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From Kotick's British Threats to Kinect's Specs - News Roundup 30th June 2010

Jonathan Lester
Activision, Bobby Kotick, Fable 3, Games news, Great Britain, Kinect, Microsoft, Milo, Molyneux
Fable III

Kotick To Declare War on British Game Development?

From Kotick's British Threats to Kinect's Specs - News Roundup 30th June 2010

In response to the Coalition Government's retraction of gaming tax break legislation, Activision Force of Darkness head honcho Bobby Kotick has issued an ultimatum: Tax Breaks or Die! Or words to that effect.

“For us to continue to invest in the UK there needs to be an incentive provided for us to do so,” he said. “The talent pool in the UK is among the best in the world for what we do. But we really need to see some more incentives."

Kotick went on to strongly hint that Canada, Singapore and the Eastern Bloc countries offer similar incentives... and considering that Activision owns Bizarre Creations and FreeStyleGames, they're technically in a position to bargain. However, since we've been revealed to be a gaming nation at heart, this is almost certainly a negotiation gambit rather than a genuine threat. On one hand: this is pretty low from a man who, by all rights, ought to be cultivating ever last shred of positive public image he can. On the other, the removal of gaming tax breaks from the government's agenda is a controversial issue that may damage our tech markets and economy and markets. [Financial Times]

Is Kotick a money-grabbing devil or a champion of Bristish Developers' Financial Rights? What side are you on?

Molyneux Defends Milo Tech; Reveals Episodic Fable III Release

From Kotick's British Threats to Kinect's Specs - News Roundup 30th June 2010

Yesterday brought us the (fairly predictable) news that 'virtual children' Milo and Kate will be a tech demo for a larger game experieice rather than a game in their own right- but Peter Molyneux has taken the time to defend the technology as well as deliver a few choice words to Aaron Greenberg.

“All that technology that we showed at E3 last year actually does work. Milo has been a really hard thing to do and a really hard thing to describe. Poor Aaron Greenberg – he’s on the PR team, he hasn’t seen it since last year, so he came up with this stock answer that Milo is alive and well and living in Guildford but it’s still a tech demo.”

So there, Aaron. We'll fill you in on all the Milo updates after Molyneux's TEDGlobal talk next month. [VG247]

In other news, Molyneux also revealed that Fable III will be available in bite-sized downloadable episodic chunks from Xbox Live Marketplace.

Kinect Specs Revealed...Only Two Active Players?

From Kotick's British Threats to Kinect's Specs - News Roundup 30th June 2010

Play.com has revealed Kinect's Technical Specifications- and for your delectation (especially for any tech fanatics out there), we've published the full details below. Many of these specifications won't come as a surprise to anyone, but there are a couple of interesting and worrying points that I'd like to shine some light on (in red).

  • Sensor
    • Colour and depth-sensing lenses
    • Voice microphone array
    • Tilt motor for sensor adjustment
    • Fully compatible with existing Xbox 360 consoles
  • Field of View
    • Horizontal field of view: 57 degrees
    • Vertical field of view: 43 degrees
    • Physical tilt range: ± 27 degrees
    • Depth sensor range: 1.2m - 3.5m
  • Data Streams
    • 320x240 16-bit depth @ 30 frames/sec
    • 640x480 32-bit colour @ 30 frames/sec
    • 16-bit audio @ 16 kHz
  • Skeletal Tracking System
    • Tracks up to 6 people, including 2 active players
    • Tracks 20 joints per active player
    • Ability to map active players to LIVE Avatars

So, where to start? Whilst the field of view seems a little too narrow for my liking, the eye is instantly drawn to the respective resolutions of the two cameras. 640x480 seems to be a ludicrously low resolution for a c. £120 piece of kit- especially considering that you could easily pick up two VGA webcams of the same resolution with change from £30.

Perhaps more vexingly, however, the specs indicate that only 2 active players can be supported at once... with 4 inactive players waiting in the wings. We assume that this means that 6 players can compete in a tournament with 2 players competiting head-to-head at any one time... but considering that the Wii supports up to 4 players at once, this could be a seriously tough sell. [Play.com via Kotaku]

Spotted something that we've missed? Still psyched for Kinect? Drop us a line in the comments!

Add a comment6 comments
John  Jun. 30, 2010 at 19:25

I realise the camera market has bred consumers into placing such a heavy emphasis on the number of pixels but in reality it frequently doesn't matter that much and certainly doesn't in this case. As an extreme example, the SonyEricsson Satio and the Nikon D3S (a £4,000 digital SLR) both feature the same 12MP resolution but unsurprisingly the Nikon is incomparably better for image quality as there's many other aspects than just the resolution.

The resolution is more than sufficient for what Kinect is doing, if you think of it conceptually it's simply working out gestures - if you wave your arm it doesn't matter what colour the sleeve is, what texture it is or what pattern it has, only that you've moved it in a certain direction at a certain speed. Microsoft claim the system can track right down the finger level but even that doesn't require much resolution.

As for value for money, the same argument could be applied to games themselves which are clearly appalling value for money as you're paying a £39.99 rrp for a disc that costs a few pence to produce. Of course the reality is you're paying for the software on the disc which did cost a lot of money to produce in the first place and it's similar with Kinect except that more R&D was required as the hardware had to be designed as well. The system is highly advanced in its current market segment as unlike the Wii or PS Move, it has no markers or controllers which makes it a more difficult job to work with in software. While Microsoft won't be coding all the games that use it, they had to produce the SDK that the developers will need to use the hardware. Apparently MS have attempted to keep the hardware reasonably simple and instead area relying on software for some of the features which is cheaper for the unit cost.

Although the unit cost of Kinect is high, when you start adding up the prices for the extra controllers for the other consoles it's not quite as bad as it initially seems. An additional Wiimote and nunchuck is around £60 and for two players on PS Move with the controller and sub controller it's £130 and that's without the gun or charging pack.

Field of view is difficult because there are certain tradeoffs to widening it as in doing so you exaggerate the foreground (and make the players more distant) and you'll suffer more geometric distortion at the edge of the frame. This is problematic for machine vision as it's going to be more difficult to pick up the players and as they move anywhere near the edges of the frame they're going to distort making it more difficult for the system to track particularly as it's going purely by vision. Anyone who has worked with super or ultra wide angle lenses will be very familiar with the challenge of shooting with such a lens, you'd never use a lens of this type for portrait shots and instead use more 'normal' focal lengths to minimise the geometric distortion.

The two player limitation is a more obvious one and it's going to be up to people whether that is any use or not, personally I can't see physically how it could work with four or more people actively moving round an area in front of the screen. It's also worth bearing in mind that the PS Move system is also limited to just two players when using both the controller and sub controller.

I don't it's worth getting hung up on the specifications as frequently they're largely irrelevent, I'd much rather a device that worked well than looked flashy on paper which I've seen many times before. The real proof is how well it works in practice at which point factors such as the camera resolution won't matter.

Personally though despite seemingly posting in defence of the Kinect, I'd have been much happier if MS had announced they were scrapping it entirely as I've no interest in it or Move. The Wii does just fine for those party/casual games when people are round after the pub and I've little interest doing the same on the 360 or PS3.


Rubisco  Jul. 1, 2010 at 01:00

So... Kotick won't be buying up British talent and raping their IP before dissolving them and handing over all their hard work to in-house yes men?

I was all for a tax break but now I'm not so sure...

fanpages  Jul. 1, 2010 at 09:47

@1 [John]:

Would you mind if I transpose your comment within the ongoing discussion here:

"Kinect Technical Specifications made public (comparison to PlayStation Move & Wii Remote controllers)"
[ http://www.hotukdeals.com/item/709602/kinect-technical-specifications-mad ]

Thanks for your either way, or please post your comment again in the thread directly.




fanpages  Jul. 1, 2010 at 09:48

..."Thanks for your _reply_ either way" :)

Stupid fingers!



StauntonLick  Jul. 1, 2010 at 20:27

Microsoft seem pretty intent on ballsing up Kinect as much as they can. They're pushing a "family oriented" model, whilst limiting it to two people only. I can't see people going for this when it would cost pretty much the same as a Wii and two controllers.

The current focus of Kinect is very much on its novelty - something I doubt many people would be prepared to spend a lot of money on. I'm looking forward to developers coming up with interesting interaction methods (lobbing grenades, lightsabers/force powers, maybe even RTS controls) rather than just pushing out the same trite offerings that are available by the sackload on the Wii.

Jonathan Lester  Jul. 1, 2010 at 21:12

Perhaps tax breaks for INDIE British devs would solve both problems? That'd be a beautiful dream...


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