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A Eulogy To The Future That Kinect Promised But Never Delivered

Posted on October 25, 2017 by Rae Michelle Richards

Kinect version 1.0 arrived hot off the heels of the motion control craze sparked by the Nintendo Wii with the marketing tagline “You Are The Controller”. Promising players a mixture of easy to understand motion based controls using their own bodies and a dash of science fiction, with almost Minority Report-like gesture control – it seemed like Microsoft had stumbled upon an easily understandable control scheme for those with the mobility to enjoy it. As Kinect is thrown into the technology wastebasket of products past their prime, where did things go wrong? This is a Eulogy for the future that Kinect promised but never delivered upon. 

A Less Than Spectacular Launch Line-Up 

On November 4th, 2010 Microsoft released the Kinect Sensor add-on for the Xbox 360 for $149.99 USD alongside 15 launch titles not only from first party studios like Rare but also major 3rd parties like Harmonix, Konami and SEGA. Smaller publishers & developers were also included in the opening volley for the motion-sensing technology with names like Hudson and Majesco rounding out the pack.  

With both large and small publishers on board in addition to Microsoft’s own efforts what could possibly go wrong with the launch line-up? Well, none of the 3rd party stuff really pushed the envelope in terms of using this newly released technical wonder. Instead of inventive games that used the strength of Kinect to deliver gameplay experiences built around the device players were greeted a number of “me too” cash-in Sports compilations, mini-game collections, fitness games and DDR knockoffs. 

[Image Source: YouTube]

Tell me do you remember any of these masterpieces? 

  • Motion Sports (Ubisoft) 
  • Zumba Fitness (Majesco) 
  • Game Party: In Motion (Warner Bros) 
  • Adrenalin Misfits (Konami) 

Quality software would be few and far between for Kinect during its 7 years of life but even on day one, there were red flags that 3rd party offerings would be hit or miss. At this time Sonic was still a name no one really uttered with excitement and his Kinect game (Sonic Free Riders) was so unplayable that some reviewers attempted to return it after eviscerating it or poor player detection and an unworkable control scheme.  

Dance Central and Microsoft’s Own “Wii Sports” 

Kinect did shine thanks to the release of Rare’s Kinect Sports and Harmonix’s Dance Central. Both games provided players with easy to understand concepts that for the most part worked given the technical limitations of the first generation of Kinect Sensors.  

Taking a page from Nintendo’s 2006 playbook, Bowling allowed players to throw their arm forward and strike virtual pins. Boxing would let contenders weave left and right in physical space, something that couldn’t be replicated with Nintendo’s Wii Remote at the time. Featuring compatibility with Rare’s New Xbox Experience (NXE) dashboard avatars, comparisons to Wii Sports were inevitable but Kinect Sports delivered on the promise of an easy to understand and immersive sports experience in the living room. 

[Image Source: Youtube]

Harmonix’s Dance Central also lured players to Kinect with an easy to understand concept that most folks can get behind: dance to catchy pop songs to flashy and colorful visuals. Featuring gameplay that tracks the player’s movements that challenge players to perform a number of different dance moves based on 90 different dance routines. It had robust offerings (for a Kinect title) such as a single player mode, 2 player head to head mode and an extensive training mode. Dance Central was the essential Xbox 360 party game and it was so successful that it spawned a number of add-on DLC tracks and two retail sequels (Dance Central 2 & Dance Central 3) 

Accessibility Concerns That Went Unaddressed  

With motion being so prevalent to the use of Microsoft Kinect, accessibility concerns should have been on the forefront of the engineers, programmers, and designers who would build the large glossy sensor. After launch it became apparent that potential players with mobility concerns or certain physical disabilities may have trouble with some Kinect games. Unless the game was specifically designed for a seated experience users could have trouble with body tracking in some circumstances if: 

  • They had an amputation above the elbow and didn’t wear a realistic prosthesis. 
  • Used an arm or leg prosthesis that was made of reflective metal – this could cause the Kinect to consider the limb part of the background (e.g. the furniture) and not register it as part of the user’s body. 
  • Reflective surfaces on larger wheelchairs and armrests on larger wheelchairs also caused detection issues. 

[Image Source: Youtube]

The biggest potential problem with the Kinect arose just days before launch – it was widely reported by the press who had access to review units that Kinect may have problems detecting people of color. Several tech publications at the time reported varying degrees of failure and success with Kinect V.1 recognizing the faces of people of color.  

This particular detection problem, and the use of IR sensors, in particular, isn’t limited to the Kinect. Two years ago a soap dispenser manufacturer faced criticism after it was found the sensors in their product also had problems detecting people of color. Clearly, these are representations of a systemic problem within Tech, where engineers and other designers fail to test their designs and prototypes for different user experiences. When is the majority of your development staff made out of white folks, does this lead to a lack of diversity in user testing? 

Goodbye Kinect

Today Microsoft announced that the Xbox One version of the Kinect will no longer be manufactured. It is a long time coming for a piece of hardware that never really found its footing either in this console generation or the last. After the initial rush of “holy crap it tracks how I move!” Nothing particularly noteworthy came exclusively to the Kinect although a number of large RPGS like Skyrim & Mass Effect 3 did support voice commands when making important choices which is a bit of a cool inclusions, but probably not worth $150 USD. 

When the Xbox One’s initial vision of a constantly connected entertainment hub that would also replace your cable box imploded in on itself all hope that was left for the Kinect was lost. As soon as Microsoft unbundled the once absolutely required Kinect from the console’s retail package, the writing was on the wall.

I also want to clarify that when I say that accessibility concerns were “unaddressed”, I do not mean that Microsoft didn’t put up a exhuastive accessibility FAQ on their site because it exists right here. What I mean is that it feels like a lot of the stuff in this FAQ and issues that arose during the Kinect’s life could have been addressed during the initial product development rather than afterward. 

This is my eulogy to the full body motion control future that the Kinect never fully delivered on. What are your memories of the Microsoft Kinect? Let me know in the comments! 


Rock band 4 to come to PC via Fig

Posted on March 2, 2016 by Fionna Schweit

When I say Rock Band, it evokes in most people memories of playing the game in a crowded college common room, or home living room full of friends. So its a bit of a suprise to hear that Harmonix developer of the series has decided to port the game to PC. PC which is pretty much a 100% solo (at least in person) experience. I am even more confused because Harmonix has specifically said Rock Band 4 wasn’t coming to PC. Well that all meant nothing becuase yesterday Harmonix announced that Rockband was coming to the PC in the worst way possible. ok, not the worst that would like a Linux only port or something, but the second worst, crowd funding on FIG.

Harmonix is askign its fans for 1.5 million dollars to push their PC port out. Perhaps this has something to d with the fact the co-founder of Harmonix sits on Figs board of directors? If you arent aware of FIG at all its a smaller alternative to kickstarter, that basically allows you to “invest” in a project. Its an intresting take on crowd funding. This new PC version will at least have support for Steam workshop, so maybe we wont have to pay for all of our songs! Mouse and keyboard will be support (in case you just want a rythm game) and Harmonix has said they will support as many rock band instruments “as possible”. If you dont own any, the FIG campaign has several tiers which include them.

Important to note is that while Harmonix is doing the majority of the PR and crowd funding the game itself will come from Sumo Digital. Sumo has a good track record, so I am not expecting shovel ware, but 1.5 million dollars is a lot of money to ask your fans for a port to PC!

Will you be getting the new Rock Band port? Reach out to us on twitter @brokenjoysticks and tell us what you think of big companies doing crowd funding for games or PC ports!


Amplitude |Review

Posted on January 13, 2016 by Kenny Keelan

15 years ago, long before the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises really took off and brought the music game genre to the gaming mainstream, when everyone thought of music games, people brought up games like Dance Dance Revolution and its ilk, such as Bust a Groove, one of my personal favorites, back then, and Parappa the Rapper. Harmonix’s Frequency gave us the same kind of game presented in a different way: you had a catalogue of American artists from across many genres, you were presented a kind of shoot-’em-up rail shooter approach to following along with music, you were given the ability to freestyle remix your song at certain points.What you saw were the foundations of what turned Guitar Hero into the hit franchise it still is, today. I was on the line with this series – with Frequency and Amplitude on the PlayStation 2 – for the unique approach and music selection. Most of the music games I went for, those days, were heavy with underground EDM and J-POP hits that I couldn’t always get into and Frequency hit a nerve with me because it had more of the kinds of artists I know I’d get into. It’s actually responsible, single-handedly, for my love for the band Fear Factory, if that gives you an idea of how much I liked the soundtrack.

Fast forward until 2014 where Harmonix starts a Kickstarter fundraiser for a new title and while it didn’t attract the attention some other Kickstarter video game projects get, these days, it still got some big name support from names like Greg Miller and others in the gaming press. Everybody, thanks to the approach of the project, who backed the project had a good idea of what to expect from the newest entry in the series, titled like the second entry: Amplitude. This game offered, more or less, the same game as others in the series but introducing some new gameplay elements, a new soundtrack, and some more straightforward approaches to the campaign. Follow the jump for more!

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Guitar Hero Live is a strong showing from a new studio

Posted on October 27, 2015 by Fionna Schweit

The first thing we need to get out of the way is that this is not a Harmonix game.  New developers Free Style Games have stepped up to the plate, and delivered the newest installment. So this is still guitar hero, but it’s not a Harmonix guitar hero. That being said, it’s still a great rhythm game, it  has plenty of new touches and only a few negative points that I might expect out of the first game of a new franchise.

Guitar hero basically invented the rhythm genre, so it should be no surprise that it can now re-invent it.  The biggest change to Guitar Hero Live is to the Guitar itself. It’s got six buttons now, three white and three black arranged in two rows. This is a radical change from the previous five brightly colored buttons. I found the new layout to be easier, requiring less movement of the hands, but more difficult to pick up than it previous incarnation. The games icons are arranged as such that you can see if you need to press the top or bottom row while strumming, but this means you now have to set left or right handed and makes the game less practical as a pass around party game.  It’s fairly clear on screen which button you need to press, but I still found myself missing a fair few notes as I moved from top row to bottom, as well as missing the combined notes where both top and bottom need to be held.  The buttons top and bottom rows have different textures which help distinguish them, and their natural feel means less looking at the fret board and more playing. Overall the guitar redesign is a HUGE win for this new Guitar Hero game, it pushes fresh life in to a series that got too bloated. One thing the controller does lack is a headphone jack, so there won’t be any silent rocking out at your house.

The new guitar with its six button layout

The new guitar with its six button layout

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Rock Band 4 Review – “Once More With Feeling”

Posted on October 13, 2015 by Rae Michelle Richards

There was a time when the Rock Band franchise was on top of the world and being played by millions of console owners worldwide. Like most celebrity stories an eventual decline in fame is to be expected after a string of successive hits. After nearly five years out of the limelight Harmonix returns with a brand new game for a new generation of consoles. For returning players – like myself – is it time to get the band back together? Or is Rock Band 4 a greatest hits album that you could easily skip over?Read More


Rock Band 4’s Opening Act

Posted on October 7, 2015 by Rae Michelle Richards

The lights dim down on the crowd as the neon lights come up on the stage and a lingering anxiousness hangs in the air as I begin to pluck at my guitar for the first time in seven years. Surely this is what my in-game avatar would have felt while playing her first set-list in over six years. She wasn’t playing with her old crew, in fact this show was probably just a guest spot, and she’s now rocking a brand new look complete with a side cut. After spending a night out living the rock star lift vicariously through my avatar with Rock Band 4 here are my first impressions.

Harmonix’s first Rock Band title on the new generation of consoles offers complete compatibility with their previous generation of instruments (as long as you are upgrading within the same console family) as well as compatibility with a select few Guitar Hero instruments. This meant that I was able to wield the dusty Fender Stratocaster that I had played with on the PlayStation 3 back in the Rock Band 2 heydays of ’08. Strumming away on the green, orange, yellow and red frets felt just as enjoyable as it did eight years ago.  Granted I was in my early 20s when Rock Band was in its prime and now I’m entering the end of my 20s, and just like any rocker who’s maybe past their partying prime I was a little rusty out of the gate. Where as in Rock Band 2 I could easily hammer out most of the songs on hard mode I was limited to medium for this opening act.


I chose the Play a Show option for my first foray into RB4  – this new mode allows you (and if you have them up to three friends) to begin playing what amounts to a near endless set list with the game making suggestions for your next track. After the successful completion of a song the game will ask you to vote on the next track by asking you examples like if you want “a nu-metal song” or “a song from the 1980s”or even “a song by Aerosmith”. Presumably the option with the most votes will win the voting round but because I was performing this show solo the only vote was my own. I’d imagine that when you have a living room full of folks ready to rock out the discussions before voting can get quite intense.

Last night’s show started with Aerosmith’s Toys In The Attic a song that I had until that point not even heard – my tastes in music aren’t really that broad to be honest. It helped set the mood perfectly for our set with its strong drum beat and fast paced. Despite this rocker’s lack of practise we wow’d the crowd with a four star performance. As the gig continued during voting I selected “a song from the 2000s” and the game had selected Disturbed Prayer as our second song. Disturbed is a band that I honestly haven’t really listened too in a long time – at least since high school – but their energy and chord progressions fit nicely with the lively night that Toys In The Attic helped establish. As things wound down and I played a few more songs I wanted to go out with a bang – the game prompted me with Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail To The King and I immediately lit up. Hail To The King was one of my favorite albums from 2013 and to see it included on the disc was a nice surprise. We wrapped up the night of fast metal-infused rock with a more modern take and as I selected quit the crowd begged for an encore – literally, in a new option available during Play a Show the crowd will chant “one more song”. Sadly I had to turn them down because my hands were starting to cramp.

Harmonix was nice enough to provide us with a review copy of Rock Band 4 for the PlayStation 4. I’ll be posting a full review of the game as soon as I get some quality time with the other instruments as well as make a dent in the career mode.


Rock Band 4 Makes Its Debut Tomorrow

Posted on October 5, 2015 by Rae Michelle Richards

Harmonix’s first attempt at a current generation Rock Band is about to make its debut at retail tomorrow morning with the release of Rock Band 4 and I thought it might be a good idea to review some of the game’s key features and set-list for those of you who are still on the fence about whether or not they want to get the VIP pass for this latest gig!
Not only is Rock Band 4 the first game to be released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but it also promises to support all of your previously purchased DLC and previous instruments provided that you are playing within the same family of consoles (eg. PlayStation 3 –> PlayStation 4). This could be a huge selling point for fans like myself who haven’t really had the chance to indulge in the music genre on home console for over half a decade but also have vast digital libraries of songs from previous games and a full set of instruments collecting dust in their closets.

So, if you’ve decided that getting the band together is worth it and you’ve finally picked up your old axe what is your $74.99 CDN going to get you? Harmonix has made a few gameplay adjustments such as the inclusion of Guitar Solos which are aimed squarely at returning guitar players as well as a revamped career mode. Instead of playing pre-defined set lists or being asked to create your own you’ll play full on “shows” instead whole amassing cash and fans. It honestly sounds like Harmonix may not have skipped a beat and included a rather fun career experience.

In terms of songs the base game comes with
50 tracks (none of which are repeats from what I can tell) that run the gamut from Leonard Skynner to Avenged Sevenfold to Paramore. With some of the repeat acts already featuring their most famous songs in previous Rock Band titles or as DLC some of the tracks might be unfamiliar to all of those but the most dedicated of fans.

The full list of announced songs can be viewed on Harmonix’s website.


Rock Band 3 DLC For September 25th

Posted on September 22, 2012 by Joshua Rust

Another week, another slew of incoming songs for the faithful fans of Rock Band 3. This week sees a release of some of the songs off theGreen Day: Rock Band game. All of them except “Oh Love”.

“Green Day Pack 03” – 680 MSP

“Brain Stew/Jaded”
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
“Oh Love” O

Individual tracks will cost 160 MSP
“O” will have the Key/Pro Key charts included.
Look for these songs when they hit the marketplace Septembe 25th, 2012. Anyone planning on purchasing any of these tracks?


Rock Band DLC For September 18th, 2012

Posted on September 15, 2012 by Joshua Rust

I wonder how much longer EA/Harmonix plans on releasing new tracks for this game? Not that I have a problem with it, I think it’s great that they continue to deliver on their promise of releasing new content.

So here are next weeks tracks, releasing on September 18th, 2012.

• The Offspring – “Days Go By” O X

• Smash Mouth – “Why Can’t We Be Friends” O

• Smash Mouth – “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” O

Tracks cost 160 MSP each.
Tracks marked with “X” will include Pro Guitar and Pro Bass expansions for 80 MSP. Tracks marked with “O” have Key/Pro Key charts included.


Next Weeks Rock Band Tracks Are “Howlin’ For You”

Posted on August 18, 2012 by Joshua Rust

The Rock Band weekly dlc continues its’ onslaught as this week The Black Keysbring home some of their hits to the marketplace. This will be the second dlc pack available from the Grammy winning band out of Akron, Ohio.

This weeks songs are as follows:

The Black Keys Pack 02

Sold as a pack: 440 MSP
Individual Songs: 160 MSP
Pro Guitar/Bass Upgrade: 80 MSP per track

  • The Black Keys – “Tighten Up” O
  • The Black Keys –“Howlin’ for You” O
  • The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” O X


X = Pro Upgrade
O = Keyboard support

(All tracks are original master recordings)

Is anyone out there still playing Rock Band? If you are will you be picking up any of these songs this week? Which ones?


Rock Band Blitz Full Track List Released

Posted on August 16, 2012 by Les Major

I’ve seen lots of posts comparing Rock Band Blitz to the classic Amplitude, and if that turns out to be an accurate representation of the game I’m very much okay with that! Being released on August 28th on PSN and the next day for XBLA it looks like a fun addition to the series for $14.99 and 1200MSP respectively. Not only do you get the full set list shown below if you read more, but the included songs also play on Rockband 3 at no additional charge with full instrument support!

The following songs were just recently announced:

* Foo Fighters – “These Days”
* Kelly Clarkson – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
* Maroon 5 – “Moves Like Jagger”
* Queen – “Death on Two Legs”
* Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Give It Away”
* Soundgarden – “Spoonman”

For the full track list, read more.

Read More


Rock Band Blitz Release Date Announced

Posted on July 19, 2012 by Daniel Shannon

Harmonix has announced the release dates for Rock Band Blitz (or as we like to call it, because it uses a controller rather than instrument peripherals, Frequency 3/Amplitude 2). It arrives on the PlayStation Network on the 28th of August and will retail for $14.99. Blitz will roll onto Xbox Live Arcade on the next day and retail for 1200 Microsoft Points. Rock Band Blitz is apparently compatible with thousands of songs in the Rock Band Music store and all of Blitz’s songs will work with Rock Band 3, which is promising if you are a fan of the Rock Band franchise (and Amplitude). Read on for a trailer and a list of all tracks announced so far.Read More


B-52s, Staind and Young Giant Headline Rock Band Releases

Posted on July 14, 2012 by Rae Michelle Richards

Rockband’s catalog of downloadable song gets a little more indie with Young The Giant’s “My Body”, revives an 80s classic with the B52’s “Love Shack” and goes a little nu-metal with “Not Again” from Staind’s 2011 self-titled album.

All three of these tracks will be available on July 17th and are priced at $1.99 (160MSP) individually and $0.99 (80MSP) for the optional pro-guitar upgrade.


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