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At Tokyo Game Show 2009, Microsoft and Sony touted their upcoming motion controllers in different ways. Sony actually showed off working games at itsTGS press conference. Resident Evil 5 and LittleBigPlanet were demonstrated on stage. While it was only two games, it was an important showing for two reasons. First, it showed real-world applications of Sony's motion controls on existing products. Secondly, Sony showed that it will have first-party and third-party support.



Microsoft, on the other hand, issued a press release, confirming support from several major publishers and developers. It also held a Natal panel featuring Capcom’s Keiji Inafune, Sega’s Toshihiro Nagoshi, and Konami’s Hideo Kojima . From what I understand, the panel was more about concepts than actual products (it's hard to tell since it was in Japanese and the translation was lacking). Still, Microsoft supported its Natal initiative with star power and big names.

Microsoft Staffing Up For Internal Project Natal Game Studio

In the battle of wave motion cannons controllers, who do you think did the better job at TGS 2009? Do you like what Sony did, with real-world demonstrations and actual games? Or do you prefer Microsoft's broad support and star-studded panel? Do you prefer actuality or potentiality? The motion-control skirmish (a subsection of the console wars) will be interesting to watch in 2010. For this round, I want to know which company used TGS more effectively, in your opinion.


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Project Natal

Microsoft has announced that some heavy hitters will be supporting its upcoming Project Natal motion controller. In a press release issued prior to the start of Tokyo Game Show, the company revealed:

"Among the elite publishers actively working on games for Project Natal are Activision Blizzard, Bethesda Softworks, Capcom, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Konami, MTV Games, Namco Bandai, Sega, Square Enix, THQ Inc. and Ubisoft. Together, these publishers account for more than 70 percent of third-party software sales for this generation of console and most of the world’s most recognized video game franchises.

Underscoring the widespread enthusiasm for Project Natal among the industry’s top creative forces, Xbox 360 is hosting a high-powered panel at the Tokyo Game Show featuring three acclaimed Japanese industry luminaries: Capcom’s Keiji Inafune, creator of Mega Man and Dead Rising, Sega’s Toshihiro Nagoshi, creator of Super Monkey Ball, and Konami’s Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear Solid series. The three developers will discuss the possibilities for the groundbreaking new experiences that can only be achieved with Project Natal."

Not surprisingly, Microsoft has several major publishers committed to Natal. What's more interesting is that is has the attention of prominent Japanese developers. Don't get me wrong, I realize that Kojima-san loves oddball projects (see Boktai), but Microsoft has never been a big force in Japan. Then again, a lot of Japanese developers are looking for a gateway to the West and perhaps that's what they see with Natal.

What do you make of Microsoft's announcement? Any surprises there? 









Microsoft hasn't revealed much more about Project Natal since its grand unveiling at E3, but its been well established that many developers have kits from Microsoft that have allowed them to start playing around with ideas for the device. Elite Beat Agents and Lips creator Keiichi Yano, co-founder of music games-driven Japanese developer iNiS, is very excited about Natal. Yano told Billy Berghammer in an interview this week that motion controls have a very important place in the future of music games and it sounds like he's going to be at the forefront of this.

"So I think that it's really great that the advent of the Wii has kind of brought all this this fuzzy motion technology," said Yano. It's not a very exact thing, but at the same time, it allows for an interface that basically anyone can pick up and play. In the case of Ntal, you don't pick up anything. You literally just stand in front of the camera and you're good to go. I think, for example, with games like Lips or Rock Band, Guitar Hero, what not, with music games in general, the target segment that those games are trying to reach and the target segment that Natal is trying to reach is really kind of synchronous there, trying to go for the same kind of people. It's already a good match, I think."

"We've been in a day and age where we've really relied on these peripherals coming all the way up to this state," he continued, "but now we have the potential to not have anything at all but still have the same types of experiences or maybe even more immersive depending on how we design our games. It's definitely a challenge and it's a good challenge to have. But whenever we can take an experience like Natal, which is really geared to you just stand in front of it and you can immediately get the game within 30 seconds, kind of mixing that together with the music experience, which is a social experience, is all a good thing and hopefully there will be a lot of good games that come out of that."

Does that mean Yano is actively working on Natal-based games right now?

"That I cannot talk to," he teased.

Welcome to "Morning Hangover" -- an excellent way to start your day with the crew at TheFeed...no matter what you're recovering from. Every morning you'll hear musings from two of TheFeed's editors and have the chance to share your thoughts on what's going on in the gaming world. So buckle up, break the Internets, and keep reading!
 
Sony Motion Control
 
Patrick Klepek: At Tokyo Game Show, it's widely believed that Sony will be releasing concrete details about its motion controller that was announced at E3 2009. A number of developers have expressed interest in it, especially because it might allow them to create games for the Wii and PlayStation 3 simultaneously (or at least open the door to proper ports). 
 
What do you want to see from Sony's controller? Are you already tired of the motion control revolution? Scratch that. It doesn't even matter if you're tired of it because it isn't going anyway. Motion control is just getting started. It's only going to get bigger from here.
 

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Terminal Reality Already Working On Project Natal Game

Rare believes that Project Natal has put the developer and Microsoft on the same path. Making some...interesting comments to VideoGamer, design director George Andreas said:

"I do feel in many ways that -- and I’ve said this to some people as well -- for me this is really the first time that Microsoft and Rare are on a very similar path. We’ve obviously been tasked to create experiences that nobody else can create, which explains things like your Kameos and your Piñatas and your Banjos. But obviously the hardware is aimed at a different demographic, and so we’ve always battled against that."

Apparently Rare wasn't on the same page as Microsoft when it was acquired for $375 million. Apparently nobody else can create an experience like Grabbed by theGhoulies . The quote makes me laugh. While there's no denying that Rare was once one of the best developers in business, that hasn't been the case in nearly a decade. It looks like the company still believes that it belongs in the top echelon of developers. Andreas' comment makes Rare look out of touch and full of itself.

Of course that's just my opinion. I want to know what you guys and gals think. Will Natal be Rare's ticket bag to the big top? Has Rare been hindered by the demographic the Xbox and Xbox 360 have been reaching? Do you think Kameo, Viva Pinata, and Banjo are games nobody else could have made?

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Peter Molyneux is a big believer in Project Natal. The designer's Milo demo was an important part of Microsoft's presentation at E3. At GamesCom 2009, Molyneux announced Fable III and talked at length about Fable III's "dynamic touch" mechanic, which will allow players to interact with the characters in Fable III on a new level.

During his presentation, however, he never mentioned using a controller to perform these actions and acted out many of the possible actions with his own hands. Does this mean Fable III is using Project Natal, too? Not quite, based on what Molyneux told Billy Berghammer during post-presentation interview at GamesCom last week.

(This part was cut from the video interview that went up on the website earlier today.)

"Oh, yeah" sighed Molyneux, when asked about Project Natal in Fable III. "So, basically, after my press conference, all these PR [public relations people] came and said 'Oh, my god, people are gonna think this is Natal, they're gonna think this is Natal, you've gotta stand up on stage, get everyone back in the room' and by this time almost everyone had left. So, let me make this clear: this dynamic touch is not an announcement of Natal in Fable in any way."

Molyneux's answer doesn't preclude Fable III from Project Natal -- I'd be surprised if there wasn't some support -- but if that's the case, Molyneux isn't ready to talk about it yet.





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Activision Looking At Project Natal, Sony Motion For Guitar Hero

Where do music games go from here? DJ Hero and Scratch: The Ultimate DJ are exploring otherwise ignored areas of music, but Guitar Hero and Rock Band may begin stretching themselves thin. In an interview with CVG, Guitar Hero 5 project lead Brian Right said he's looking at Project Natal and Sony's motion technology for ideas, though he hasn't settled on using either yet.

"Ask me the same question next year," he teased.

There's actually some interesting opportunities for both Rock Band and Guitar Hero to take advantage of the motion technologies from Microsoft and Sony. Both sets of technology are rooted in a camera that captures what's happening in front of the screen. How many times have you jumped around, kicked your foot in the air or headbanged during a particular good song? What if Rock Band and Guitar Hero could reward you for your stage performance and grant extra points and star power?

That would be awesome. Sign me up.

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Terminal Reality Already Working On Project Natal Game

Some developers are already hard at work on developing games to support Project Natal, if a recent job posting at Terminal Reality, discovered by Destructoid, is any indication. Terminal Reality, who recently released Ghostbusters: The Video Game, is looking for a lead programmer to work on "a new exciting title that utilizes Natal."

Terminal Reality didn't reveal any other details about the project in its job listing, but I can't help but wonder what a Natal-supported Ghostbusters sequel might be like…

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[image credit: flickr / GeekCatNip]

Developer Rare Helping Develop Project NatalA few months back, developer Rare put out job listings looking for designers to help work on titles made specifically for Microsoft's upcoming motion-sensing technology Project Natal. Well, it seems that Rare is just as interested in resurrecting and updating some of its older franchises to take advantage of Natal's capabilities as it is in developing new Natal-specific IP.

Speaking with VideoGamer, Rare’s design director George Andreas said that the company is currently perusing its IP catalogue, which consists of such games as Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instict, GoldenEye, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and others, to see how those games might translate over to the motion-sensing capabilities of Natal.

While there is certainly potential for most of Rare’s titles, Andreas said:

“One in particular actually I think we can do an absolutely phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal version on with Natal. The interface, the way you interact with it – I think it would be an absolutely world-beating product. But we need to explore a little bit more in that direction.”

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Electronic Arts Won't Disclose Natal, Sony Motion Plans Until 'Early To Mid 2010'

Microsoft and Sony both announced their approaches to motion gaming at E3, but it's going to be a while yet before we see how developers are taking advantage of it. Electronic Arts has been an early public supporter of both, and during a conference call with analysts discussing EA's first quarter, EA CEO John Riccitiello briefly discussed when gamers will hear about EA's plans for each.

Riccitiello said it's premature to discuss EA's plans for Natal and Sony's unnamed motion controller, since the company does not intend to talk about their plans until "early to mid 2010."

Project Natal To

While most industry pundits have assumed that Microsoft's Project Natal will be released next year, the company hasn't confirmed it. Thankfully, Microsoft's third-party partners have looser lips. During THQ's recent earnings call, CEO Brian Farrell said that he expects Natal to be out "late next year". This fits in with what I've heard from two developers that work for two different publishers. In both cases, the projects are just starting and the goal is to have the games out by the end of 2010. Certainly a lot could go wrong on the hardware and software side, but it looks like Project Natal will be available at the end of next year.

Microsoft definitely made a splash with Natal at E3 2009, but now that you've all had time to think about it, what do you think of the product? Will it be on your holiday wish list for 2010? Or are you taking a wait-and-see approach? Maybe you're afraid that the majority of the launch games will be one-trick ponies? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!

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PaRapp The Rapper Creator Sees Musical Potential For Project Natal

Microsoft's motion-controlled Project Natal obviously has tremendous potential in terms of the wide variety of titles it will allow developers to create. And while there are many rather obvious genres (i.e. racing, sports, third-person action, etc.), there's one in particular that has NanaOn-Sha president Masaya Matsuura especially excited.

As VideoGamer reports, the creator of the rhythm-based music games PaRappa the Rapper and the recent Wii title Major Minor's Majestic March said during this year's Develop Conference:

"We are thinking about ideas. I think any kind of interaction with a camera will be good for music games, but the important thing will be how we can find the new breed of gameplay...Guitar Hero and Rock Band and The Beatles: Rock Band, is just taking traditional rock music. Of course there are so many rock fans on the earth, so they will have a huge impact for the market. But there is other attractive music, so please try to find another style, another interaction, another gameplay with another type of music."
 
The most obvious use of Natal in terms of a music game would have to be Air Guitar Hero, but I have a feeling that might be too tricky to program, so that one will probably never get past the "joke project" phase. Honestly though, it's not too hard to imagine a game where players hit onscreen icons in sync with music, however that hardly seems like the kind of revolutionary thinking Matsuura is hoping to cultivate.
 
Any ideas for Natal-based music games? Would you be interested in full-body motion-controlled rhythm game?
 

 

Project Natal Ricochet E3 2009 Trailer »


 

If it weren't already obvious from Xbox heavyweights like Epic Games revealing itsfuture game development plans most likely do not revolve around Project Natal's motion capabilities, Microsoft's reiterated the point. Project Natal is not designed to be a replacement controller, argued the company in an interview with Ars Technica.

"I think it's important that people understand the power of what we're doing with Xbox 360 and Project Natal is that it’s a way to enhance the amazing experiences we already have—not replace them," said Albert Penello, Microsoft's senior director of global marketing for Xbox 360. "If you like playing with a controller, we have the best one in the industry, and those experiences aren't going away."

For now, it's a waiting game. Microsoft's shown us a glimpse of where Xbox is going, but it's up to the games to prove it's a path worth walking down.

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Project Natal

This probably won't come as a surprise, but according to uber-geek/richest man on earth Bill Gates, Microsoft would like to take the Natal control system for the 360 and apply it to Windows PCs as well.

In an interview with Cnet, Gates said Natal was not just for games, "but for media consumption as a whole, and even if they connect it up to Windows PCs for interacting in terms of meetings, and collaboration, and communication... both the Xbox guys and the Windows guys latched onto that and now even since they latched onto it the idea of how it can be used in the office is getting much more concrete, and is pretty exciting."

No word on when we'll be able to wave our hands around to control our PC, though, sorry.

Judging from Gates' comments, Microsoft is very behind the utility of Natal, but I'm not so sure. It's very hard to tell the difference between the everything-is-possible ideal of a soon-to-exist piece of technology and the on-the-ground usefulness of it. Natal will likley be a very awesome addition to some kinds of games, but I think in the case of controlling a PC, the difference between gimmick and innovation depends on how sensitive the thing is to small movements. I could see using a camera for, say, flipping through albums to find a song I wanted to hear, but only if it's fingertip controlled -- and if the thing messed up more than twice, I wouldn't use it again, ever.

It sort of reminds me of voice control of computers. For a years, being able to say, "computer, open file!" was the dream of futurists and sci-fi writers the world over, but now that we can actually do it, no one does, because a mouse click is simpler and doesn't make you sound stupid.

What do you think of Natal? Am I being totally blind to the possibilities of Natal controlled PCs here? Let me know in the comment section!

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Project Natal Will Be On Site At Casual Connect Seattle 2009 ConferenceUpdated: July 9 - 1:38pm PST

In case you forgot to mark it on your calendar, Casual Connect Seattle 2009 is just a little over a week away now. And while there will certainly be plenty of stimulating and meaningful discussions and presentation concerning the ever-growing world of casual gaming (it is the premier casual games event of the year), Microsoft is, as of right now, the clear frontrunner for show-stealer for one simple reason: Project Natal.

Microsoft Game Studios announced via Twitter earlier that it would be on-site with Natal, and while there was no mention of a specific date or time, the conference is July 21-23. So at some point between 8am and 6:30pm on one/all of those days, attendees will have the chance to flail around wildly in front of a TV with entertaining on-screen results. If you're going to be in the Seattle area, and you have $450 lying around, you too could be one of those lucky flailers (assuming Microsoft allows hands-on access).

Still no word on what games or demos will be on display (or if they will be any different than the ones Microsoft showed at E3 2009), but as soon as I hear back from Microsoft, I'll let you know.

Update: Well, it looks like there was some miscommunication on Microsoft’s part on this one. Turns out that Project Natal will NOT be making an appearance at Casual Connect Seattle 2009. Rather, there will be representatives from Microsoft Game Studios on hand to speak with attendees and prospective job seekers.

Xbox Live staffing consultant Jason Pankow told me that the Twitter posting about Natal’s appearance at the convention was an honest mistake, adding, “Project Natal was never going to be there, in hardware form.  I’ll be there as will some members of the team who work on Natal.  But, they’re not showing anything off.”

So there you have it. No Natal for you. Sorry to get your virtual hopes up.
 

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