At the beginning of the month, we received word that Bethesda would be making an exciting Skyrim announcement sometime in April. Originally thought to be a Skyrim DLC reveal for the title (unless that’s a separate reveal altogether), yesterday we learned that the news was something else entirely – a very unexpected unveiling of Kinect integration for the fan-favorite RPG, exclusive to Xbox 360 owners.
While full details are still trickling in, we’re getting word that the Kinect integration patch will drop sometime during the week of April 23rd – bringing with it the option of unleashing the game’s iconic (and now trademarked) dragon shouts with your own voice.
Of course there are plenty of gamers who have no interest in the feature – and will, no doubt, assert that developing Kinect voice commands for Xbox 360 players was a waste of Bethesda‘s resources. It’s a familiar criticism, as the “time better spent elsewhere” argument has been levied at plenty of other high-profile titles – most recently with respect to Mass Effect 3‘s Kinect integration (as well as multiplayer, in general).
That said, response to the dragon shout Kinect announcement has been met with a surprising amount of interest in the community – even if most people will merely try out the option and then go back to using their standard issue Xbox 360 controller.
According to a recent interview on CNN, the feature, code named “Project Adam,” will be available starting April 23rd for English speaking versions (with French, Italian, German, and Spanish to follow in the not-too-distant future). In the interview, vice president of marketing and public relations at Bethesda, Pete Hines, details a few of the ways that Kinect helps improve the gameplay experience as well as indicates that it was important for the team to build further functionality into the critically acclaimed title – not just the presumed DLC story content gamers are still anticipating:
“When you do things, like when you are on the map, you uncover a lot of map markers and quests to go to a particular place. [With Kinect] you can use voice commands to do things very easily, to jump to different cities on the map. Even doing things in inventory like sorting by weight, by value – that functionality doesn’t exist in ‘Skyrim’ as it is. With Kinect, it unlocks a lot of new options.”
Without seeing a demo, it’s hard to know exactly whether or not inventory voice commands are going to be practical, or at the very least user-friendly, for players. That said, Hines also commented on the most exciting aspect of the new feature – the aforementioned enhancing of dragon shout gameplay:
“You have your full arsenal of Shouts available using Kinect without having to stop, go to a menu, pick the one you want to use, and go back in the game and use it. You just say the Shout, and as long as you have the ability, your character will just use it on the fly.”
As mentioned, it’s unclear at this point how many gamers will actually use the dragon shout feature (or the other Kinect implementations) – since it is, undoubtedly, simpler to just push a button on the controller instead of speak clearly into the Kinect microphone mid-battle. That said, it’s not hard to imagine especially enthusiastic Skyrim players will enjoy the immersion of the feature – as well as the ability to fire off different shouts without, presumably, having to select them through the combat menus.
Of course, Kinect voice integration quality can be somewhat of a mixed bag from game to game with input lag and recognition problems mucking up similar features in other titles – which could mean the difference between life or death when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by giants while going toe to toe with a dragon on the fields of Skyrim.
You can read the full interview with Hines and other members of the Bethesda team over at CNN.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Skyrim as well as other movie, TV, and gaming news.
Skyrim is out now for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Kinect integration launches exclusively on the Xbox 360 the week of April 23rd.