Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13 - Kinect for Xbox 360

Hi, my name is Eric Busch, and I’m one of the designers on Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 13. Today I’ll be discussing Kinect for Xbox 360 integration in this year’s game. This probably goes without saying, but I am particularly proud and excited about the work our team did to create one of the most immersive and authentic video game golf experiences available. While we had previously introduced controller-based motion-control in the title, the technology in Kinect gave us the ability to track full body movements across 1,000 data points. This lets us identify a player’s subtle body movements and swing mechanics. With this level of detail in mind, we approached the design process for Kinect integration with two main goals.  First, we wanted to provide a compelling gameplay experience for gamers and golfers alike (i.e., make it better with Kinect!). Second, we wanted to ensure that players would be able to navigate with Kinect from start to finish without ever needing to pick up a controller. After all, this is the first controller-free, voice-enabled, sports simulation title to support Kinect for Xbox 360! Let’s take a quick look at some of the in-game navigation and how you can use Kinect to start tackling some of the most storied and respected golf courses.

Front-End Menu

Obviously, the first thing the player encounters in a game would be the front-end menus, and we spent a lot of time trying to get the navigation just right.  We went through numerous prototypes, using various methods of navigation and selection, but finally settled on a 4-way scrolling control with a 2-way swipe mechanic. By extending your right hand you’ll be able to scroll Left/Right/Up/Down through the menus. Once you have your desired selection highlighted, you simply swipe your right hand across the front of your body to advance. To back out of screen you swipe across your body with your left hand.  Nearly every menu in the game can be navigated with this simple hand gesture system, including all of the primary screens going into Play Now, Tiger Legacy Challenge, Career and other game modes.

In-Game Gestures and Voice Commands

In addition to the in-game menu, there are also other control gestures unique to Kinect. To zoom out and view the landing area, simply raise your left hand to your brow as if you were shielding your eyes from the sun. To aim, reach your right hand out and close your hand to grab the aiming marker. You can then drag the marker forward, back, left or right. Once your aim is set, simply open your hand to release the marker. The same grab and drag gesture works to adjust your golfer’s stance, or to control the amount and direction of spin while the ball is in the air. You can even crouch down to get a close up view of your lie.

In addition to the in-game menu and gestures, we are also supporting Microsoft’s “See it, Say it!” approach. What this means is that any in-game text that is designated with quotation marks can also be said for easier navigation. For example simply say “Zoom In” to zoom to your aiming marker or “Change Club, 7-Iron” to grab a 7-iron from your bag using only your voice.

The Swing

Once you’ve picked the right club and set up your shot, you’re ready to take a swing. To enter the swing state, take a natural golf stance by clasping your hands in front of you as if you were gripping a real golf club. The length of your backswing combined with the speed of your forward swing will determine the power of your full swings and putts. Additionally, based on your selected swing difficulty setting, there are different levels of mishit detection.  While the swing is forgiving on the easiest settings, on the higher settings you need to watch your form to prevent an unwanted hook or slice. We recorded the swings of several hundred players, both males and females of all ages and golfing abilities, and this data was used to “teach” the game what should and should not be recognized as a valid golf swing. With a little practice you’ll be hitting long drives, sticking approach shots, and draining putts just like Tiger Woods himself.

Well that about wraps it up for now. Stay tuned for upcoming Producer Blogs outlining additional features in the near future.

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Check out our Producer video and the work we did with Tiger to deliver the Kinect experience.