Yesterday Gavin posted a news article about rumours of Kinect functionality coming to Epic’s mega franchise, Gears of War. The rumour originated from an IGN post earlier in the week, which revealed that sources close to the gaming website had divulged information on Kinect functionality coming to Gears of War.
Cliff Bleszinski, who seems to have the internet hardwired into his brain constantly scanning for all Gears related chatter, was quick to dispel rumours of Kinect integration being the reason for the Gears of War 3 delay. Literally ten minutes before Gavin’s post went live, Cliffy B tweeted the last say in the speculation: “No Kinect in Gears of War,” and with that the final nail was hammered into the coffin with an air of authoritative dismissal.
Of course, with that rumour-squashing tweet, many questioned IGN’s report. That report, however, said absolutely nothing about Gears of War 3 getting Kinect support, but rather that a Kinect Gears of War project would be announced at Spike TV’s Video Game Awards. The mere mention of Kinect infiltrating Epic’s venerable franchise was enough to start fanboys and girls whinging about how it would have no place in the third-person shooter. They’re probably right. I too find it a little hard to wrap my head around how Epic would integrate the motion-sensing peripheral in a meaningful way rather than a gimmicky one. That negative sentiment, however, is intrinsically linked to Gears of War being a cover-based shooter, but what if it wasn’t a shooter at all?
A Gears of War project that makes a genre hop could, quite happily, snuggle-up alongside Kinect. I feel that a Gears of War real-time strategy game could be the genre hop that sees Kinect finding acceptance amongst the so-called core gamers on the Xbox 360.
Think about it: one of the most important things a development team needs in order to make a successful RTS is already there: a detailed canon. You have two opposing factions: the human Serans and the Locust Horde. Both sides have formidable amounts of wartime hardware. You have the Coalition of Ordered Governments with their COG soldiers that could be broken into units that each specialise in a particular type of weapon: mortar teams, grinder teams, sniper teams and lancer squads are but a few. There are COG drop pods, Centaur tanks, Silverbacks, air units and more.
The Locusts have similar: Tickers would be the equivalent of StarCraft II’s Banelings; you have ordinary Locust drones, Wretches, Grenadiers and Berserkers. The Theron Guard would be your elite units placed way down your tech tree. Then there are still Butchers, Grinders, Kantus… Brumaks!
As far as units, conflicts, characters and settings are concerned, it’s all already there just waiting to be repackaged as a RTS game.
So what about Kinect then? Well, the RTS capabilities are obvious: hand gestures would replace mouse pointer controls. The potential is huge for this input to mesh with the genre. It would be akin to playing R.U.S.E. on one of Microsoft’s Surface Tablet, only on your TV with Kinect capturing similar hand movements. Granted, the hand gestures would be larger than the finger prodding and swiping one uses on a touch-surface, and as such individual unit orders might be a little tricky, but Kinect has other tricks up its sleeve.
The peripheral’s voice recognition capabilities could be used to supplement the input controls. Voice commands for an RTS are nothing new; Tom Clancy’s End War utilised the mechanism but it never really took off. Kinect’s tech is a little more sophisticated so fine-tuning this means of alternative input seems like a no-brainer.
Finally, what if you were only using one hand for the gestures and then using your free hand to control the camera using the analogue stick on a standard Xbox 360 controller? The trigger button would be utilised to toggle camera panning or rotation.
There’s very little that could be said against the idea of a Kinect Gears of War RTS, except for the fact that the RTS genre appeals to a particular type of gamer, and the type of gamer that plays a third-person shooter might not be the same type that would dive headlong into an RTS. Still, Gears of War wouldn’t be the first Xbox 360 exclusive to undertake a genre hop; look at Halo Wars. Granted, that game did not come remotely close to the sales figures that the FPS Halo games did, but it’s an example of the theory working nonetheless.
Don’t forget that this is complete speculation and brainstorming on my behalf; there is no evidence of this being what was hinted to IGN a few days ago. Still, I find the notion of a Kinect Gears of War RTS very appealing. Epic would be treading new ground in two areas: Gears of War wrapped up in a different genre, and a potential revolutionary means of controlling an RTS on a console.
I am, most definitely, intrigued.