Hi there, my name is Lucas Courtney and I’m a student of Gameplay design and Production at Staffordshire University. Entering into my third year at the university I came to the point where I had to decide what subject or problem my dissertation would look to focus on – which in an industry as varied as that of Games can be quite a daunting task. So I began looking back and thinking what developments have excited me most over the years and came up with the release of Microsoft’s Kinect.
This technology promised whole new methods of human-computer interaction, theoretically allowing designers such as myself to help bend and break the boundaries further and further with whole new arrays of mechanics and features. Over time however, I felt it proved less and less with its catalogue of sports and party games how far the system was able to show us new ground, creating that all important question –what’s causing the problem? Thinking about this I came up with a theory, by relying only on gesture based mechanics for gameplay the boundaries pushed forward become coupled with new ones being erected directly behind. So this is how I came to the topic of my study, I aimed to show that by introducing a traditional controller to the motion capture system of the Kinect we can further increase the levels of interactivity available with the system.
This is how I found myself in early September of 2011 downloading Microsoft’s Kinect SDK with a concerned expression on my face. Having only tinkered with XNA the previous summer for a few weeks and with no formal education on the language I felt that I was in for a steep learning curve if I wanted to tinker around with this complicated array of sensors. I quickly discovered however, that the tools provided by Microsoft and the support of the communities surrounding the development of the sensor made this task far easier than I was originally expecting. With only a few lines of code in the provided Visual Studio IDE I was able to pull out skeletal information from the sensors wonderful NUI library and begin designing the test procedures that I would put subjects through. My tests were relatively simple, asking users to take part in an increasingly difficult target shooting exercise and then a tracing exercise which asked subjects to trace over simple images displayed on the screen. Each of these tests were completed with three different control schemes, one where the user used only gesture based controls, another where the subject used only a controller and a third where the subject used a combination of each to complete the tasks. The recorded results for each test were then compared to show which system proves the easiest and most accurate to use.
As you can probably guess yourselves, I’m expecting the standard control system to prove the better control method of the three but more importantly that the combination system proves more effective than that of gestures alone- the preliminary results I’ve recorded so far currently supporting these hypotheses. By showing traditional controllers provide a more accurate interface I hope to show that this system rather than being forgotten, should be better integrated- perhaps with a redesigned controller similar to Nintendo’s Wii Nunchuck which will allow designers for the system more options and leave players less exasperated when trying to perform simple actions such as moving around an environment.
Upon completion of my research I intend on creating an application which better displays the possibilities inherent in combining the two methodologies in the way of a simple first person shooter – the player being able to move around the environment using the controller’s right analogue stick whilst being able to look around the world by locking the player’s camera to a crosshair defined by where the player points at on the screen – similar to that of a light gun. Within this framework I intend on implementing further systems which will display the possibilities created by gesture based mechanics when movement controls are taken away and placed on the controller – such as menu systems, shotgun cocking and possibly even swordplay.
I finish my degree later this year and plan on pursuing a career in the industry as a gameplay designer and scripter. I’m a believer that above all else designers in the games industry must be willing to explore and provide captivating and intuitive mechanics coupled with narratives which better explain and explore the world around us. If you wish to get in touch or follow my research, feel free to find me at www.Codemonkey87.co.uk where I’ll be glad to explain my research further and answer any questions.
My FYP research into this system has now been completed, for those interested a short gameplay video of the final system is available here: www.youtube.com/watch