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Epic Games Looking At Project Natal, Making No Promises About Using It

In the coming months, as more developers start to play around with Project Natal and experiment with ways to use it, it's likely we're going to be hearing more and more developers discover it's not for them. Epic Games might be in that camp, though the developer hasn't ruled out the possibility just yet.

"As game creators, anytime we see new tech like that the ideas always come out," said Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski in an interview with Develop magazine. "I can’t go into the ones I’ve had because, obviously, someone else might do it. Y’know, we’ll take a look at Natal - no promises - but it’s likely that the classic control interface is what Epic will be working on in the foreseeable future."

Gears of Natal? Not so much. It'll be interesting to see the approach developers take. Will it be a repeat of the Wii, with several years of botched attempts to incorporate a brand-new interface?

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BioWare Calls Project Natal A 'Really Powerful Idea'

It could be several years before gamers see developers like BioWare incorporating Project Natal into flagship projects -- development kits only landed in their laps a few weeks ago -- but one arm of the influential Canadian RPG studio has gone on record with GamesIndustry.biz about its interest.

"Yeah. I got a demo of Project Natal before E3. So I got to check it out hands-on at EA with some other folks, and I thought it was pretty cool," said BioWare general manager and co-founder Ray Muzyka. " […] Natal looks exceptionally interesting as a platform extension. I think it's a really powerful idea."

"I think it applies very much to an emotionally-engaging narrative and a story-driven game," continued Muzyka. "Fulfilling characterisation more completely in games is I guess a way to achieve that. So it's something we'd be interested in exploring. We haven't made any announcements or anything, but it's an intriguing technology that I think we'd want to see more of and see what we could do with it."

The idea of a Project Natal-supporting space-faring RPG in the vein of Mass Effect fused with the character interaction prototyped in Peter Molyneux's Milo demo at E3 sounds good to me. Too bad it's going to be a long, long time before that happens, but I can wait.

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Project Natal To

During an interview with Fumitsu, Q Entertainment head Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Grasshopper Manufacture CEO Suda 51 and Level-5’s Akihiro Hino were asked what their takeaway was from this year’s E3, and, as Joystiq reports, their consensus was, “Hardware-wise, it was all about Project Natal,” said Suda 51.

For Mizuguchi, Natal represents a fundamental shift in how people perceive and approach games. “It’s not a shift from 2D to 3D or in the number of polygons, but it’s games trying to open an entirely new door.” Mizuguchi went on to say that he is surprised that a technology like Natal has arrived so soon, even if it’s still at least a year from being released.

Could that mysterious Q Entertainment/EA/Grasshopper horror title announced last year end up taking advantage of Natal’s capabilities? Possibly, especially given how enamored Suda 51 and Mizuguchi seem to be with the technology. Plus, the game is slated to be released on the Wii and PlayStation 3 as well, so motion control is possible across all platforms. Just something fun to think about.

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Sega Wants New Virtua Tennis With Project Natal, Sony Motion Support

Ideas of how to take advantage of Project Natal and Sony's so far unnamed motion technology are already swirling around in the head of Sega's managing director of European development, Gary Dunn. In fact, Dunn told GamesIndustry.biz he already wants to move forward on a new Virtua Tennis game taking advantage of them.

"I was blown away by it, both systems offer us so many opportunities to do great things with videogames," said Dunn. "I immediately now want to make another Virtua Tennis. There's so many games and possibilities. I want to go away and lock myself in a dark room with some of our cleverest chaps and see what we can do with it. We've got to look in different directions to almost throw history away and it requires a whole new way of thinking."

Dunn is getting a little ahead of himself, considering Project Natal kits have only been in the hands of developers for a few weeks now and Sony's tools haven't shown up yet. Oh, and Sega just released Virtua Tennis 2009.

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Microsoft Staffing Up For Internal Project Natal Game Studio

Updated: 4:41PM EST

Microsoft has been very clear it's taking Project Natal, their camera-based, controller-less new form of gaming, very seriously. Bungie's said Halo Reach could possibly incorporate Project Natal and based on a series of hiring posts I discovered this morning, Microsoft is seriously staffing up for a brand-new, internal Project Natal development studio.

There are currently at least 20 different positions Microsoft is currently looking to fill related to Project Natal, including five artists, 11 software development engineers, three game designers and one audio engineer.

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Tags: Kinect, Xbox 360
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Bungie Says Halo Reach Might Include Project Natal Support In a recent interview with the Seattle Times, Bungie’s president Harold Ryan and its creative director Joseph Staten elaborated a bit on the company’s upcoming Halo 3: ODST, and dropped a rather compelling piece of info regarding the next-next Halo installment, Halo: Reach, as it pertains to a little something called Project Natal.

While discussing Reach, Ryan said, “I absolutely think [it] could be enabled with [Natal].”

Considering that the Halo franchise has been the defining series for Microsoft and the Xbox since it began, it’s hardly surprising that Bungie would be a major player in Project Natal’s “launch” as well. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Natal is released around the same time Reach hits shelves in the fall of 2010. How Natal and Halo will work together is anyone’s guess at this point, but I can pretty much guarantee that 99 percent of players will want to use the technological marvel to deliver the most realistic face-squatting in gaming history.

On the topic of Halo 3: ODST, Staten said that in addition to the “hard-boiled” noir-ish storytelling and dialogue, ODST’s gameplay is also a bit of a departure for the Halo franchise as well.

"We're doing a lot of pretty neat things in terms of mixing it up, introducing some non-linearity, some free exploration. This is also a mystery story so there's a lot more clue-finding and mystery-solving than you would normally find in a game of this kind — nothing that strays too far from the fun 'Halo' experience, but we definitely decided to take a little bit of risk and have some fun with this one."
 
What do die-hard Halo fans think of the new open-world approach for Halo 3: ODST? Aside from the aforementioned use, what ideas do you have for how Natal will be used for Halo: Reach?
 




There's a lot for third parties to be thinking about right now. It's taken a few years for companies to wrap their head around the Wii but in the next year, we'll see most likely see a rollout of three new takes on motion: MotionPlus, Project Natal and Sony's wands. And that's to say nothing of the explosion in peripheral-based games like Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Wii Fit. THQ wants to take advantage of all of them, but to find out how, I spoke with THQ CEO Brian Farrell over the phone yesterday.

Microsoft wasn't lying when it said Project Natal kits were rolling out to its development partners. Farrell told me his company's been experimenting with the technology for a little while now.

"Oh yeah, we've had kits for some time," he said.

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The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bears & Balls - Tobacco, Project Natal & Graveyard Bids
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Stephen Colbert in Iraq

I love you, Stephen Colbert. My biggest regret from my year-long tenure at MTV News is never taking advantage of the ability to be a VIP at a taping of The Colbert Report. But at least our love affair can live on through your daily television show, which had me cracking up last night; Colbert decided to take aim at Microsoft. Colbert put Project Natal in his sights and sniped away. Can't wait for that new Xbox!

Developer Rare Helping Develop Project NatalDeveloper Rare recently (and reluctantly) joined Twitter, and while most of the posts have been your typical fare thus far, one post stood out for rather obvious reasons.

Yesterday, as Kotaku reports, Rare posted the following message:

“Rare is recruiting designers. Excited by Natal? Got loads of cool new ideas? Think differently to others? Take a look on our website. [GM]”

That’s right. Rare is recruiting for Project Natal designers. Of course, it’s not at all surprising that the company is looking to boost its numbers, given its extensive involvement in Natal’s development, and the fact that the company is hard at work on an unspecified number of Natal-specific titles at the moment.

The application deadline is July 17, so if you haven’t applied yet, get to it!

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If Microsoft And Sony Don't Aggressively Bundle Their Motion Tech., It Will FailIf Microsoft And Sony Don't Aggressively Bundle Their Motion Tech., It Will Fail

There's plenty we don't know about Microsoft and Sony's specific roll out plans for Project Natal and whatever Sony ends up calling their motion technology, but both are saying they're crucial developments. No matter how impressive their respective technologies, even if there are must-have games designed from the ground-up to best demonstrate their strengths, there's one thing I know for sure: if both companies aggressively fail to bundle their motion hardware to the point that every user would eventually have one no matter what, it's destined to fail in mainstream acceptance.

The biggest takeaways from what Nintendo's accomplished in the last few years can be derived from an artfully delivered combination of excellent brand management (see: the evergreen sales of games like New Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart Wii) and correctly understanding what it takes for consumers to adopt something brand new by making sure it's in their hands from day one.

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Reggie Fils-AimeIn an interview with Kotaku, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime spoke briefly about the possibility of Netflix integration on the Wii, dropping only a clue.

"We have nothing to announce [as] a partnership from an online streaming standpoint," Fils-Aime said. "Should we go down that path we will do something different than our competitors."

I'm very curious about what "something different" would be in this situation... Isn't streaming Netflix's instant library to the console pretty much exactly the type of functionality you'd want? Could we see Mii integration like Microsoft's upcoming party watching?

Will we get Wiimote-based minigames on top of the stream? Actually, I could see some level of interactivity coming to the Wii for Netflix as a possible competitor to Blu-Ray's BD Live. Wait, does anyone even use BD Live?

How would you do Netflix on the Wii?

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Project Natal

Video game industry analyst Michael Pachter has an interesting theory about Microsoft's Project Natal. Pachter thinks the launch of Microsoft camera-assisted control system will act as a spoiler for an HD Wii, predicted for release in 2010.

"We do not see Project Natal as a Wii killer; rather, we think that Microsoft intends to introduce it at the same time as the launch of the Wii HD, and hopes to hold off Nintendo’s plans to encroach on Xbox 360 turf after 2010."

Pachter also said that his company sees Natal as less a game control scheme than as an "easy-to-use dashboard control scheme."

Woah, back up a sec there, Pachter. I'm no professional analyst or anything, but I'm going to go ahead and look into my crystal ball anyway: I don't think there will be a Wii HD in 2010, if ever. If the success of the Wii has proven anything, it's proven that most people (not gamers, now; regular people) don't care about having the most advanced graphics. It might be a huge deal to you that Wii games are only 480p, but trust me, your mom and your 8 year old brother do not care. As long as the Wii is seen as the Fun, Happy, Goodtime console (and that's how folks view it), I don't know why Nintendo would change their strategy and end up making a more expensive system. Instead, look for price-cuts next year when sales flag, as well as Wiimotes that integrate the MotionPlus coming standard with all Wii's.

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Steven SpielbergThere was quite a bit of commotion at Microsoft's pre-E3 press conference last week when acclaimed film director Steven Spielberg emerged on stage to talk about Project Natal, Microsoft's new camera-based take on motion control. Just because he endorsed the possibilities of Project Natal, however, doesn't mean he's working with Microsoft on making anything, as he's done with Electronic Arts on Boom Blox.

"He's excited about Natal," said Xbox exec. and corporate VP John Schappert in an interview with me after the conference. "I think you should speak to him on specifics."

"We actually went out and showed him [Spielberg] our technology when we were out in LA [Los Angeles] a few months ago," explained Schappert, "and he got so excited that he played Burnout [Paradise] -- I think it was 20 minutes. And he loved it, just loved it. And of course, he's involved in our industry, working with some our partners to make games, so he couldn't be more excited. So when we told him we were going to unveil it on stage, he wanted to be part of it and we're proud to have him."

Microsoft seemed to be hinting if Spielberg were to produce a game for Project Natal, it would come from outside their group. Considering EA has publicly declared support for both Microsoft and Sony's motion initiatives, that seems likely.

"Steven's been an ardent support of controller-free gaming," concluded Schappert. "Everyone can go to the movies, everyone can watch a movie, not everyone can play a game."

Who wouldn't want to play a version of Boom Blox using the Project Natal camera?

Microsoft's Project Natal Launch To Rival That Of The Xbox 360?Even if Microsoft and Sony are actually using the same motion-sensing technologies that Nintendo supposedly rejected when it was developing the Wii, that will most likely have absolutely zero effect on how successful and game changing those motion-controlled technologies will be once they’re finally released. For Microsoft, the risk/reward ratio for its Project Natal is significantly higher than Sony’s own motion-based project, given that Natal is attempting to make hands-free gaming a reality.

If that sounds like a massive undertaking will the potential to reach the same level of importance and technological significance usually reserved for next-gen console launches, that’s because it could be, according to Microsoft executive Shane Kim.

Kim told Kotaku during E3 2009: 

"Conceptually, the launch of Natal will be like the launch of Xbox 360. It's going to be that big. We're not just going to ship it when the hardware and software are ready. We have to make sure that there are enough content experiences that are really good. That's similar to how you would think of the launch of a new console. It's got to have a great launch line-up. That's the same thing here."
 

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As Raymond told you yesterday, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon had an early look at Microsoft's controller-less control system codenamed Project Natal. Now here's the video. So click the vid and watch Fallon and Microsoft's Kudo Tsunoda try out the new tech:

So what do you think? Did Fallon look like a tool or did he pull off the demo?

Now that the "big three" hardware makers' tech cards are on the table -- Microsoft's Natal, Wii MotionPlus, and Sony's wand-thinger -- it remains to be seen which will work best.

My pick: Sony. Sony's PlayStation 3 gizmo seems to combine some of the best elements from Natal and the Wiimote. It works by mixing the EyeToy camera with a lighted, accelerometer-laden wand, and I think the combination of the two technologies is likely to provide the most stable, reliable control. Although early reports are very positive about the Microsoft system, I wonder whether it will actually be able to deliver on the promises these early tech demos show.

Who do you think will win this upcoming battle in the console war?

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