Gamescom, Team Dakota gave me a quick demonstration of how to animate characters using Kinect motion capture in the Xbox One game-maker Project Spark. I've got to say, there are few things that have given me more pleasure in Cologne than watching a game designer pretend to be a troll, stomping his feet and gesturing angrily at the screen – the irony wasn't lost.
The demo worked great, the on-screen troll reflecting software engineer Eddie Parker's exaggerated stomping with a palpable accuracy. The mo-cap is just another facet of Project Spark, and the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows 8 game continues to ooze potential. At the demo I saw a visually authentic recreation of Limbo, one that Team Dakota was able to seamlessly switch from black-and-white 2D platformer to lush, tropical-looking first-person adventure with just a few clicks. As closed alpha has shown, people can make all kinds of things in Project Spark: third-person RPGs, shooters, even god games. Parker told me one member of Team Dakota put together a Sim City-like game.
Given the Kinect integration and the game's apparent flexibility, I asked executive producer Sax Persson if Team Dakota was considering implementing Kinect for gameplay control too. Sure enough, the studio is, and has explored the idea recently.
"We expect over time that we're going to add that," said Persson, although he stipulated that mo-capping character animation was first priority.
"When I saw the new Kinect and the specs for it, and got to try it the first time, for me it was obvious that I wanted to put myself in the game. You know, I wanted to be able to make movies with it. We tried to find what's the lowest barrier for entry for people to express themselves, right. Getting up and acting out a scene and making machinima has been a great avenue for people to express themselves for a long time."
At Gamescom, Team Dakota announced Project Spark will enter its beta phase on Windows 8 in October, and then on Xbox One in January. That beta will help guide which new features, like Kinect gameplay, will come to the game.
"Part of the reason why we're in beta is to hear what people want to make," said Persson. "If everybody tells us that we need to make it so I can play my Kinect games, then that's the next thing we do."