Game Producer Quest, Part 13

There was an article on Kotaku yesterday regarding the next-generation Xbox.  Since my original prediction post a couple of weeks both regarding Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen offerings, there have been quite a number of posts regarding both consoles.  As of right now, it would probably be wise to take everything one reads on these subjects with a grain of salt…actually, come to think of it, anything and everything on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt.

But I digress; I thought it might be fun to comment on Kotaku’s story about Durango, pretending for a moment that all the information contained therein is 100% accurate and factual.  The first item is that a mandatory, upgraded Kinect ships with every console.  It’s upgraded in that it can now track six individual “skeletons” in the same room, capable of automatic player identification.  Furthermore, it can track more joints and features upgraded camera resolutions.

Personally, as someone who just exercised with Kinect about an hour ago (in case you’re wondering, a good cardio workout can be had with Kinect if you push yourself, but don’t expect to build too much muscle with it the device), I’m all for an upgraded sensor, especially if it can get closer to the ever elusive 1:1 motion tracking.  The Kinect as it is now can come close, though from personally experience, how quickly you move is a key factor in this.  That is, the Kinect has problems tracking faster movements and keeping up as were, so I’m hoping the upgraded Kinect will be capable of faster, more accurate motion tracking.  I’m not expecting perfect 1:1 on the fastest movements, but the closer it can get to that goal, the better.

Getting back to Durango, apparently all consoles ship with a hefty HDD, and taking a page from Sony’s old-school PS3 playbook, games are now installed when first inserted into the console.  One neat thing is that it can apparently install in the background while you play the game simultaneously, a neat feature if it works well.  However, mandatory game installs may not make everyone happy.  In fact, making game installation mandatory is somewhat confusing, and I wonder if this is incorrect, and one will be given a choice.  I for one, actually prefer to install my games on the hard drive, but I can understand if others wish not to do this, so a choice here makes sense as to appease a wider consumer base.

Taking a page from smartphones and computers, Durango can apparently run more than one game (or app) at once, which would be really neat if true.  Imagine wanting to take a break from the game, one could potentially suspend the game without losing one’s place, go make a cup of tea, watch Parks & Recreation on Netflix, and the resume playing.  I personally love this, as it fits in perfectly into my multi-tasking lifestyle, and most of the time, play games in spurts as opposed to marathon sessions.

The new controller will apparently be a “natural evolution” of the current 360’s gamepad.  I have no idea what that means, except apparently it uses new wireless technology that will make backwards compatibility impossible.  I actually don’t mind this, nor do I think this to be a form of price gouging.  It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that every new console will have peripherals that work only with that device.  Nintendo tends to buck the trend there (Gamecube controllers work with older versions of the Wii, for example), but I’m fine with a new controller.  I only hope that it’s as comfortable as the current 360 controller, and that the battery life is improved.  Assuming it runs on two AA batteries, like the current wireless controllers, I hope that it’s more efficient in its battery usage so that they last longer.  That would be nice.

There is mention of the Xbox Companion App, which I must admit I know virtually nothing about.  Maybe I should look for it the next time I power up my 360 and see what it’s about…then again, it makes perfect sense why I’d know little.  It apparently has to do with interactivity with one’s smartphone / tablet.  I currently have neither; I’m waiting out on Razer’s offerings for their Edge tablet, as well as Microsoft’s rumored Xbox Surface tablet before making that particular purchase.  However, I’ll be getting a smartphone soon; probably early next month.  Since I intend for it to be a Windows 8 phone, maybe I’ll look for the Xbox Companion App to see what that’s all about.

I won’t go into specs with regards to processing power and what not, though I will mention that the 8GB of DDR3 memory seems…small to me.  I think 16GB would be the sweet spot with regards to future-proofing the console (i.e. it’s a 6-10 year lifecycle) vs. 8GB of memory.  That’s just my opinion though.

If any or all the rumors that have appeared about Durango or Orbis are true, much of the predictions I made a couple of weeks back would be wrong.  Oh well, I’ve been wrong before, so that’s nothing new.  C’est la vie.  In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate that particular day.