A new Black & White
The ironic thing about Peter Molyneux's championing of Kinect at E3 2009 was the fact that he'd pioneered stripped-down gestural control years before with his two Black and White games. Pretty much everything in the two god games could be done with simple in-game hand gestures performed via 1:1 mouse movements, making them very much a proto-Kinect in terms of design philosophy. And it all worked so well that the Creature petting mechanic seems to have been given it's own spin-off game in the form of Kinectimals.
Gamers are crying out for an RTS that works on consoles. Every new promise turns out to be little more than a tasty appetiser before the inevitable main course of fricaseed poo, but I'm still convinced that motion control is the answer to the age-old issue of controller innacuracy. Molyneux's trademark blend of big ideas and accessibility could make Black & White 3 a killer Kinect app.
First up, I do not want to play Fable or Oblivion by waving my arms around and pointing to where I want to go. That would be crap. Fact. But early on, we were promised that Kinect's facial and bodily recognition would allow us to interact with game worlds via expressions and body language. That's all I want.
Role-playing games are by definition all about immersing ourselves in game worlds. If we could have NPCs picking up on our subtle mannerisms as we sat and played with a controller, every conversation and every simple walk through town would be a fresh experienmce. Every shop keeper could be schmoozed or intimidated into dropping his prices. And every annoying bard could be threatened to bugger off without us having to make any effort at all. Because we'd look already look annoyed by him in the real world.
Right, don't get your pants in a twist over that man at GamesRadar wanting to break Gears of War. I don't. In fact I'd break anyone who did. In half. Over my very knee. I play my traditional first and third-person kill-blasters with a controller or a keyboard and mouse. And that's the way it's going to stay. Some games need the complexity of traditional controls.
But how about something less traditional? After all, Kinect is supposed to be about convicing us that it can provide cool new experiences, not just manage to not break existing ones. So how about a shooter tailored to Kinect? Tetsuya Mizuguchi is already bringing Child of Eden, which looks to all intents and purposes like a trippier, trancier, fully-current-gen Rez 2. My excitement over it transcents words, reducing my explanations to a series of mere gurgles and squeaks. That guided yet flowing movement would be ideal for Kinect, so let's have more of it.
How about something in the vein of Star Fox; technically on-rails, but filled with so much creative level design and hardcore combat that it really doesn't matter? One hand to guide the ship, the other to execute bullet salvos, boosts and - yes! - barrel rolls with simple, instinctive flicks of the wrist. It could be outstanding.
A decent arcade racer
Note: arcade racer. I'm still far from convinced that motion control can provide the various control options that hardcore racing sims (and their players) crave, but something like Burnout, requiring far less precision and far less inputs, could be great. Just as long as I can use one hand to steer and rest it on my knee, making small movements when I do. I'm not standing up and doing a primary school mime act of a bus driver for anyone.
A truly interactive environment
Okay, this is a biggie from a design perspective, but it's what Kinect really needs if it's going to convince the hardcore. One of the most genuinely immersive experiences on the Wii is Metroid Prime 3. In fact its expansive array of environmental interactions, from twisting and pulling door lock mechanisms to grappling and pulling shields away from enemies, make it one of the best cases for motion control to date. With the extra freedom of interaction is supposedly affords, Kinect really needs an equivalent. In fact it needs to blow MP3 out of the water.
I don't want an FPS. I don't even particularly want a heavy action game. I just want a big, cleverly-designed, first-person game world to explore, using a controller in my left hand for analogue stick movement and a little light trigger control (perhaps for jumping, etc.), and my empty right hand to look around and interact with things. If that control scheme was grafted gracefully onto a big enough, clever enough environmental puzzler, it would do two things.
First, it would bring with it the potential for a Half-Life-2-standard jump in interactive play. And second, it would show us that Kinect could improve on our favourite experiences while providing worthwhile new ones that only it can bring about. And that, is how MS can make sure that the hardcore are the early adopters.