Well tonight was the first unveiling of Project Natal, now named Kinect. Microsoft shoved several thousand people into the Galen Center with Cirque Du Soleil, a lot of magic, great sound and visuals. Was the event worth the wait or was it a waste of time?
I showed up to the event at about 6:45, just like I planned. Although they said they would be letting people in at 7pm, I don’t think we started walking in until around 7:20. I met up with Aaron Greenberg for a few words, picked up my wristband and the wait began.
There were several hundred people in line. Probably a couple thousand. As the line moved and we got closer to the doors, you could see some of the performers outside beating drums and dancing. I have never been to a Cirque show before so I started to get excited about what they were going to show. Sway was there reporting for MTv with an Xbox branded Microphone, but the line was moving too fast for me to get a picture. Since I had an orange wristband I had to head to the right. I guess I was special.
As we walked into the center, we were instructed to put on these white jerseys with huge shoulder pads. Once size fits all so I was lucky. Everyone tossed them on and we were herded into the arena. It was beautiful. They set the whole place up with rocks, plant life, long projection screens that wrapped around the whole arena and performers dressed like Avatar rejects.
I pulled out my camera to get a shot of the floor but big brothers eyes were on all of us and I was shut down. I still got one fuzzy picture of what the arena looked like inside.
There was music playing the entire time while we were waiting for the event to start. Cirque performers were running around dancing and getting crowd members involved with their antics. The center floor was standing room only. They were filling the center area with people who were in line. I guess those are the guys with the green wristbands.
Once the event finally kicked off it was amazing. The music was loud and all the screens, which previously had avatars moving around in them, had turned into living room sets. A couch slowly dropped from the ceiling with a family of 3 sitting on it. An elephant, which at first I thought was real, strolled out and into the crowd.
There was so much going on it was hard to put it all together. Once all of that madness ended, a boy was moved to the top of these rocks. There were 3 rocks and 3 screens hanging from the ceiling. Each screen had a different game. He would play WITH a controller and then the game would go up in magical flames and the screen would retract to the ceiling. He would move to the next screen and rinse and repeat. The games on the screens were old ones like Kameo. The last rock, which was covered, was being moved closer to this larger white screen. As it moved the cover was taken off and it was revealed that it was a large Xbox ball. The X lit up green and so did everyone’s shoulder blades. Ahhh…I get it now.
The kid was facing a huge white screen which now had a giant avatar of himself on it. With each movement he made, the avatar on the screen would mimic it. So they basically just showed some kind of evolution with Kinect being the next level. Cool. Now when I was watching this kid do his thing, it looked like it was off a little bit. So I figured it was probably scripted, which wasn’t a bad thing. This is a show after all, not a demo.
I’m not going to go into detail about all the crazy stuff the performers did like walking on the ceiling,flying and bouncing a ball upside down, but I will tell you about what games we saw. They showed the water rafting game which was really cool. You basically control the raft with your body. If you jump, the raft jumps. You traverse down river rapids dodging and jumping and steering. At one point they showed us that two people could control the raft together. They showed more similar games like this where you would use your body to grab coins as you race on what looked like tracks. They showed an awesome track and field game, a racing game, bowling, a Tai Chi instruction game, Natal Animals and the megaton, a Star Wars game. Just like I theorized on the Warzone, this game allowed you to use a light saber and force powers with just your hands. It was beautiful and it was the one game that sold me on the system. At the end of that sequence, Darth Vader came out for a fight. So they are basically hinting at 1 on 1 Jedi battles too.
During the entire event you could see the performers doing all the motion in this huge floating room. Again, whether or not it was scripted didn’t matter to me. I won’t make any real impressions of the technology until I get my own hands on it. There’s been bashing and disappointment from some of the other outlets already. What did they expect? It was a great show, probably one of the best E3 shows to date. It looks like Microsoft spent all their Xbox Live money on this one. They SHOULD run this show in Vegas just to recoup. This event will be aired on Tuesday so you can see it all for yourself and get a better understand of what I was trying to convey here. The real nitty gritty will come to us tomorrow as we get pricing and REAL demos. They BETTER have Kinetic demos on the show floor or a lot of people will be disappointed. Right now however, there’s no reason to be pissed. Microsoft just kicked off E3 with a bang! The rest is yet to come.