Project Natal makes Time “50 Best Inventions of 2009”

Project Natal's Milo in action.Right up there with an AIDS vaccine and teleportation, Project Natal has made Time Magazine’s “50 Best Inventions of 2009” at number five. I’m still not sure whether it’s an ordered list (let’s hope it’s not) but the peripheral’s placement is yet another confirmation that people think this is a really big deal.

Here’s the text from Time’s list:

Since time immemorial — or at least since Pong — one barrier that has stood between gamers and total Tron-like immersion in their video games has been the controller: the joystick, trackball, mouse, light gun or whatever. This year Microsoft demonstrated a technology, code-named Project Natal, that enables players to control games using only body movements and voice commands, no controller required — the gamer’s body becomes the controller. Project Natal uses several cameras, plus a highly specialized microphone and a lot of fancy software, to track the gamer’s body and interpret his or her voice. You move your hand, and the Master Chief (or whoever) moves his hand. It’s that simple. And that cool.

Really, it’s not that simple. But it is cool, and nice accolade for the gaming industry.


Microsoft hiring for Project Natal and Halo

Halo Reach.A couple of interesting job postings went up for Microsoft this week, including positions for both Project Natal and Halo development. Don’t worry, fanboys, those are separate positions. No one’s diluting your competitive gameplay just yet.

The Halo listings are for designers, AI developers, animators, and a multiplayer game design lead. The Natal listings didn’t specifically mention a game or IP for the position, but at least one mentions “a large franchise.” That could mean, well, anything. Another of the Natal positions is for “an excellent next-generation” type thing, which again could be anything, just probably not something we would have seen or heard anything about.

Joystiq got in touch with Major Nelson to confirm that the posts are real. They are. That’s all he would say.


Peter Molyneux essentially confirms Natal for Fable 3

Lionhead Studio's Peter Molyneux.Peter Molyneux is one of the most eccentric personalities in the development community, a fact he hammers home in every interview he gives. His most recent, done with, had a lot of the typical Molyneux linguistic hyperbole and included what could be considered a confirmation of Natal for use in Fable 3.

When asked about Natal in Lionhead’s RPG franchise, Molyneux said this: “And obviously what would probably happen if I started talking about this is you would see a little red dot appear moving on my forehead. And then as I would start to speak the words then there would be a shotgun fire, and I would be assassinated. Quite clearly, it is that sensitive.” That’s almost as absurd as everything he promised for both Fable games to date. Obviously it’s a bit of a joke, but he goes on to essentially confirm use of the peripheral.

“Do you really think, knowing me, as maybe you do over the years, I wouldn’t want to use something like Natal? I mean, that’s just mad, man.” I would love to say that the rest of the interview is interesting, but I didn’t really think it was. It’s nice to know that Molyneux is investing heavily in Natal – Milo and almost certainly Fable 3 – but he’s still comes off as a deluded individual with an overinflated sense of his contribution to the world at large.


Halo Natal Will Only Happen ‘When It Makes Sense’

Halo: Reach.Thank god for this. I’m not one of those crazy, tea-bagging, MyBrPwNzU type Halo players, but there is a soft spot in my heart for the franchise. My friends and I played a lot in college, and I’m always interested to see what they do next in the series. It was music to my ears when Microsoft said we wouldn’t see a Halo: Natal until “it makes sense.”

Alex Cutting, a Halo 3:ODST Producer, told VideoGamer in pretty clear language the plans for Natal and the Halo franchise.

A lot of people are interested in what Natal’s presence in Halo’s going to be. We are committing to only doing it when it makes sense. We are not going to produce a gimmicky feature that just takes advantage of motion controls when it doesn’t feel right.

Glad to hear someone has that kind of focus. Natal seems cool, but even the driving games looked horribly gimmicky. Cutting does think the tech has its place in almost any genre, just that it needs to be appropriately implemented.

I think Natal can be integrated into most genres in some way. I think FPS, there’s a lot to be said for dual stick control. But, you know, before dual sticks came around and before Halo: Combat Evolved established it on a console, people were pretty doubtful about that, that it could ever move from keyboard and mouse.

Pretty sure I agree with that, though I’m not sure Halo was the game to actually pioneer the dual analog stick control. The idea, at the very least, existed in games like Goldeneye, with those yellow buttons on the N64 controller. Using a stick isn’t exactly the kind of leap that controller to Natal will be. Despite the gratuitous horn-tooting, I like that Cutting makes Microsoft’s position pretty clear, and that’s there might be some thought behind the whole thing.


Take Two Has Natal Dev Kits At All Studios

Take Two Interactive logo.Looks like Microsoft isn’t the only one thinking Natal is going to be a serious game changer. Take Two CEO Ben Feder had plenty to say about the Xbox 360 periph during today’s Q3 earnings call with investors.

Natal motion-sensors – yes we have dev kits, yes we’re working on them,” he said. “Obviously, we can’t comment on games we haven’t announced. But those dev kits are embedded in all of our studios, or just about all of our studios, and everybody’s working with them to try to figure out new ways in which we can innovate and create the kind of content that this company is famous for. So yes, we’re working on it.”

That’s a pretty serious commitment as I see it. Take Two isn’t just big, they’re huge, and it sounds like they’re dedicating a lot of resources to what is basically a new platform. Of course that could all just be talk, but why say so much when it could have just been, “Yes, we’re working on it.”

Regardless, I’m excited to see what next year holds. As we get closer to hardware release you have to bet developers like Take Two will be showing off their stuff.


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