Tsunoda, Harmonix address Kinect player limit, but questions remain

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Tsunoda, Harmonix address Kinect player limit, but questions remain
It seems like Microsoft's Kinect has been dogged by rumors of its limitations since day one. Some rumors have been busted -- you can play Kinect while seated, for instance -- but others are still nebulous just two months out from launch. Speaking to Kinect boss Kudo Tsunoda, VideoGamer attempted to clarify whether or not Kinect is limited to two "active" players, as was reported earlier this year.

Tsunoda's answer: Look at Dance Central. Said Tsunoda, "Dance Central is already incorporating a lot more than two players," adding that "it's not necessarily any kind of limitation as much as it is developers just trying to customize the experiences around what they think is the best way to play." Furthermore, Tsunoda noted that it can be difficult to work loads of players into a game's design, but reiterated that Dance Central is "already incorporating more than two."

Not satisfied, we contacted Harmonix for further clarification on this issue. Read the response after the break.

According to project director Kasson Crooker, Dance Central treats dancing "a lot like Karaoke," in that people can be "intimidated by the experience and want to do it for the first time with a group of friends." As such, Dance Central only scores one player at a time, whoever happens to be closest to the Kinect unit. While other players are recognized as infrared outlines -- something we witnessed during our own preview -- they aren't actually scored by the game (though the game will switch the player being scored if someone else moves closest to the camera).

Crooker says the decision to not score additional players was to simplify the process, removing "rigid game requirements" like profile management and "complicated joining screens" -- something that probably sounds familiar to anyone who's hosted a Rock Band party. "This allows our game to be very forgiving, while still indicating to the player who is being tracked and scored," says Crooker, "and allows us to encourage two-plus people to get up and dance together."

Crooker adds that while Kinect can track two players simultaneously, Harmonix chose to focus on a single player so as not to "degrade or diminish the quality of the choreography" and so that players won't run into one another or block the camera. "So it was really a creative decision for us," says Crooker, "and not a technical one."

In other words, Tsunoda is technically correct in his assertion that Dance Central "incorporates" more than two players, but the question of whether more than two players can actively affect the outcome of a game remains to be answered. According to PrimeSense, the company behind Kinect's technology, the unit could theoretically support any number of players with enough processing power. We've contacted Microsoft for a definitive explanation and are awaiting a response.

In the meantime, we'll leave you with Crooker's opinion about a potential four-player Kinect game: "As for the future, I'd love to see four people up and dancing together and all being tracked, but only if it's going to be real authentic choreo and not silly hand-waving."
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