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Harmonix details design process behind Dance Central's Kinect UI


Creating a functional user interface through Kinect can't be an easy task -- how do you make waving your arms around mean something, after all? Harmonix was confronted with exactly this problem in developing Dance Central, and judging by reviews, the developer figured it out just fine.

So what's the secret? The team had to actually teach players how to gesture, using visual and even aural feedback in the game when players got it right. Developer Ryan Challinor told the Montreal International Games Summit this week that in testing, player swipes varied widely across both speed and position, and so the final solution was to make the players react to the game, rather than programming the game to react to the players.

A few different solutions were prototyped, however, including the utilization of a cursor, which was dragged around the screen and planted in "notches" to choose the game's songs or options. The team also tried to get players to interact in 3D space, either "pushing" on virtual buttons or "grabbing" and pulling a scroll wheel around. In the end, Challinor said, simply iterating these ideas was the key to solving the Kinect conundrum: The team implemented idea after idea, and then polished the one that worked best.

Of course, not every development team responsible for the first batch of Kinect games took this approach. At least one studio seemingly went with its first idea, and then made it as raw as possible.

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