Project Natal's Lag, As Judged By Stopwatch

Illustration for article titled Project Natal's Lag, As Judged By Stopwatch

Microsoft's controller-free add-on Project Natal may be perfect for virtual painting and hyperactive ball-swatting, but is it responsive enough for something more intense? What does MTV's stopwatch tell us?

The MTV Multiplayer folks performed a little stopwatch-based survey of Project Natal's real-life movement to on-screen movement interpretation capabilities, deeming that the average lag time was about one-tenth of a second.

As MTV's Russ Frushtick points out, that not-so-scientific survey is not out of line with expectations set by the Wii's pre-MotionPlus remote and even high end motion capture cameras. Still, that lag would make Project Natal certainly less useful in twitch-based games (like first-person shooters or fighting games), the kind of genre I'm hoping Natal developers will avoid anyway.

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Still, that's one more concern for the pile about motion control's so-called "kinetic dissonance."

Project Natal: Timing The Delay [MTV Multiplayer]

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I honestly don't see Natal working out.

I did a paper on the Wii years ago before MotionPlus in a Kinesthetics/Proprioception class, and my main point was that the Wii motion control succeeds because it was tangible in controller-form. The next real step after accurate 1:1 mapping would be gyroscopic force stopping you when you hit something. The rumble achieves this, but barely. If you lock swords, you should ideally want the Wii remote to stop too, right?

Natal does nothing towards this - I get that it's a different approach, but if the feedback is even lagged it's going to feel disconcerting. Imagine that fighting game in the picture - your punches are going to extend all the way, but your character's won't. If you start making adjustments on your own behalf then you're going to look stupid with half-thrown punches. We realized how unfun fighting games were with the Sega Activator because our bodies don't move fast enough, and when we do move fast enough, we look like jackasses.

Microsoft, stop hyping it and let it cook for a while longer. I realize your plan was to invade the living room by 2010, but you've already done that with the 360. Give it a rest. Nothing will ever look as cool as Minority Report.