What Xbox One Games Gain And Lose With The New Kinect-Free Option

What Xbox One Games Gain And Lose With The New Kinect-Free Option

Microsoft recently said that game developers will be able to get a little more power out of the Xbox One to make their games more visually impressive if they choose to forgo some Kinect features. What's the actual trade-off?

As previously indicated by Microsoft, developers willing to go forgo Kinect sensor support for their games get access to some 10 per cent of the console's graphics processing unit (GPU), processing power that was previously reserved for functionality with the Kinect. That gives the Xbox One, which is powerful but often referenced by developers as not as powerful as the PS4, some more muscle.

For example, Bungie, the developers on Destiny, have said that the Kinect-free option enabled them to get their game to run at 1080p resolution, 30 frames per second on Xbox One.

Xbox chief Phil Spencer gave me a little more of a breakdown at E3, making it clear that gamers will gain some and lose some on games that use this option, though it sounds like an overall net win.

If a developer uses the Kinect-free option, their game is flagged as a non-gesture game. Not only will the game not be able to support gestures, but system gestures — such as reaching out with both hands and bringing them together to minimize a game and return to the dashboard — will not work. Visual recognition features won't work, either, so, as Spencer told me, "If I sat down next to you, Kinect isn't going to realise I'm now there until I quit the game."

On the other hand, voice commands will still work. You can still say "Xbox, record that" and grab clips even in non-gesture games, Spencer said, noting that the system's verbal user interface will keep running. Since those voice commands are going through the Kinect, then the Kinect is doing something, just not anything visually intensive.

And once you press the Xbox button on the controller to minimize the game? "All of the Kinect stuff comes back, because we've put the game in a suspend mode."

This Kinect-free option (technically, Kinect-light option, I guess) option will be available for developers using the June software development kit and beyond. Older games can be patched to support it, if developers so choose. And, as has been mentioned elsewhere, whether you have a Kinect plugged into the Xbox One or not won't make a difference. It's entirely down to how developers have programmed their Xbox One game.

Spencer also noted to me that, in addition to this new option, Microsoft is also finding ways to diminish the GPU reserve held for Kinect even in Kinect-enabled games. "We were actually able to just naturally push down the reserve that we had in GPU even with the existing Kinect functionality, and every developer gets that for free," he said. We thought it was going to take 'this much' and it actually takes a little bit less, because of efficiency. And that will probably continue to happen, because it did on Xbox 360."


    So controller swap tracking will also be disabled, yes?

      Thank god.

      I’ve had my Xbone switch users when two people both get up between games.
      One person runs to the pisser and the other runs to the fridge for beers. Both come back, pick up their controllers and they’ve swapped screens.

      Wonderful way to break an unbreakable system Microsoft! And to think it only cost 10% of the GPU to do it!

      that is such a pain.
      it'd be fine if it did it all seamlessly but making me confirm that the controller has swapped is freaking stupid

    Very happy with this. It was a stupid idea in the first place.
    10% is FAR too big of an impost for a handful of pointless or needlessly broken features.

    The only think I wanted to keep were the voice commands and it sounds like they’ll still be there.
    I do wonder what the recording feature takes out of the CPU (or GPU, I don’t know about things). Not from having the voice recognition active but more from the constant recording of video.
    I DO like that feature a lot, and I know the PS4 has it too, but it would be interesting to know what cost it comes at.

      One thing I noticed with voice control on the PS4 is that it stops working if you're playing a game with voice chat or if you're in a party chat. I.e. when I'm playing BF4, I can't drop out to the OS by saying "Playstation - Home" (or whatever the command is - I don't use the voice commands most of the time).

      Not sure if that's a technical limitation or a deliberate design decision to sidestep some of the voice command trolling we've seen with some of those COD clips on YouTube where somebody joins a game with a name like "XBoxPowerOff" or something.

    whether you have a Kinect plugged into the Xbox One or not won’t make a difference.

    Sounds like a shitty OS/API/whatever. "Hey, I can see there is no Kinect attached to me. But I'm gonna reserve power for it just in case!"

    But then you're developing a game to run under two separate sets of conditions. Isn't one of the purported benefits of coding to a console knowing it's exact limitations?

      They won’t be developing for two different sets of conditions.
      The user doesn’t get a say in it, it will be the developer who gets to choose to disable functions.

      The game will then be flagged as ‘non-gesture’ (maybe on the box or something) so users know that when they’re playing it they won’t be able to use system level motion controls.

        Sorry it was meant to be a reply to @stickman in that it's not a 'shitty API' they're making clear boundaries as not to have two different sets of conditions. I kinda minced the reply and didn't log in before hitting the button. *shows self out*

      All of these articles imply the Kinectless version is a different hardware condition. What's REALLY happening is Microsoft are allowing devs who are not utilising Kinect in their games to use more resources. It's really a benefit without a drawback. You can still use voice commands, it's just not reserving resources for something the game wasn't utilising anyway.

    What I want to know is whether Respawn will update Titanfall with a resolution patch. They always said they'd look at it when this SDK change came through.

    Looking at Destiny going up to 1080p is it reasonable to hope Titanfall could go up to say 900p @60fps?

    It's pretty funny how they have pulled the plug on Kinect less than a year after it's release.

    All those millions in R&D costs virtually wasted.

    Anyone can TRY and argue that the Kinect is still awesome, but it isn't haha, and there is NO way that the Kinect will now reach any kind of significance in the industry.

      It has broader implications that simply gaming. It is used often in robotic, VR and AR programs. Also it has made significant progress assisting with people with certain disabilities. Very narrow thought thinking Kinect wholly and solely only applies to games.

        That was the same as the first Kinect. Lots of cool videos and demos that made us ooh and ahh but with little commercial value. Until MIT starts buying Kinects by the million or makes Kinect games, it's not going to help Microsoft's console strategy one bit.

          To whom are you referring too? As I was not discussing MSFT business strategy but rather the technology itself of the Kinect. Also, yes you are correct the first Kinect could do similar actions. Now this one is even better being able to get biometric information from and other assorted improvements. I couldn't care less about the success of Kinect but rather the quality of games that come out.

            My point is that cool tech demos didn't make the Kinect 1's games any better. While the implications of the technology are certainly broad, it's of limited relevance to the overwhelming majority of end users.

              it's of limited relevance to the overwhelming majority of end users.

              You mean specifically gamers. Remember, that robotic studies and medical studies are being conducted by "end users" as well. You're also missing my argument completely. You're generalising about the Kinect being useless for a majority of end users but gamers only make up 1 single segment of clients. My point is that Kinect goes beyond this single segment of clients and is engaging clients in multiple other segment with admittedly more important business.

              Rather than dismiss it because it we should rejoice that we have options.

                They may make up 1 segment of your clients but gamers make up the vast majority of users. Even though there are other uses they are a minority still.

                Remember, that robotic studies and medical studies are being conducted by "end users" as well.

                No they're not. End user = consumer market. Those studies are being conducted by research labs and universities. Thus far, Kinect-related research has not provided a single meaningful benefit for end users other than cool YouTube videos.

                You can't have it both ways. You can't say this

                I couldn't care less about the success of Kinect but rather the quality of games that come out.

                Then claim that games are only one minor facet of Kinect's potential, because we've seen nothing but games reaching consumers and so far, those games have been almost universally disappointing.

      I honestly wouldn't buy an Xbox One without Kinect. Without Kinect it's a rubbish media device, and neither the Xbox or PS4 are really good enough to hold their own for games only until late 2014 / early 2015.

    As long as I can still say "xbox, record that" I'm ok. I couldn't give a toss about gesture commands.

      This. The gesture commands are a bit wonky anyway.

    I've never used gesture controls (I am too close, because tight bedroom). So extra performance at the cost of something I can't use? Fantastic!

    So gesture controls are disabled but voice commands stay. I can live with that.

    Now if only I could access my friends list and see messages without having to actually move out of my current game...

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