Molyneux: Natal improvements are "countless"

Recent demos out-of-date; Lionhead designer speaks of "frustration" at showcasing old technology

Peter Molyneux has moved to dampen fears over Project Natal lag, insisting there have been "countless revisions of cameras and countless revisions of software" since the demo units shown to press and celebrities in recent weeks were produced.

Following a recent London showcase, British TV personality Jonathan Ross commented via his Twitter account that Natal was "not quite there yet", which prompted Microsoft PR to confirm the hardware and game demo Ross played dated back to summer 2009.

Molyneux, who hosted an event with non-specialist media early last week at the same venue in London's Fitzroy Square, expressed his frustration at not being able to show the latest iteration of the Xbox motion-control technology.

"It's always a huge frustration as a designer when you see somebody play a version when you know it's been exceeded many times over," he said, speaking in an exclusive interview with at Lionhead Studios earlier this week.

"It so often happens, because you do a version for a show and then you don't do another version because you're too busy developing the game."

He added: "So very often you get a position that what a person's looking at is two, three, four months, a year old and you kind of want to go, 'no, no, it's 10 times better than that!' So it is very, very frustrating; it always is - there's just countless revisions of cameras since the one at X10 and countless revisions of software."

A Microsoft source went as far as to claim the Natal camera used in the London demos was only "one-tenth as responsive" as the latest iteration. The company is expected to reveal the final version of the hardware and the launch line-up of compatible software at E3 in July, with a release expected in the autumn.

Meanwhile, Molyneux revealed his excitement ahead of speaking at next week's GDC, stating: "I'll be showing off Fable III and we'll be making some announcements about [the game] and I've got a talk which is going through some of the big features. I'm really excited to show all the stuff."

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Latest comments (14)

Jack Loftus Contributing Editor, Gizmodo9 years ago
I smell something. Something warm and fresh. Something Molyneux is renown for shoveling in large piles. And it's all around Natal, the vaporware peripheral of our times.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jack Loftus on 6th March 2010 5:54pm

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Nicolo Zilli Indie Developer 9 years ago
Hahaha, well put Jack, couldn't have said it better myself. I don't understand how Molyneux thinks he has any sort of credibility after all these years of absurd promises that he never keeps.
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Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire9 years ago
He's employed by Microsoft, so what would you expect him to say? He's obviously there to evangelise the product and no doubt trying to produce something new for it

At any rate, whilst he could be guilty of probably over-promising in the past, I imagine that's sheer enthusiasm & passion speaking. As for Natal, the proof will be in the pudding once it's out there.

Regardless of what he has or hasn't said, he's delivered an enviable track record of hit original titles for a long number of years. His last title (and the team's, obviously), Fable 2, was excellent - critically acclaimed and commercially successful, but lets not that get in the way of the argument.

Nicolo, as an indie dev, I'm sure you'd be happy to be anywhere close to him in the credibility stakes. And no, I'm not his PR agent, I don't even know Peter particularly well, nor a huge personal fan of his titles. But I respect people in this industry who are hardworking, passionate and creative. He's human, he makes mistakes, we all do (mine might be rising to the bait you left).
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Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd9 years ago
He's just saying the demo being touted is old and it's a bit annoying. I've never met Peter but he has achieved far more than most hot-shot designers in this world. I hope he continues to try and innovate at the risk of occasional failure where others stay safely within their genre constraints. Keep it up Peter!
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Cesar Castro Lead Programmer, Other Ocean Interactive9 years ago
I'm with you, Tameem. Peter Molyneux is as creative and bold as it gets, that's why he has that reputation. I hope he continues on that path. As a game programmer and a computer vision researcher, I have a lot of faith in the Natal technology. And as a gamer I hope I'm right :D
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Dave Turner Director, PRM London9 years ago
I understand everyone's concerns and yes Peter has told us about trees growing in real time and familes being produced by the AI in Fable 1 without it ever appearing but as Tameen rightly said the guy's achieved more than most. I think personally think people are looking at Natal in the wrong context, while I can see some fun applications and mini games coming around for release, where I see Natal being exciting is as part of other products.

Imagine Mass Effect 3 where instead of doing the hacking with an analogue stick and a button press you were minority reporting it up pulling scraps of code around the screen and using voice commands to "lock" and "compile" it all the while sounds of the gunfight echoing around. Perhaps in a new Resident Evil title, where it went back to being more problem solving heavy and you were in a library walking around with the controller but in an First person view the camera tracking your head movements as you look around at the shelves, you physically reach for the books you want, open them and leaf through the pages all gesture controlled.

Anyway that's how i see it really working in games.

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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
It is interesting that Natal is evolving, that it is a project in flux. Both software and hardware. One of the main reasons for this is Microsoft's desire to make it cheap. $50 retail is the target. They want as many existing 360 owners as possible to buy one so as to gain competitive advantage against the PS3 and Wii.
Peter has a very long history of hype and under delivering. But this is no criticism, it is just a measure of his enthusiasm, commitment and emotional involvement in any project that he is a major player in.

Personally I think that Natal could be a new paradigm and bring about a seminal shift in what we are able to deliver as interactive entertainment.
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Alex Jones Editor-in-Chief, Pixel Fist9 years ago
Excited about Natal or not, one has to remember that Molyneux is infamous for promising the world, and equally so for not delivering it. His words should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt. Molyneux also has to learn not to get too far ahead of himself.
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Justo Jones Rigger 9 years ago
@ Tameem: Hear Hear.

I'm not excited about Natal, but I still keep tabs on its development as this could be something extraordinary or something the first commenter alluded to... '_^
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Russell Kentish Studying Master of Digital Media, Centre for Digital Media9 years ago
I heard that the latency was 0.5secs then they improved it to 0.1sec.

I think Natal will be interesting, not sure if I'm ready to get hyped with what Peter has to say just yet. We have a natal developer from Rare coming to give a talk at my Uni next week, think I'll ask him =)
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Robbie Kazandjian Director, SoundBoy Ltd9 years ago
Natal should be awesome, and I feel its very unlikely Microsoft will drop the ball on this one, especially after the shoeing they received due to the original 360 hardware.

It will of course be upto the software developers to get creative with implementations, or we will end up with a massively advanced tool just delivering Wii style "wave stuff about" games. Which would be a real let down.....

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chuck Junglas Review Writer 9 years ago
Wow... Wow.. Slow down people. First off while Molyneux has certainly over promised and under delievered in his games. His games are still top notch. Especially the Fable series. Think how long it has been since Natal has been revealed. Lag issues were present during this time, do you think MS wasn't refining the process?

Hardware goes through lots of enhancements up until launch. Holy crap imagine if the first time they unviel a new system they don't change anything during the rest of the development? We would have some pretty crappy next gen systems right now.

It is announced to have a huge presence at E3. So let's give Molyneux and Microsoft their due and let the product speak for itself.

You know it's not like your going to have a Sony man come out and talk crap about their wiggle wand (or whatever). So at E3 we will not only get to see how far MS has delt with the lag issue and what AAA games they have managed to land for this new and only controllerless experience.

E3 will be a make or break for the Natal hype machine. I am predicted MS will come to play with it's "A" game.
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Pete Thompson Editor 9 years ago
Im looking forward to both Natal and Fable III, and what company (or employee chosen to speak on behalf of their employer) hasn't ever bigged themselves or their latest product up? it's all part and parcel of almost every industry..

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pete Thompson on 12th March 2010 12:32pm

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Johan Ekblom9 years ago
I read somewhere that Natal flopped properly, someone would demonstrate and were dressed in black and it had just not worked. He had been asked to take off the black sweater. And it had still not worked. It'll be a real flop, when it seems to add correctly. Sony makes enough to emulate the Wii in many terms, so there are easier for third party developers.
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