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Poor Vision

March 9th, 2007 · No Comments · Gaming, Reviews, Xbox

Last May, Microsoft announced that in September, they’d be releasing “Xbox Live Vision“, a camera accessory for the Xbox 360. Features of the Xbox Live Vision include

  • Video chat for two people
  • Attaching still pictures to Xbox Live messages
  • The ability to take a picture to use for their Gamertag which will be seen by friends
  • face mapping for in-game characters, allowing the player’s face to be seen on in-game characters for games that support it
  • In-game video chat, for games that support it

With a small delay, Microsoft did release what basically amounts to a 1.3 megapixel USB 2.0 manual focus camera. If you want to use a camera with your Xbox, you are stuck with this one, because the console won’t recognize any other camera. At least the camera matches the console, and it does have a honkin’ long cord, so why not pay a few bucks more?

When the Xbox Live Vision came out, it included two Xbox Live Arcade games: Uno and TotemBall. Uno demonstrated how in-game video chatting could be used to add something to a game with zero depth, while TotemBall demonstrated how to poorly use the camera as a controller for a bad game. Shortly afterwards, The three Hardwood Xbox Live games, Hearts, Spades and Backgammon, and Bankshot Billiards went the Uno route and retroactively added camera support.

The first game to support face mapping was World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions, allowing masochistic poker lovers to take “poker face” to a whole new level. While the face captures are done fairly well, they are inanimate and lifeless, making them more suited for World Series of Zombie Poker. Shortly afterwards, at the end of November, Rainbow Six: Vegas was released with the face mapping feature as well. Players of the Tom Clancy series could finally have the visceral thrill of shooting their friends right between their unblinking eyes.

Since November 20th, when Rainbow Six: Vegas was released, there have been no games released that support the camera. That’s over two months of exciting diddly-squat to encourage you to plunk down $40 for one of the shoddiest webcams on the market. In case that’s not enough to tempt you, here’s what’s coming soon:

  • In-game video chat in two Xbox Live Arcade titles: Battlezone and Pinball FX
  • More facemapping in Football Manager 2007
  • Use the camera for a controller in Rayman Raving Rabbids

So that’s two full retail games, and two Xbox Live Arcade games that are embracing this fine accessory for the Xbox. Still not reaching for that $40 yet?

Well, I can say I don’t blame you.

The face mapping and in-game video chat do add something to the games that support them. Uno is slightly less tedious when you can give your friends the finger, and they can see it. Vegas is indeed more fun when you glance around and actually recognize someone by their face. So why didn’t Ubisoft put the face map in the new Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter? Why the hell doesn’t Worms, a turn based game, have in-game video chat? Board games are the perfect candidate to have video chat support, yet Catan isn’t going to have it. TotemBall is no EyeToy, so where are some fun party games that can use the camera as a controller?

Microsoft cannot expect third party developers to innovate in this area if Microsoft themselves don’t push out some compelling games so that people have a solid reason to get the camera. I’m sorry, but Uno is not it, in spite of its unfathomable popularity. Xbox Live Arcade developers should be actively encouraged to include camera support, to the extent of telling developers that turn-based games must have it in some fashion. Games that cap the number of Live players at four should try to include camera support in the lobby, if no where else.

Frankly, could Microsoft clearly care less about making this accessory fun and desirable? There’s a lot of potential there, and it’s a way to make Xbox Live stand out even further against other systems’ online offerings, but there’s only going to be a tiny fraction of camera users unless there’s more effort to promote this.

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