Microsoft started E3 with an inspiration of Project Natal by one of the Cirque du Soleil teams. Location for the event was Galen Center which was turned into a small jungle. The central teme, connectivity and interactivity, isn’t something that can easily be displayed but the result was a show with light, sound and a light dose of interactivity with the public.
The dancers were also rather primitevly dressed which probably refers to the fact that gaming with controllers is history. Fun little detail: when entering the Galen Center Microsoft gave us a poncho. Imagine about a thousand (or more) people with a white poncho; just like Pikmins – if you can forgive me the reference. Technological ponchos though, as when Kinect (yes, the official name for Project Natal) was announced they all colored Xbox-green. Unfortunately we were forbidden to take pictures… but you’ll probably be able to bing’em 😉
The future is without a thing, the controller that is, and the people at Microsoft would prove this with a studied – but succesful – show in which a dozen items passed by. More of these games will no doubt be shown tomorrow (or for you, tonight) at the press conference, but here’s a lineup already:
* The avatar racing game that was shown last year at E3 will (probably) return but now with Kinect support. Turning with the hands in the air to steer. Boosting is done by “pushing” your hands towards the screen, and there’s also tricks possible in mid-air.
* A wild water course where one of many avatars stand on a rubber boat and need to collect points while descending.
* In a cart race – how else should I call it – the idea is to collect discs for points and avoid obstacles. The discs are located in different positions and the idea is to wave arms, limbs and all you can in every direction possible. Some possibilities we saw – but could be fake – is hotswap and avatar recognition as well as a duel mode. Oh, by the way, you remember those cameras on top of the splash? Also in this game Kinect can take pictures of you in the most ridiculous stances.
* A clear reference towards Disney’s Tinkerbell was made, including theme song. No idea what they were trying to pull off but it could be a new Disney game? Or just product placement?
* The crowd goes wild! A Star Wars game, with light sabre and Force powers! Yes, even Vader is present. The graphics look like those from the latest cartoon series, The Clone Wars, but who knows… this might even be Force Unleashed 2 of which we’ll get to see more later this week. Oh man, they better not screw this up.
* Yoga. Yuck. Something for BroadTV I would think. It will no doubt sell like hot dogs.
* A collection of sports games with soccer, hordes, running, bowling, spear throwing and beach volley. No idea how good the controls are but it’s clear kids and party gamers are the target.
* A pet! We got to see a demo in which a baby tiger was your friend and you could play and cuddle with it. It’s like a weakened down version of Milo who we got to know last year and looked a bit too ambitious (and most of all fake). Will this be the new tamagotchi or an animal without a boss?
* Almost last Microsoft also introduced a dancing game. Contrary to Dance Dance Revolution the idea isn’t to jump at the right time at the right place but to make the rythmic movements that are announced. Do it wrong too many times and the gameplay will slow down so you get to learn the move. Qua style it reminded me of breakdancing, but I’m no “connaisseur”. Unfortunately.
* It will be possible to use the Xbox interface without controller; a feature that certainly couldn’t be left out. I only wonder how you’ll turn on your Xbox without controller. Video Chat is also supported, and probably also photo sharing.
A nice lineup for now, but nothing really interesting for hardcore gamers like ourselves. Microsoft has a long way to go to get this product sold but when a game like the shown Star Wars – and this was actually the only real game shown – gets implemented right and gets high review scores than we may find ourselves sleeping on both ears.
More news will be announced that the Microsoft press conference.