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I am a doctoral student in Cultural Anthropology, with a bachelor's in English & Creative Writing. I specialize in subcultures and cognition.

I love gaming, and I have followed the industry and its technology since I was a kid in the 80's. I have gamed primarily on PC since 2000, though I still follow console news and hardware as well. I was also a sales associate at Micro Center for a while, which was a great experience and got me into PC hardware.

I worked as a mapper and beta tester for the mod Action Half-Life. My maps, most of which have vanilla Half-Life Deathmatch versions, are available on my website.

I also had a blog featured on Gamasutra:
Making Proper Versions of Cross-Platform Games
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Steam ID:cryotek
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Jinx 01
6:07 AM on 07.23.2013

This started as a blog about me personally, but I think what I've learned – that blogs are a better place for debate than article comments – applies to everyone.

Those of you who know me well on here – by which I mean from my article comments and my blogs and blog comments – have probably noticed a dramatic difference in how I present myself in both places. For example, I was an infamous Wii U hater for a while, and I pissed off a lot of people for making fun of the system at every opportunity. But when I take time to write up my thoughts, instead of a spiteful argument we get great conversation. I am generally a nice guy in real life (seriously!), and I think that comes off in the blogs. But for some reason the article comment sections turn me into a total freaking monster. I'm not sure why, but I want it to stop.
The thing is, I also notice similar behavior in other people (though not to the same extreme). Maybe it's something about how quick and fleeting the comments are? The need to get out quick jibes because there's less time/space for conversation? Again, I'm not sure why. There are people I've had ugly arguments with in the article comments, but great discussions with in the blogs.

In any case, I've decided to retire from commenting on articles, aside from the occasional positive comment anyway. Blogs lead to better discussions, and I tend to articulate my thoughts better there. I put a lot of work into my blogs, and I don't want people ignoring my stuff because they're expecting something snarky. I especially don't want people avoiding the Sunday C-Blog Recaps, because that affects people who wrote on that day, too. And I put a lot of work into those, too.

I'd suggest that other people also consider the blogs as an alternative to arguing in the article comments. If you write a blog, you can really detail your point of view before people respond. It leads to good discussions, adds good content to the site, and adds to your own profile and general rep around the site. It's just healthier for everyone in general, I think. Even if you don't have the problem of being a jerk like I do, blogs are still a more worthy place for your more in-depth thoughts.

Besides, why get upvotes when you can get FAPS. Amiright?

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So far it looks like a well-done port. Everything you expect is there, including improved visuals and local multiplayer. Online is one thing I did not get to test yet.

I experienced performance issues on one stage, but haven't been able to get back to it to double check with lower settings etc. Every other single stage has been 60fps and fine, though.

Here are pics of the option screens etc., then more details after than. These initial shots are all shrunk to 620x349 to fit on the page nicely.

Title Screen
*Despite the "Press Space" prompt, it responded automatically to my 360 controller and I could use it exclusively to control the game/menus, just like it was on console.

Main Options Screen
*I try to go through most of these below.

Auto Video Settings
*It did this automatically when I first went to the video options menu, only took a few seconds. It didn't set my Shadows to "Very High" so I turned those up. It actually did pretty well.
*There is no benchmark like in the SF games, which is a bit disappointing.

Video Options
*Very important for a good port. Texture quality caps at "High", Shadow Quality has a "Very High" option.
*Anti-Aliasing is offered as 2x or 4x MSAA, or Low/High quality FXAA. I used 4XMSAA for most of the 1080p shots shown later in the blog. The ones with a framerate in the lower right corner (fraps) are using LQFXAA, and actually look better imo.
*Transparency Anti-Aliasing was greyed out for me. Not sure why. It would have smoothed out some rough edges around things like character hair, but switching to high quality FXAA would do that, too. My video card is an AMD HD6870, maybe only Nvidia cards get that feature?
*Overall it has all the standard features you'd want, albeit not quite as many as the Capcom games like SFIV (eg motion blur)

Audio Options
*Nice breakdown options-wise (I like that dialog and announcer are separate), otherwise just the usual.

Gameplay Options
*Pretty standard stuff.

Keyboard & Controller Configuration
*Looks like you can edit these as you like, and even save up to four presets. So it doesn't look like keyboard players will have any issues.

Social Media Garbage
*Not sure about all this, not sure I care. But it's there.

Four-Player Versus Mode
*Yes, it supports up to four-players, not unlike SFxTK. I plugged in four 360 controllers and it detected them all fine.

Single-Player Ladder
*The usual MK stuff really.

I did not take time to check out the online gameplay. Not my thing, and I wanted this blog up asap. Maybe someone more into that can provide some feedback later?

Controller Support:
It worked fine with my standard 360 controller as well as 360 controllers by Hori, Madcatz, and Power A. The PDP Versus Fighting Pad for 360 also worked fine. So it looks like any wired 360 controller is probably compatible, regardless of brand.

I tried an old, pre-360 DirectInput Logitech Dual Action from around 2000-2002. Surprisingly, it worked and the buttons were pre-mapped to their 360 equivalents in terms of location. However, while the left analog stick worked fine, the D-pad didn't do diagonal jumps (ie couldn't reg up/down and right/left at the same time), making the D-pad not an option). If you have an old controller, then, you might still need to check a solution like this:

The Logitech Precision - tried this older controller, too. It looks like the Dual Action minus the analog - works just fine, despite having only a D-pad. It's the slightly translucent blue controller from around 2000, very popular for emulators. I'd say it's 100% functional and plug-and-play with this game, with all buttons pre-bound to their 360 equivalents. Nice.

I started noticing framerate issues and slow-motion on a few stages, and in the Krypt extras area. After trying everything else I could think of (including all settings low), I turned off RadeonPro, an alternate control panel program for AMD cards. Fixed my problem completely, I"m back to 1080p/60 everywhere. I have NO IDEA why this happened. But obviously turn it off if you are using it with AMD.

Texture Quality:
Seems excellent, though I've not seen the console version to compare. The anisotropic filtering keeps them very crisp, too. Overall the art assets seem adequate for native 1080p gameplay.

Loading Times:
The loading times are almost too fast. I'm not joking. The bit where you see the character portraits, like "X vs Y"? Blink and you miss them lol. Not a terrible complaint, but it might have been better to time it so they were visible for a second or so!

Graphics Quality:
Here are some 1080p screenshots. (HQ .jpg) (updated 1:30am 7/4/13)
Test system: Phenom II x6 1090T @ 3.4ghz, HD6870, 12GB DDR3, Win7 64-bit

Switching to FXAA smoothed out the hair aliasing etc. Not sure why I could not select Transparency Anti-Aliasing. Maybe it's not for AMD cards? Overall, the game looks far better in motion than a screenshot can capture. Very fluid and smooth feel to everything.

Some people on the Steam forums were having trouble with laptops (big surprise). Specifically, people with integrated Intel chipsets and "switching" GPUs (ie low-power one normally, high-power one for games/video). Check the Steam community discussion groups for more info.

The game is only $29.99 on PC. Plus you can get it for 25% off on Green Man Gaming. Their site is really flakey right now (there's some other sale that's straining their servers), but the deal is good for a few days.

GMG Blog With Info On 25% Off Voucher.
"voucher is valid until 1500 UTC July 8th 2013"
Mortal Kombat Komplete on GMG
Mortal Kombat Komplete on Steam

Anyway, it looks like a good port so far. Based on my initial impressions here, I'd give it say an 8.5/10 port-quality wise. I'll be coming back and updating here and there if anything else comes up. You might want to keep an eye on the Steam forum, too. And PC Gaming Wiki has started a page for the game. They have how to skip the intro movies, and the location of the game's basic config file (I still wonder if there is a more complex one elsewhere).

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Some of Sega's Classics Reimagined for Next-Gen

If you missed it, you can check out Part One of this blog here. In it I talk about how Sega has abandoned a lot of great IPs, and some formulas that might be used to reboot them.

In Part 2 I want to get specific. So let's take some of Sega's classic IPs and consider how they might be reimagined for the 2010s. I have better ideas for some than others, and I'd really like to hear your thoughts as well. I'm going to focus on AAA reimaginings for the most part, rather than straightforward HD reworks based directly on the old games.

And yes, this is all total fantasy and speculation. Totally self-indulgent geek porn. But a geek can dream, can't he?


Revenge of Shinobi is hands-down one of my favorite Genesis titles… and yes, my copy has the bosses that rip off Godzilla, Spiderman, Batman, and Terminator lol. I really, really don't know why Sega has left it to rot, especially when it has so much potential. So how might it be given a next-gen overhaul? I have a few ideas.

One would be to do a game similar to Arkham City. While Musashi isn't a a gadget-focused character, there are plenty of mobility, fighting, and ninja abilities (smokebombs, throwing knives, enhanced stealth, etc) that could be upgraded as the game progressed. Going with more tightly packed buildings would let him jump back and forth to scale them.

Perhaps better would be to stick with smaller but more distinct levels – each with a specific mission. This would be more like say Thief or Dishonored, where Joe would have a variety of ways to approach the mission. The levels could also be made replayable; as Joe unlocked new items and abilities, he could try new approaches and be rewarded by completing the mission under certain parameters. Multiple difficulties might be useful here, too – think of how Goldeneye 64 added more objectives based on the mission difficulty.

Finally, I remember playing Mirror's Edge and wishing to hell I had a sword. A ninja's parkour-like movement abilities might be fitting in a game like that, even if the levels were more linear. This would be kind of like translating the original game's linear levels into a 3D environment, with speed and efficiency and sheer style upping experience bonuses etc. Going third person might be a good idea, though, if only to make the combat more practical.

And don't forget Shadow Dancer. Could Joe's dog somehow be integrated into some of these gameplay concepts, even if only for certain levels or as something to summon when you are in bad shape?

Altered Beast

"Really? Altered Beast?!" Yes, really! Sure, the original arcade game and its Genesis port were rather brain-dead games, though they were a bit of fun. Yet I see a lot of potential in the IP. The idea of being able to transform into a variety of were-creatures is great, and that alone could carry a game. Imagine Altered Beast as a third-person metroidvania. You would start off as just a human, gaining in physical strength and ultimately the ability the change into various were-monsters through the game. These transformations would then allow you to reach areas you couldn't before, supporting metroid-like backtracking to re-explore earlier areas with your newfound abilities (eg the dragon being able to reach high areas, a were-rhino being able to smash weaker walls, etc). Each creature could have different levels of power, too (early dragon could perhaps only do wing assisted jumps or hover; gaining the ability to breath fire would be another addition). You could also limit the time you were able to stay in were-form, adding more strategy to the battles, or allow on-the-fly transformations for crazy combos (imagine dive bombing as a dragon and shifting to were-bear at the last moment to smash through a group of enemies). And the setting would allow for all manner of freaky monsters to fight, as well as some truly epic boss battles.

Wonderboy, Alex Kidd, Ristar, Kid Chameleon, Billy Hatcher

Any of these games would translate nicely into either a modern 2D (eg New Super Mario Bros or Rayman Origins) or 3D platformer (eg Mario 64). They are some of the weaker, lesser-known IPs, so going for a lower-budget title might make more sense. Though a Zelda-like Wonder Boy, even in 2D, might translate into an excellent AAA action-adventure title. It's also worth mentioning that, especially in his modern form, Sonic is really nothing like Mario. Ristar could provide that kind of experience, though. (Silly Mario! In Soviet Russia, stars collect you!)

Streets of Rage, Golden Axe

As much as I love SoR, it's one of the most difficult for me to reimagine. A budget HD sequel that keeps the same formula would be the obvious way to go. But what if we tried something different? How about a third person action title focused on combat like Devil May Cry? How could we set it apart? Allow co-op play, online or 2-4 player split-screen. This would allow for multiplayer combos (eg lemme hold this guy while you punch him), as well as players being able to assist each other, Left 4 Dead style, when they are pinned or cornered. By adding multiplayer, we'd be keeping an important part of the original game while simultaneously setting the game apart from other third-person action titles.

This formula might work nicely with Golden Axe, too - beyond the settings, the games are very similar. Although Golden Axe also has the elements needed for a great action-adventure RPG, too...

Phantasy Star, Landstalker, Shining Force, Sword of Vermillion…

I really want a new Phantasy Star that is not an MMO. One possibility would be to forget the JRPG stuff altogether and try something more Bethesda-like. Imagine a Phantasy Star world as a vast as Skyrim – but far more vibrantly colorful and mixed with technology. You could keep exploration slightly more limited (some areas aren't accessible until certain tasks are complete, just like the original games), but the idea of the Phantasy Star world remade in Skyrim/Fallout-like scope… ffffffaaaappppppp. Companions would certainly fit in. How about we start with Nei…?! The same idea might be applied to any of the other Sega RPGs, and there are many other examples of RPGs in modern 3D form that might be taken as initial models.

Another possibility would be to mix JRPG-style storytelling and its larger parties with Diablo-like ARPG combat. That's similar to the first two Dungeon Siege games, which used a party system to set themselves apart from Diablo. Okay. Hmmm. Oh wow. Yes, yes, yes, I am really liking this idea. The turn-based combat and random encounters were by far the most irritating part of Phantasy Star II and many other JRPGs. This would remove the annoying stop-start-stop-start of turn-based encounters and really let the game flow.

Landstalker, though, is unique in this bunch. It's more an "adventure" game, and was meant as Sega's answer to the SNES's Zelda at the time. While the isometric perspective caused some frustration, the game was generally well-received. Why not give Zelda some competition again, either by bringing back Landstalker or doing an adventure game spinoff of one of those other RPG titles. Either a top-view or third-person 3D view would work, depending on budget and intent. No isometric, though!

Galaxy Force, Panzer Dragoon, Thunder Blade, Afterburner

Most of these games are so purely arcade that it's hard to image them as anything else. Or is it? I can think of two models that might be excellent for reworking them into the modern era, particularly the first three. First, it's pretty easy to imagine doing a game similar to Rogue Squadron with Galaxy Force. It would require a bit of world-building, as the IP is sparse on story, but if the game could keep the over-the-top bombast of the original arcade hit it would be a very exciting title. It would also scale; it could be done as a AAA retail title, or as a smaller download title. Panzer Dragoon might fit the Rogue Squadron formula nicely as well.

Thunder Blade, on the other hand, might be reworked as a sort of 3D Desert Strike, or perhaps redone as a twin-stick shooter like Renegade Ops. It and Afterburner might also work as semi-simulators; games that mix arcade action with some more realistic flight physics.

Eternal Champions

The Genesis' classic, original 2D fighter. Not much need to update the basics here – 2D fighting games are still "a thing". But you could also bring in more Sega characters to round out the roster. I'm not saying go Smash Brothers and bring in cartoony characters. But Shinobi and the casts of Streets of Rage, Altered Beast, and Golden Axe would fit right in. Hell, Sega might have a big enough roster to simply make a fresh fighting game (and cherry pick a few characters from ET to join in the fun). "Shinobi & Sega All Stars Fighting Championship"?

What Do YOU Want to See?

Okay, that's quite a huge list and this is a way longer blog than I meant it to be! I'm curious what you think of these ideas, what your own ideas are, and what ideas and IPs I'm missing entirely here. There are some genres I didn't get to – like Sega's racing (Rad Racer, Outrun etc) and lightgun (House of the Dead) games. And off the top of my head I've also missed Fantasy Zone, Space Harrier, Nights, Space Channel 5, and Jet Set Radio Future. Any ideas for these titles?

In any case, it seems to me that Sega is sitting on a gold mine of cool series. So get off your butt and do something with them, Sega! In the meantime, all we can do is dream...
Though modders and indie devs might take matters into their own hands, too...

Streets of Rage Remake

Streets of Rage Remake was shut down by Sega, but not before the game was completed (you can find it on torrent sites, and it's quite good). I believe the fan-made cover above borrowed from this artist's work. Included because I love Blaze and she's, umm, smokin' in that pic.

Sonic Unleashed mod for Sonic Generations

This mod takes the best levels of Sonic Unleashed and puts them into the gorgeous Sonic Generations engine. I was shocked to find this mod, I didn't think these games could even be modded. I wonder what's next...
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Why has Sega abandoned some of its most popular older franchises? And what could they do to bring those classic series into the 2010s?

The Genesis and Dreamcast, icons representing some of Sega's greatest work.

One of my favorite games in recent memory has been Sonic Racing Transformed. I think it's the best kart racer since the N64's Diddy Kong Racing, and Mario Kart 8 is going to have a hard time winning the crown back from Sumo's masterpiece. Part of what makes Transformed so great is that Sega is the only company other than Nintendo with such a massive backlog of brilliant game series to draw from in terms of designing stages. The game has plenty of Sonic-inspired levels, of course. But you'll also visit the worlds of Skies of Arcadia, Golden Axe, Nights, Shinobi, Billy Hatcher, Panzer Dragoon, and others. You even get to race as characters from a lot of Sega's old games, and Ristar waves the start flag at the beginning of every race! It's pretty great stuff, and gives the game a lot of variety and personality.

Two gorgeous tracks from Sonic Racing Transformed - inspired by two of Sega's otherwise abandoned game series.

Every time I play it, though, I feel sort of sad. Sure, it's great to see old friends like Shinobi again... but why have these characters become little more than fodder for Sonic's racing titles, or Sega's "classic" Genesis and Dreamcast re-releases? Many of these characters were the stars of major AAA titles in the past, and could be again. Yet in their single-minded focus on Sonic, Sega has left some of its best characters and game series to rot. Not only is this disappointing as a fan of Sega's classic franchises, it's just bad business to let major IPs go to waste. And as much as I love Sonic, the poor little guy needs a break sometimes!

Part of the problem may be that many of these old IPs were either arcade-focused, or designed around 2D, sprite-based technology. Yet you could say the same thing about Sonic the Hedgehog, which has evolved considerably over time. Looking back at these old IPs, I can see a few ways Sega might approach their rebirth:

1) Stick with the game's original formula and perspective. With the popularity of download titles, simply cranking out an HD Street of Rage 4 as a $15 download title would probably go over really well. It could also serve to reintroduce an IP, setting the stage for a full retail reboot down the road.

Ristar would be a great candidate for an HD revamp.

2) Stick with the original perspective, but expand the gameplay to reward repeated playthroughs. Sonic Racing Transformed is actually a good example of this. Your racers gain experience in the game as you use them, opening new "mods" that let you customize their kart's attributes. And going through the game's career mode – which features a "map" not unlike that of say Mario World – lets you unlock new tracks, racers, and kart mods. Taking the basics of a classic like Streets of Rage and adding these kinds of unlockables and extras could really help bring these games into the modern era. The point here is to take them beyond their arcade roots by introducing cumulative rewards for repeated play rather than having each playthrough be a straight up win or lose scenario. Maybe you lost this time, but you unlocked Blaze's new combo kick, so next time…

3) Take an IP's characters and world as a starting off point, but move them into a more modern genre… while using the IP's unique elements to keep it fresh and original. Consider Mario and Sonic's move to 3D. Why couldn't Ristar make a similar move? Why wouldn't games like Shinobi or Altered Beast translate into great third-person action titles?

By mixing 2D and 3D gameplay with gorgeous graphics, Sonic has kept up-to-date with today's expectations. Why can't Sega do the same with their other classic IPs?

Don't Forget the Music

Regardless of the strategy taken in terms of gameplay, Sega shouldn't forget the tunes. One thing the Genesis excelled at was music. Yuzo Koshiro is famous for his work in games like Revenge of Shinobi and Streets of Rage, and there was something about the Genesis' synths that made for incredible soundtracks – Thunderforce III, for example, really blew me away. The return of "retro" titles has led to a renaissance in the art of the game soundtrack (eg They Bleed Pixels), and many non-retro titles like Remember Me have rediscovered the immersive power of background music.

Their amazing soundtracks were part of what made games like Shinobi and Streets of Rage popular and successful. Any reboot of these series should try to include similarly edgy electronic soundtracks to get players excited and pumped for the action. And it might pay to keep the gameplay actiony as well, in contrast to the sluggish chest-high-wall combat of many modern titles.

In Part 2 of this blog, available here, I go through several of Sega's older IPs, considering how they might be "reimagined" as modern titles.

We tend to think of the Genesis (Mega Drive) and Dreamcast when it comes to Sega. But many of their major franchises started on the Master System and in arcades.
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One of the most frustrating things I've dealt with as a gamer is sweaty hands. I'm guessing it's a problem for a lot of people, considering companies have gone so far as to make controllers with fans in them to help keep your hands cool and dry. Having chronically sweaty hands (or feet etc), even when there is no reason (it's not hot, you aren't nervous) is a condition people like me suffer from called hyperhydrosis. Hyperhydrosis also tends to be way worse than the sweaty hands regular people get occasionally - I can write on a dusty chalkboard with my fingers indefinitely. I can't hold onto things because my palms are too wet. I feel like I need to be in front of a fan all the time. And I get sick a lot because I am always letting myself getting chilled. It's that bad.

It's a horrible condition to deal with, and affects your life far beyond gaming. It really hurt my social development when I was younger. It made dating awkward (afraid to even hold hands), and made me nervous and uncomfortable a lot of the time.

There are a variety of treatments avalable, including surgery (expensive and dangerous), Botox (expensive), medication (unhealthy and ineffective), and special antiperspirants (ineffective and stain your clothing). I've tried everything but surgery, without much satisfaction. Botox did work, but it was extremely expensive and only lasted 3-4 months. Also hurt like hell having someone poke your palms and fingers with needles, it was like sitting there letting a bee sting you over an over.

Power A's Air Flo controller.

Long story short, my mother came across these special devices called Drionic units (see below) and ordered one for me to use on my hands. I've been using them ever since, for about 12 years. It can be a bit inconvenient - you have to sit there for about 20 minutes a session with your hands in pooled water while an electronic current runs across them (just a battery) to desensitize them. It can sting a bit (the current goes up and down over time), but you can adjust the strength. And if you suffer it as badly as me, you hate your palms so much you'll be sitting there thinking "fry, f*ckers, fry!". Once it's working, which can take a week or so initially, you only need to do it once or twice a week as maintainence. I just put on Netflix or a movie to keep me occupied while I'm doing the treatment.

I usually do it at my PC or coffee table watching Netflix. The pictured units also work for feet. I use them flipped the other way, it's more comfortable for me to not have my whole fingers submerged.

My hands are my primary problem, though my feet and armpits can be bad as well. But just keeping my hands under control has improved my life dramatically, and seems to reduce the other sweating. Not having sweaty hands really helps with the nervousness as well.

It doesn't seem like a big deal if you don't have it, but hyperhydrosis is a freaking miserable condition. It changed my life to have an effective treatment for it. If I slack and don't use it for a couple weeks, and the sweating comes back, I wonder how I ever functioned before I had treatment for it. Anyway, not enough people seem to know about this treatment. I know it's not entirely gaming related, but if it helps even one person with their problem, it's worth it.

Drionic Website

PS: There are also DIY Drionic Units. I've never tried them, though, so I really don't know if they are as good. The official units cycle the intensity of the charge up and down, not sure a DIY unit would do that.
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While Microsoft has done a 180 on its DRM policies for the Xbox One, Kinect remains a pack-in item that is required for the system to run at all. Yet very few games have been announced for it, its non-gaming uses are dubious, and it raises major privacy concerns.

Kinect With What, Exactly?

To start, there was something missing at E3 for the most part... actual Kinect games. Here's the best list of Kinect games I could come up with:

Crimson Dragon (shoddy on-rails shooter)
Kinect Sports Rivals (ooo mini-games! *gag*)
Just Dance 2014 (not even a launch title).
Zumba World Party (another dance game with no release date)
Project Spark (can use it, not required. mostly voice commands?)
Fantasia: Music Evolved (has nothing to do with Fantasia)

That's it. You are paying extra money for a Kinect so you can buy those games, many of which won't even be out at release. They aren't even providing Kinect Sports Rivals as a pack-in to help justify the thing's inclusion.

Crimson Dragon looked awesome... then I read "Kinect"...

I've seen Microsoft fanboys claim that Kinect needs to be included for developers to give it proper software support, avoiding the chicken-and-egg problem console peripherals often suffer. This is understandable. Yet... I'm not aware of any high-profile Kinect-dependent titles in development. That list is it for Kinect 2.0 games, that's all I could find anywhere. Project Spark is probably the most interesting title there, but it sounds like Kinect is merely optional for it - I'm not sure it should even be in that list. Ryse, which was shaping up to be the flagship Kinect 2.0 title, has ditched Kinect entirely. Apparently even a game as dumbed down as Ryse, a glorified quicktime-event, is too complex for Kinect.

This controller would probably be fine for Ryse. Kinect? Not so much apparently.

Are there non-game uses for Kinect? Yes. Apparently you can use it for Skype, and for certain voice and gesture commands while you are watching television television television. But that hardly justifies such an expensive, advanced piece of hardware being shoved down consumers' throats.

Yes, I know it can be used for voice command stuff in games. So can a much less expensive microphone.

In addition to being relatively useless to consumers, this peripheral comes at considerable cost. It is probably the main reason the Xbox One is $100 more than the PS4, despite having weaker hardware. They blew the hardware budget on a gadget nobody wants and that is of dubious value for gaming. I made a similar complaint about the Wii U's GamePad making the Wii U a weaker system than it should be. But between Zombie U and New Super Mario Bros. U, at least a few games made interesting use of that hardware. Kinect, on the other hand, serves no purpose whatsoever for most gamers other than to get accidentally broken and brick their console. It also makes the system much less portable.

Still the best way to play a console game.

So why are they forcing Kinect on everyone when they have barely any software - much less compelling software - that uses the damn thing? When it has little other use? Ditching it in favor of a $400 price point would surely move more Xbox One consoles. And given the lack of software being developed for it, selling games doesn't seem like much of a motive, either. The overall opinion of gamers toward Kinect is negative, and it's hard to say whether the mainstream audience they are going after will even understand what it is, much less want to use it to control their television. I can really think of only one reason Microsoft would forcibly include Kinect.

Is It Spyware?

I don't mean that in some conspiracy-theory way. I don't think the NSA is going to be using Kinect to monitor your home. Rather, Kinect could be used by Microsoft to track your gaming and consumption habits. I looked around for documentation of Kinect features and was disturbed by what I found. I'm pretty sure that's all been mentioned on Destructoid before, but was overshadowed by the DRM controversy.

This is a camera so advanced it can tell your heart rate just by looking at you. It can tell how many people are in the room. It even has facial recognition. All of that could be used for licensing content, DRM purposes, etc. - or to gather marketing information.

While you can have Kinect off, the question is how much data will it be sending back to Microsoft when it's on? Microsoft could easily use Kinect to learn a great deal about its audience. This thing could tell whether you were a loyal Doritos customer, whether you read while watching television on your couch, and even what book you are reading. It could basically track an entire household's tv/gaming consumption habits (remember, they want the TV to run through the Xbox). This also fits with Microsoft's desire for the console to be always-connected. That way Kinect could sent information back in realtime.

A lot of this doesn't sound like much - it's similar to what websites do with things like tracking cookies. But for marketers this kind of feedback on user consumption habits would be gold, and people would pay Microsoft a lot of money just to know when you watch TV and play games the most, how many people are usually in the room when you do, etc. The facial recognition means it can even track the habits of specific family members vs others. And if this data starts getting correlated with Skype and Facebook accounts... well, Microsoft could have quite a file you, by name, in its electronic archives.

I know this sounds Watch Dogs level paranoia. And this is worst-case scenario. But we're talking about a company that is fine with using "reputation management" to manipulate us, a disgusting practice that is basically hiring people to lie for you. I don't trust them, and I don't trust Kinect. Neither should you.

How much background info could Kinect find or collect on you?

One final thing to consider - if Microsoft can gather this kind of information on their end (again, a big "if"), how soon will it be until government agencies start requesting warrants to "tap" a person's Kinect? Or to use a broad sweep of it to look for criminals or terrorists via facial recognition?

Beyond the Xbox One, there's a broader concern we should have: how soon before Kinect cameras start popping up all on their own in public places? There are good uses here - facial recognition at a airport security checkpoint has potential, for example. But where would it stop? The technology is brilliant, but risks taking us one huge step closer to Foucault's panopticon, and of destroying any sense of privacy or anonymity we have left.

In Any Case

Privacy concerns aside, Kinect still makes no sense. Not from a consumer perspective, a business perspective, or a developer perspective. Unlike their DRM policy, however, it's far too late for Microsoft to ditch it as preorders for the One are already in progress and the unit is surely in or headed for production soon. All I know is that I don't want one in my house. And I'm rather worried about where they are going to start popping up next.

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