E3 Tech Part 3: Kinect and the Yoostar

It may seem kind of odd to mix two different products together, but I think we’ve crapped on the Kinect more than enough already. Oh, sure it’ll get a bit more crap on it, regardless, by the end of this article; in the meantime I wanted to show you a pretty awesome product that happens to use the Kinect.

What I’m talking about is the Yoostar, a nifty little product that, if you’re a movie buff like me, might just end up as one of the best party games you could invest in? Remember ‘Scene It!’? Yes, we all love Scene It!. Well, imagine that times ten, my friends, because now you’re in the show.

Microsoft-Kinect

It watches you while you sleep…

 

Ok, actually, this is the Yoostar 2, the first device is for the PC, and I think this new console version is going to be a dramatic improvement. The initial system is a bit more complicated, it requires purchasing a package including the special web-cam for your PC, a green-screen to put up behind you, and a remote control. Plus it has to be plugged into your PC, which is never in as convenient a spot as it really should be for stuff like this. Maybe one day, but right now the CPU is not the centerpiece of the entertainment center.

The new power of the home video game consoles, and the introduction of video equipment for them, have allowed the Yoostar 2 the ability to easily get a foothold in the middle of your living room. So, what is it?

Yoostar is, basically, movie Karaoke. The program is loaded with hundreds of clips from your favorite films, ranging from about 30 seconds for beginners to 2 and a half minutes for advanced players. You stand in the way of the camera, and it replaces an actor’s face with your own. Then, you try your best to mimic that performer’s movements and line delivery, scores granted for performance. Its simple, its goofy, and its a lot of fun to see how well you and your friends think you know the movies.

Maybe its just best if you see it for yourself. Check out this clip of me trying my hand at being Arnold on a 360 demo unit at E3 (sorry the sound is non-existent, we were next to a music-game booth). Here you can see the visuals as I’m plastered over Arno; even at only 60% complete, the effect isn’t too shabby. Also, with the use of the Kinect, I don’t need the add-on remote anymore.

 

 

 

Yoostar looks like a lot of fun. There’s a ton of movie properties already on the disc, and it looks like you’ll be able to get more via DLC as new licenses are picked up. The Yoostar website shows a smattering of what’s going to be available.

Thanks, guys, for letting me try it out.

 

 

Now, on to the Kinect. God, Microsoft, where do we start?

Ah, here’s a start, just today the price-point for the product leaked out. $150 bucks. $150!! The move only costs $100, and for only an extra $50, I can get a whole goddamn Wii system.

Frankly, the thing is pricing itself to death. Microsoft is trying to take some of Nintendo’s market share by making the next logical step in motion control. I get that. They’re also trying to pick up stragglers who maybe want something like the Wii but haven’t gotten around to picking it up yet. Okay. But the established market for the 360 doesn’t seem to give two shits about this thing (that’s why they’re 360 buyers, and not Wii buyers), and I’m pretty sure someone who has taken this long to get a Wii isn’t going to look at its $199 price-tag, and then at the 360 + Kinect price tag of $450 and pick the more expensive set-up.

At least, not when they both essentially come with the same game…

Microsoft is falling into the same traps that the Playstation Move did. Its trying so hard to beat the Wii at its own game, that its just becoming an imitator. A vastly more expensive imitator. Wii sports clone, Wii fit clone, Just Dance Clone… we already have this stuff! Microsoft, again, needs to look at their product, figure out the differences, and then market those. The system has more hardware capability, so make games that go along with the motion control that really utilize the visual and expressive capability of the system. The system doesn’t have any sort of tactile controller at all, surely there’s some very clever way to utilize an entirely hands-free set-up? Right now the product Microsoft seems to be marketing a gimmick device with no real creativity behind its game programs…. and its a little buggy to boot. So, why should we care?

On the last podcast, Q asked Break a very important question, “If the Kinect worked better, would it register on your care-o-meter?” Break’s answer was a resounding no. I have to disagree to an extent here, if the final product works perfectly, then I will care. Conditionally.

When I play games, I like simulation, immersion, verisimilitude. I know this isn’t a concern of every gamer, and I certainly still like playing a little Pac-Man or Kirby, games that don’t even try to look or feel real, but as the years go by I’ve really enjoyed seeing how game platforms have become more like simulations of impossible, exciting scenarios. But I’m always limited by the controller. It never gets more ‘real’ because in the end, I’m still on my couch, sitting on my ass, pressing buttons. Much like Bastian in Never-Ending Story, I want to get sucked into the story, taken into an adventure, and given the feeling that I’ve just saved the world, gotten the girl, whatever.

And even if that’ isn’t really what you’re necessarily looking for in a game, its still important that we try, because otherwise video games will cease to advance. We’re only a few steps removed from photo-real graphics on a system. Textures and bit-maps are advancing by leaps and bounds, each generations cinematics become the next’s in-game graphics, and soon any programmer will be able to make a game look exactly how he looks, as real or as cartoony, as expansive or as flat as the game calls for. And what then? Beyond graphical power, what else is there to improve on a game system? In order to continue to make new ways of control, new levels of reality in gaming, we will eventually have to step up beyond the barrier that is our controller.

The Kinect is an important step in realizing that.

Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t seem to realize what they have, here. This isn’t a revolution, its an expensive add-on and a gouge at Nintendo.

My eyes are on you, Microsoft, my expectations high. You’re letting me down so far. You want to prove you’re the revolutionary new game developer? You want to prove that its the system, not just the 3rd party support you’ve bought that’s made your second generation a powerful seller? Its time to prove it. Wow me.