Kinect Sports Rivals is a AAA Sports game for the Xbox One which utilities the Kinect 2.0. I worked as a designer on this project from start to finish and it was released for Xbox One on April 8th 2014.
During the early stages I worked across several sports including Soccer, Tennis and Shooting. I spent this time fleshing out different game modes, concepts and gameplay mechanics while also exploring the new technology of the Kinect 2.0. Figuring out what was possible with the new sensor and which gestures would lead to the best gameplay experience was a very exciting and challenging time in the project. I worked on several blockouts to prove out designs as well as designing and tweaking the placement of player spawn points and FOVs.
As the project progressed my time was more focused on Shooting. Shooting sees the player use their hand to aim at targets that appear on the screen in order to score the most points. The shooting itself is triggered automatically after hovering the cross-hair over the target for a short time, which focuses the gameplay towards accuracy, fast reactions and strategy rather than the timing of each shot. To best facilitate this we spent time designing and iterating different target types that enhanced this experience and open up a lot of strategy to the player. Negative targets for example, (indicated by red skulls) are used as obstacles that players must navigate around and avoid, while sequence targets must be shot in a certain order to score big points.
These targets are presented to the player in “Waves”, each with a distinctive theme and strategy in mind. A good amount of my time was spend designing these waves on paper, responding to feedback in order to improve and iterate each one. After this was done we could implement them ourselves using Maya to animate the individual movement of each target, setting up correct spawn and de-spawn times and assigning the appropriate target types. As implementation ramped up, dedicated animators were brought onto the project to implement the wave designs. It was my job to communicate the designs clearly to the rest of the animation team while overseeing and reviewing their implementation, refining each wave based on internal and external feedback. The final game features over 30 waves ranging in complexity and difficulty, providing the players with a challenging experience where pattern recognition and mastery over the different waves plays a huge role.
My time was also spent designing and balancing the shooting AI. Due to the nature of the game, shooting is always played against an opponent. Players stand at either end of a shooting range divided by a “Blast Shield”. Players are presented with the same sequence of targets and cannot shoot through to the opponent targets, apart from those which appear over the top of the shield which can be stolen by the opposing player. This focus on competitive and disruptive play means that the AI not only need to provide a challenge to the player score wise, but also their actions must resemble that of a human player. I was tasked with designing a system which facilitated this behavior while also ensuring the AI’s scores were balanced and sensible relative to the player’s own skill level. The final AI gives new players a challenge while allowing them to get to grips with the game and at higher difficulties demands mastery of the game’s finer mechanics to beat (all without feeling unfair). On a good day, I can still beat the highest ranking AI by quite a margin but I’ve got to be on top of my game to do it. One false move and they will turn the tides in a second!
Near the end of the project I was sent to conduct extensive focus testing over the course of several weeks. Volunteer would play the Shooting portion of the game and provided us with their opinions, feedback and scoring data. It was my job to help coordinate this process while observing player’s actions, paving the way for AI and wave layouts tweaks to improve the overall experience.
Kinect Sports Rivals was a great title to work on and I’m proud to have my name associated with the finished product. There were many unique design and technical challenges that forced me to think on my feet creatively in order to design a solution. Working with new technology is always exciting and this project has allowed me to grow as a designer in many ways, which is sure to enhance my future projects.