The Xbox One Game That Makes Kinect Look Good
Let’s be frank. A lot of people really don’t like Kinect.
You can almost hear the collective groans from forum threads whenever a new Kinect feature is announced, taste the bitter cynicism that greets the unveiling of every new Kinect game.
There is one exception, though: a game called FRU.
How FRU Wins Over Kinect Skeptics
When people see the trailer for Xbox One Kinect game FRU, even those who are usually hostile to anything Kinect related suddenly seem like they’re on board.
Is that because FRU doesn’t try to use Kinect as a replacement for traditional control schemes, instead melding the two together?
Or, is it perhaps that FRU’s got a clever concept that can be instantly and easily grasped by anyone who watches the trailer?
Or, maybe, its because, as FRU developer Mattia Traverso suggests, there are too few games that manage to make hardcore gamers think about the interesting things that Kinect could be used to do.
“The best thing is how people respond,” said Traverso, describing how people react with surprise when they see what FRU is using Kinect to do.
Traverso explained that if developers try and create new experiences for Kinect, experiences that cater to a different audience, then those who might be skeptical about Kinect can be won around.
“It’s a truly amazing technology,” said Traverso, “but its current games caters to a different audience than ours.”
“Dance Central is a really good game, but it probably attracts, for the most part, a different type of gamer than Braid would do.”
FRU is aiming for the kind of audience that would be attracted to the latter, rather than the former.
“Right now we are trying to make a story-driven puzzle platformer that uses Kinect,” said Traverso. “We really hope that more developers will be inspired to make new things for it, as more players will discover its potential.”
Can Dropping Kinect From Xbox One Kill Games Like FRU?
The question many will be asking is, since Microsoft made the decision to sell a version of the Xbox One without Kinect, will developers be put off from trying to create the games if skeptics still need to be won over?
Traverso concedes that Microsoft’s decision could put some developers off, but doesn’t see the Kinect-less Xbox One as the nail in the coffin for the peripheral that many have suggested it will be.
“It certainly does remove that perceived ‘safety net’ that used to be there,” said Traverso.
“It is possible that some developers won’t work on it anymore, especially indies, fearing that the peripheral is doomed.”
However, Traverso pointed out that studios like Ubisoft have proven that Kinect games can be successful whether Kinect is bundled or not and, in any case, Microsoft’s already got the Xbox One’s Kinect into millions of homes.
“Five millions Kinects seems like a good number to start on,” said Traverso, “so we are not personally worried.
“I actually think that the success, or lack there of, of FRU could determine whether this option is viable for independent developers.”
The Birth Of FRU
Regardless of Kinect’s future, or how Microsoft’s decision may or may not impact the sales of games like FRU, this isn’t a game that was born from a cold desire for cash.
“We made this game for a creative competition, so we really were just experimenting and trying to push the boundaries of game design,” Traverso explained.
“As it turned out, the prototype we made was fun and we really loved making it, so why not continue?”
So, what exactly was the genesis of the clever concept on which FRU is based?
“FRU came out of the 2014 Global Game Jam, an annual competition in which developers gather to create a game in 48 hours. This year’s theme was ‘we don’t see things as they are, but as we are’,” Traverso explained.
“Well, after hours of desperation, because we couldn’t get the inspiration we needed, we thought about using Kinect, and that’s when the ideas sparked.
After messing about with a music visualiser and what Traverso describes as a “multiplayer butterfly simulator”, the team behind FRU eventually found their way to the game that’s now on its way to Xbox One.
“We can detect the shape of the player thanks to the Kinect! What if the player is playing Tetris, and the piece is himself/herself?,” said Traverso, explaining the team’s thought process.
“What if instead everything is dark and only the things inside the player’s silhouette are visible?”
“What if instead the player is a mask between two worlds?”
“That’s pretty much how it went down. If this doesn’t make sense, I suggest watching the trailer first!” Traverso continued.
FRU: Going Viral & Getting To E3
After that game jam was over, the team put together a trailer for FRU and that trailer ended up going viral.
Traverso joked that this led to some rather unfortunate comments on 4Chan, but, fortunately, the trailer also caught the attention of ID@Xbox head Chris Charla.
“The rest,” as Traverso says, “is history.” That small game jam project suddenly found itself being shown off as an Xbox One exclusive at E3 2014 and showing people that Kinect might just give us something interesting yet.
We’ll admit, we have doubts about Kinect and usually find it difficult to get enthused about Kinect based games.
All the more credit to FRU then, because this is one Kinect game that’s actually got us interested.