The Top E3

Project Natal1

Had a very enjoyable afternoon today being treated to good conversation, spicy pizza and Jack Daniels cocktails, which is definitely my kind of afternoon! Thanks Liz 😉

So, the 2009 E3 computer games expo finished the other day, and there was some absolutely mind-blowing stuff on display, out of which I present, to you, the three most impressive gems:

1) Project Natal / ‘Milo’

Hardware-wise, Microsoft and Sony were eager to surpass Nintendo’s now famous Wii motion tech, and both demonstrated amazing examples of face /emotion recognition and motion sensor technology.

Arguably the most impressive overall came in the form of Microsoft’s ‘Project Natal‘, which does away with a controller altogether, instead mapping and tracking the user’s entire body in real-time through a simple, small set-top device. And alongside it, British games industry legend Peter Molyneux revealed something which has the potential to a) revolutionise user interaction and AI in software, or  b) become self-aware and wipe out humanity. It’s a virtual human, and his name is Milo.

Project Natal2

Here’s a link to the demonstration of Milo interacting with a person. It is astounding, potentially groundbreaking, and also slightly unnerving:

‘Milo’ recognises the person standing in front of him, what emotion they are expressing, what they’re wearing, and reacts to their speech. One journalist tried telling him an on-the-spot  joke, and he laughed. Tell me that’s not a little creepy… Of course, there are a lot of clever tricks and reactions going on too, to give the illusion of comprehension, such as Milo recognising the tone of voice but not the content, and reacting appropriately. That said, that the tech has only just been revealed, and is even now only 50% complete, so there’s still aways to go.

Personally, while the ‘tamagotchi-esque’ game that Molyneux has in mind for this particular piece of software might be entertaining for some, I’m more excited about the possibilities it holds for the more active, story-led games. Say in the game you’re looking for a secret cult and asking townsfolk about its location, and you’re frowning or asking aggressively. Some characters might react negatively, while others might be more susceptible to intimidation. Enemies could react to your cursing and exclamations while taking them on, or you could rally people to help you in whatever your cause is, so long as you sound enthusiastic enough…  there are endless possibilities, and you have to wonder what it will be like when it reaches full potential.

2) The Last Guardian

TLG

The trailer for Sony Computer Entertainment’s upcoming game, ‘The Last Guardian‘. I’m not ashamed to say I almost shed a tear watching it; the emotion and haunting beauty of it is just out of this world, and those animations and graphics are using the actual  game engine. I urge you to watch it, especially if you aren’t into computer games, or see them as a low-brow medium. This is art, pure and simple. Watch it here.

Last, but certainly not least:

3) Star Wars: The Old Republic

SWTOR

A four-minute masterpiece that is better than most of the last three Star Wars films combined.

Action-packed, CGI brilliance. The game itself promises to be quite something; an online, open-world game that developers Bioware are saying will bring a new meaning to story-telling on a massive scale. They have an impressive enough track record for that claim to be proven correct, so high hopes for this one.

That’s just a small snippet of the amazing things on show this year; it really was a cracker. The games industry is beginning to gather pace, and it’s an exciting time for the concept of storytelling, which could soon mean something different to anything that we imagine today. Characters that recognise and interact with us on an emotional level, stories that span and effect millions of people, and that we can actively affect the unfolding of… I find it hard to imagine not being stirred by the potential of these things.

Roll on the interactive revolution!

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