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Natal is an insult to our intelligence
Editorial by 
June 11, 2009, 13:40:58
Is anyone else pissed at how Microsoft is pushing Natal onto the media at the moment? (The Today Show, Jimmy Fallon). If it wasn't already obvious that this is purely a manufactured pretense to slow down the Wii, it should be now.

Microsoft bought this tech to use as a blunt marketting weapon. It has nothing in common with the Xbox userbase, it has no traditional gaming applications, no release date, it barely functions for the few simple demos they've made for it, it's laggy, very imprecise, doesn't recognise what people are doing a lot of the time, struggles to even do the basic body recognition 3DV designed it for, has NO games announced - and yet it's off on the media circuit trying to convince people that THIS IS THE REVOLUTION YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR!

We've watched people rake Nintendo over the coals for the last 3 years, saying they're killing traditional gaming, casualizing the market, but those same people are swallowing this without any problem.

On the one hand you have Nintendo toiling away for years, and finally engineering practical, commercial applications of 1:1 motion gaming and making REAL progress that will shape the industry's games.

On the other, you have Microsoft's marketting budget applied to a ****ing smokescreen.


I'm honestly quite angry the more I see MS try to hype this thing up, and preying on the guillibility of people who have seen the Wii do similar magical things, and assume that Natal is something substantial.

It's not the idea of Nintendo having competition. Bring on the better games, better hardware if you can! Bring it on! That's what makes the industry great. It's the idea that a fake product can actually have an effect on people's perceptions if you have the money to back it up. That's what burns mah biscuits.

It's like watching two atheletes compete. One of them trains and puts in all the hard work and over time, through a series of ingenious exercises and diets and pure mental and physical focus, he sets the world standard. And then another one comes along with a videotape of themselves ****ing a unicorn and then literally flying down the track twice as quickly while wearing douchey dark glasses, and everyone cheering "Wing guy! Wing guy! Look he has wings!"

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Posted: 06/11/09, 13:40:58    
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Haha, well said.

Yeah I'm pissed. I was pissed at Natal when they unveiled it as I was watching it live, for the reasons you stated. Also, the fact that it's a ripoff of EyeToy and nothing much more. Sure, better tech, but it's been several years after EyeToy, too, so you'd expect better tech.

And what got me further pissed was Molyneux and his attempt to create human AI with his Natal project. It's "neat," but I almost took it as an insult...is he trying to play god? You can't create AI like that and tell everyone that it'll react like a real child. It won't! You can only teach it to listen to so many lines, it will not respond like a child. And a video demo of the game will not prove that it works well; it could have very well been programmed to listen for the very lines the person used.

Anyway...yeah, you're right about Microsoft using it as a marketing weapon. And people are all over it, too. Microsoft is going to revolutionize gaming forever! Nintendo has done nothing, and Sony (with their EyeToy) hasn't either.

I prefer Sony's approach and tech (even though THAT is a blatant ripoff on the Wiimote), but I hate the fact that they presented it without a game to back it up, like Microsoft. It was all tech demos. Show me a fully working game for it and I'll be happy.

As it is, neither accessory is impressive to me, and I truly believe both will fail at the market. It will be as if Nintendo had released the Wiimote tech as an accessory for the GameCube, as was originally planned. It would have failed, and that's what I think will happen with these two new accessories. Eespecially Sony's, since they have the smallest market.


Posted by 
 on: 06/11/09, 14:21:50
Thank you Griptor. The more I hear other people recognising the Emperor has no clothes (and he knows it!), the less I feel like I'm going crazy.

The sad thing about 'Milo' is that Molyneux admits now that it doesn't even recognise words. No, I'm not joking. It only recognises 'emotions' from the tone of the sounds, so that scripted video we saw at E3 with all of Molyneux's grandiose interjections is even more scripted than you thought.

Sadder still is people looking at the Wii Speak part of Natal, and not realising, a) They slammed Nintendo's approach for a room-based, family friendly microphone just last year, and b) Any microphone, including the basic Xbox headset, is equally capable of doing all that anyway.

Posted by 
 on: 06/11/09, 14:33:01
Right, it senses the distance to the face of objects and maps approximate body positions onto a simple model. The z-camera is only accurate to a centimeter or two, so it's like a very low-res metal rod toy. 1-2cm sounds quite good, but in practice it means that all subtle motions have to be sideways or they'll be ignored. Then there's the issue of detecting the angles of whatever you're doing , especially if it's pointed towards the camera. Nintendo made sure that was at the heart of the Wiimote and even moreso WM+ because it's central to gameplay. Natal can only guess at what you're doing. Unless you're flailing. It likes flailing.

If it can't do something as simple as track your hands reliably when you move left and right to steer (assuming it can detect them!) then how can it be used for anything complicated? The answer is it can't, but MS doesn't care about those kinds of issues. They're already sending out the dev kits. MS just wants attention away from the fact the Wii is evolving away from waggle, and getting ever more applicable to the future of core gaming.

I'm not mad at the people who get taken in by the way Natal looks, it's designed to deceive people. Friend of mine is a longtime Nintendo fan who also owns a 360. By fan, I mean, Fan with a capital F. He hordes his Nintendo Power collection like gold coins. He idolizes Zelda. This is a guy currently painting the entire map of the original Zelda on his basement wall! And yet he took one look at Natal's E3 showing and decided that this is what Nintendo should have been doing all along. He's convinced that Natal will be far more influential than the Wiimote/WM+.... even though the next Zelda will be using WM+'s 1:1 tech.

So many people are used to believing what they're shown at game shows like E3, no questions asked. Natal is a big, expensive noise, and Wii Motion Plus is harder to understand.

Right now it's only a few hardcore gamers who care enough to actually look at the fakeness of the Milo and family reel trailers, consider the limits of the technology, and take a moment to look at the effort and craftsmanship that goes into actual, commercial motion gaming products like Wii Sports Resort.

Posted by 
 on: 06/11/09, 16:42:46

So true. The only kinds of non-minigames that could work are very broad, physical motioning games like fitness ones, but it's actually the day to day measuring in Wii Fit that makes it so popular. Besides, how many fitness games can the market get excited about?

I'm not saying motion gaming wouldn't do well to be supplemented by a camera. I like characters knowing where you're standing, I like a few applications of image capture for use in games. The thing is we've seen patents and Miyamoto quotes that have been suggesting those kinds of internal experiements for years, but there's no way to make games -just- with a camera at the current level of technology. Heck, even if Natal modelled the interior of your living room down to the molecular level, you'd still want a controller as a prop, or to issue shorthand instructions for a variety of things. That level of accuracy is many years away from being real, and then further still from being affordable.

My guess is they'll string it out until the next machine launches, and then supplement it with motion controllers just like everyone else. There may be a 360 Natal release, late 2010, but it'll only be a poor imitation of early Wii hits and a few patches for core games that people will try for the novelty value and then delete. Of course the HD visuals and bajillion dollar marketting campaign will try to make you look at everything but the gameplay, but by then I think the realities of this kind of tech will be more widely known.

Posted by 
 on: 06/11/09, 18:28:44
It is very strange how journalists and the like are impugning Wii MotionPlus, a cheap, soon-to-be-utilized-with-a-killer-app extension, by comparing it to Project Natal and Project Dildo from Sony, which are really just promises and tech demos at this point. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

That's the real saying!!

Posted by 
 on: 06/11/09, 19:29:32
Part of the problem is the media has the perception that motion controls are essentially hardware-based features that you can just plug into your games if you've got the right tech.

Natal looks polished and futurey, and gunpoint Spielberg says it's what the world has been waiting for. Win!
Wii MotionPlus is discrete and practical, and isn't that what the Wii was supposed to already do? Boring!

In reality, motion controls are vastly more complicated to integrate into games than that because the issue of the player's intent is far more important than the x,y,z coordinates and orientation of the controller at any given nanosecond. It takes real skill to take the information from a game-oriented device like the Wiimote w/ WM+ and create the impression that you're batting a ball around exactly where you want it to go, fencing opponents or interacting with other virtual objects. There's an entire science of game design that needs to be built to make this work!

You can think of the software as being sort of like a foreign language interpreter - taking your input and translating it into a game relevant output. Motion control games have to make you think you're seeing what you're doing in realtime, all the while it's trying to work out what you're intending to do, and how, and make that happen in a realistic and nuanced way as the outcome. This is not easy, and the only ones even working on the realities of this in commercial products are Nintendo's most level-headed and determined internal teams of software engineers, and a few big cats like EA and Ubisoft (with Retro's help).

Remember when Nintendo defined what 3D games should be like with Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time? Remember how far above the other games of that generation they stood, and how no-one else seemed to be even able to make a 3D camera that didn't constantly run into walls like a sugared-up toddler with a bucket on its head? 'Nintendo Magic' is just another word for long, hard years of working at something that other people don't understand the importance of, and not releasing it until its done. Making great motion control games is a science that's just as hard, and just as important as the leap from 2D to 3D.

You don't get there by making a depth camera and cgi showreel. It's not the tech. It's certainly not the glitz. It's the hard work and the imaginative software designers. That's what made Wii Sports Resort and what will make Zelda Wii. Sony is way, way behind that curve. Natal doesn't even seem to think there is a curve.

Posted by 
 on: 06/11/09, 22:36:28
The fanboyism is strong with this one.

I think everyone will admit that Nintendo definitely beat everyone else to the table when it comes to motion controls. No argument there. I haven't played a whole ton of Wii games, but from the games I have played it appears that Nintendo has done a good job of using what they've got. Galaxy is well done without overdoing the waggle. Wii Sports games all work well enough. Boxing could use more moves, but I wasn't expecting too much. Warioware was very clever use. Mario Kart Wii is neat, but I still prefer a standard controller in my hands.

However Some games don't need motion controls. Brawl controls on the WiiMote and Nun chuck just feel like mappings of the gamecube controls onto the same named buttons.

As far as third party games, I've only played Red Steel and that game definitely failed when it comes to using Wii controls well. Idea was great, execution was not.

I don't think any of us can fairly judge the new outfits from Microsoft and Sony until we have them in our posession. I had an EyeToy for PS2. It was neat, but really no more than a bunch of goofy tech demos on discs. Fun for a few minutes but nothing to really sink your teeth into. So far this is all we have been shown really from MS or Sony.

My only real complaint with your arguments involve WiiMotion+. Does anyone here even own it?

Y-Alpha said "That's what made Wii Sports Resort and what will make Zelda Wii." Um, is Wii Sports resort even out? Didn't they already make Zelda Wii called Twighlight Princess and it did not use WM+ because it didn't exist at the time? I know a new Zelda is coming, but at this point it's only been announced. Nothing is known about it at all.

I have no problem rooting for whatever your favorite system is. But think and experience things for yourself before you make wild claims

Posted by 
 on: 06/11/09, 22:55:56
I've got MotionPlus.

I've only tried Tiger Woods 10 so far. It's 1:1...what can I say.

And Y-Alpha is saying that about Sports Resort because there's been hands-on impressions of the game, and they've all been positive. The point is that it is a game, not a tech demo like Sony and Microsoft used. Software designing is how you truly show off an accessory. I think they jumped the gun by showing the accessories without real games.

As for Zelda, that was a GameCube game ported to Wii, not sure what you mean by that. And Y-Alpha said M+ is what WILL make the new Zelda, so he knows it's only been announced :]

Posted by 
 on: 06/11/09, 23:56:13
I don't necessarily think it's ALL smoke and mirrors, but I think the demo was a very, very scripted thing calculated to show its best points and avoid any of its weaknesses. Which makes sense, that is what anyone does when showing a new product. And I think, much like the early tech demos of the Wii remote showed a lot of promise but actual developer usage started to bring out the real weaknesses people didn't fully realize existed when watching the demos, we are going to see the same thing with NATAL. IT CAN TELL EVERYTHING YOU'RE DOING ALL OF THE TIME! is very, very unlikely. So what will its actual limitations be? We'll see. Already there is like... uh oh does it work with black people? Apparently maybe it does, but then why DIDN'T it work for the one guy? Well, it's early tech, whatever the reason they can hash it out. And then there are limitations in what actual gestures mean, difficult enough to read with a standardized controller, it'll be infinitely more difficult to read with no standardized device to read... various people of various shapes and sizes and various objects of various shapes and sizes. Of course, they will probably have "official" plastic peripherals or whatever.

Anyway, as Akisaka says, we won't really, truly know until it releases. And even then we won't even know the full potential, just whatever the (I'm predicting few, but who knows?) developers who make games for it can do with it right away.

With that said, it's very obvious to me that Microsoft came up with the tech first (yes, to "beat" Nintendo in the image department) and is worrying about the actual ideas later. Everyone is going nuts over Molyneux's stuff but he seems like a bad choice for a rep to me since he is specifically known for being a lot of talk but not much realization / implementation of ideas. And that is in traditional software, which should have less barriers to realizing ideas than NATAL. And in typical Microsoft fashion they think the way to beat someone is bigger, bigger, more, more. People are automatically claiming Microsoft victors for having the biggest and baddest tech... but if that is how the game world worked, Sony would be in 1st and Nintendo would be in last right now. Games sell consoles, not hardware.

With THAT said, I've been pretty disappointed in Nintendo's own implementation / realization of the Wii remote. They better have something wicked planned for Zelda. It almost seems a shame that Wii Sports is STILL the best use of the Wii remote (well, pre M+)

Posted by 
 on: 06/12/09, 00:18:46
Now this is a very very good topic. I read all of this don't know what I could really contribute. Hmm...I do know when I watched Microsoft and Sony trailers last week for their E3 showings it's like they were strongly resisting the urge to say Nintendos name or make a direct comparison to the Wii while talking to the audience. *L* There were moments at times where the presentations wanted to seem slighty awkward when they would look out into the audience like they wanted to say, okay we know what your'e all thinking.

Posted by 
 on: 06/12/09, 01:45:05
wait wha, the motion plus is out already?

Posted by 
 on: 06/12/09, 02:10:49
"Companies whose people said that motion sensing wouldn't work are now proposing motion sensors"- Iwata

From start/select buttons, analog control stick, Left and Right shoulder buttons,rumble features, four controller ports etc. If Nintendo would'nt have done it first Microsoft and Sony would'nt have done it. Even back with the NES the Nintendo was on top of their game with 4-player adapters, power pads, and power gloves. Thing that slightly pisses are part of me off is how some like to rant on how Nintendo is doomed and such. I'm like really now come on look at who's following who. Ha!

Posted by 
 on: 06/12/09, 08:30:43
Yeah Junkie, Nintendo bumped up the release of M+ to accommodate EA and Sega with Tiger 10, Grand Slam Tennis and Virtua Tennis.

It's available on its own for 20 USD or bundled with Tiger Woods 10 for 60 USD. And in Europe, I think it's bundled with Grand Slam Tennis, too.

Posted by 
 on: 06/12/09, 10:02:01
Still waiting on my TW bundle. I'm hoping Mr Postman will turn up today...

Posted by 
 on: 06/12/09, 13:20:22
Seriously. What are the qualifications for 'Executive Editor'?

Is he really so lazy or dimwitted that he doesn't spend a minute to think about the limitations of MS's camera, or is he consciously playing the role of an Xbox evangelist because that's what he thinks his readers want? He's either an asshole or a patronising asshole.

I'm going to have to stop posting about Natal soon, or spend the next 18 months until it's released trying to explain to people all of the things it can't do. It makes you wish the truth in advertising laws you have on TV applied to the gaming industry.

Posted by 
 on: 06/12/09, 17:04:27
'I think Elebits or Kororinpa or Corruption beat Wii Sports. Hey, DBZ : BT3 beat Wii Sports.'

Nah I agree, I didn't necessarily mean like POINT OF FACT WII SPORTS IS THE BEST just that there hasn't really been that one game that took it completely to the next level. Though it seems Tiger Woods with M+ is on another level entirely. And IF Nintendo wants to go all out with Zelda, that could be it.

Still though... Tiger and Zelda... what about something truly new that blows us away with its motion controls? Nintendo is capable of it, if anyone is.

Posted by 
 on: 06/12/09, 18:24:48
My guess is Nintendo was all that time aware of the limitations of the original Wiimote, and preferred injecting it into "standart" games (Mario Kart, Galaxy, Wario Land, Wario Ware).

I tend to agree with that, and honestly think it was also a way to "ease" people who are there "core gamers" into the idea of using motion controls by offering it as an option alongside the more focused motion control games like Wii Sports.

To the main point though, I have said myself repeatedly that while I don't know the ins and outs of the tech on either side (though I love to read abut it from those that do! thanks Simba and Alpha!), Microsoft's and Sony's intentions with the tech were almost immedaitely apparent to me:

It's a knee-jerk reaction to Wii's success.

It was NOT very long ago - probably last summer even - that they were writing off Wi's offerings and motion controls, and how they were going to continue to focus on the "Hardcore." The truth, however - which we pretty much all knew or had an inkling of - was that they were looking to encroach on Ninty's newfound success as soon as possible. It started with the Avatars vs. Miis, which was a bit more "safe" since Nintendo couldn't exactly "claim" 3D avatars - they've been around long before this gen of consoles - but now they've moved into the motion realm.

Competition is good, extremely good, for all sides. But honestly, both projects looked a bit half-hearted and really spoke against what both MS and Sony have been saying for a long time.

Natal's promises in particular just seem way out of reach right now, especially considering there's so many bugs with it at this point and yet they're sending out kits already... This thing needs more time in the oven.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/09, 09:45:09
I'm seeing a lot more people understanding the limitations of Natal, on messageboards at least.

Sure, it'll have good marketting legs to less informed gamers, but it won't ever get the word-of-mouth recommendations that the Wii has thrived on because it won't deliver on quality. It'll be like a big summer movie that has a strong opening weekend and then sets the record for biggest drop off.

More time in the oven... yeah, it wouldn't hurt! I wonder if pure camera based gaming will ever be ideal though. Even in 20 years time, and with more cameras to create a full 3d model of a room's contents, you're missing out on any tactile sense of what you're doing and that's something I hope the market will get much cleverer with in the future. Right now, most of the Natal applications you still see people talking about can be done with the regular Xbox headset (voice recognition) or the Xbox vision camera (taking a face shot to use on your character).

Shorterm: It's going to disappoint anyone who splashes out on the tech, or worse, a whole console bundle
Longterm: I suspect this is an evolutionary deadend like the virtual boy.

Posted by 
 on: 06/16/09, 14:30:16
>>Simba said: Even Pandareus thought of Boom Blox being ported. What the Hell ?

Well to be honest, I've never played Boom Blox, nor have I even watched the Natal demo. Haha.

BTW, do you still post on IGN under another name?

Posted by 
 on: 06/22/09, 04:30:58
I'd think Boom Blox could be ported. Why not? Most of the brilliance in that game is the design and physics, the actual Wii controls kind of amount to... point, hold a button to keep aiming where you pointing, and making a throwing motion. NATAL probably COULD do that... but that's not exactly the revolution people are expecting from it.

Now, whether it'd make much sense to port an old game a year from now to a thing not many 360 owners will even have... I dunno. Then again I'm sure EA is already working on Boom Blox 3 (though I really have to wonder if the sequel will sell anywhere near the 1st...)

Posted by 
 on: 06/22/09, 06:39:13
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