getting on stage and pretending they were dancers for Lady Gaga. And that's without an alcohol-fueled party in the background, where Dance Central would fit right in.
Kinect's technology isn't perfect. Dance Central smartly ditches the idea of having the game's avatar represent your own dance moves. The avatar on the screen is doing the moves right, making it look cool. Since the avatar isn't you, when you're flailing around in front of the camera, you don't feel as self-conscious. If the game was projecting your own terrible dancing, you'd be forced to judge yourself throughout the whole song, acutely reminded you can't actually dance. Your moves are represented in the interface and there's a visually-cued feedback loop on the dancing avatar to remind you what you're doing wrong, but the shame factor is non-existent.
Dance Central is the closest thing Kinect has to Wii Sports, a piece of software that immediately differentiates the technology from anything else on the market. Wii wouldn't exist without Wii Sports and if Microsoft is smart, they'll make Dance Central their centerpiece at Kinect's launch.