I have wanted to experiment with the Kinect for a while, and I finally got the chance to use it with Project Artemis. I first got the chance to play around with some basic Kinect functions a few weeks before GDC. Erik, another student, was working on setting up a display for the conference that used the Kinect’s gesture controls to show off a rotating circle of game characters from past senior game projects. He needed help at the time, and I wanted to learn. The display was never completed due to lack of support from other parties, but I had taken my first step into the land of Kinect.
After that, we started talking about Manifest and how we wanted to do all sorts of cool things using the Kinect. Working through a few different ideas, we eventually settled on two things: that the project would connect two separate galleries using networked play and that it would feature a whale flying around in space. Very different from our original plans, something this bizarre could only come up through creative thinking and strange coincidences. Thus, Project Artemis was born.
We made a loose team of myself, Erik Anderson, James Kirschner, Blair Kuhlman, and Quintin Puebla and worked on the project whenever we had extra time. The first step was getting the Kinect to do what we wanted it to. In order to integrate the Kinect with the Unity 3D game engine we used Zigfu, a software plugin and development kit built on OpenNI. From this we managed to get basic Kinect functionality. Players could move their hand and a crosshair following them on-screen would determine if the whale was turning and in which direction. It was a happy moment when we figured out how to put it all together.
Networking, however, became a point of contention about halfway through the project. I was the only one that knew anything about it, but I hadn’t had time to work on the project in a while. Everyone became afraid that Artemis wouldn’t get finished because a network hadn’t been built yet. So the team, as disjointed as it already was, split into two groups. One group worked on a single player version of Artemis, and I worked on the online multiplayer version. I got the network up and running pretty quickly after that using the Photon Development Framework. Unfortunately, the chance to reconcile the two groups into one again had since past. Everything turned out alright, though. We ended up with two great projects instead of just one. What more could I have asked for?
Everything went really well at Manifest, and people really liked the time they spent with Artemis. I have to say, it makes me really happy to see people enjoy my work. As for me, I know have more knowledge of Kinect, online play, and general game design, and it was great to learn what kind of work needed to go into a gallery installation.
This is only the beginning for Kinect and me. I intend to keep working with it in future game projects and continue to spread the joy of motion-based gaming. Until next time!