By Paul Hunter
I'd be hard pressed to come up with a better reason to own a Kinect for Xbox 360 than Harmonix's killer app, Dance Central. The music video game showcases perfectly the device's motion capabilities, allowing players to bend, twist and shake their hips to some of the most popular songs from the last three decades.
While the game is undeniably great, it did ship with minimal features, no tour mode and a limited collection of songs, at least compared to Harmonix's Rock Band series. Given that Kinect is a brand new technology, it's very likely that the developer spent much of the game's production time perfecting the tracking of players' dance moves, which explains the lack of extended features. Couple that with the fact that Harmonix's goal was to have Dance Central as a launch title for Kinect and the lack of features is understandable, if not forgivable.
A sequel to Dance Central seemed inevitable, so it's no surprise that CEO Alex Rigopulos stated last November that a follow-up is already in pre-production. Bullish on the future of the franchise, Rigopulos told MCV: "I think that Dance Central has an opportunity
to spark a phenomenon, much like the original Guitar Hero did."
Just this past week a new Microsoft Game Studios survey was obtained by Kotaku, and if the contents of the survey are accurate, it could hint at big improvements currently in consideration for Dance Central 2. Among the potential enhancements include improvements on the Break-It-Down mode allowing players to practice individual moves or individual recap sequences without having to practice the entire song. Harmomix is also considering easing the difficulty by including more easy songs and a loose filter mode that would score the player perfectly even if they were a little off on their dancing.
More significantly, the developer is also wondering if gamers would like to see a Sing Along mode that would display song lyrics on the screen and enable people not dancing to sing along. Multiplayer could also be greatly enhanced by allowing two dancers to compete simultaneously in the same room or online over Xbox Live.
It's good to see Harmonix investing significant interest in bolstering the features of this hot property, which is the smart thing to do considering that the music genre has been hit hard the last couple of years, resulting in the axing of the Guitar Hero franchise. If Dance Central is to thrive, innovation will surely be the key to attracting and retaining its fan base.
For the full list of considered new features for Dance Central 2, see below:
Custom dance crafting - Lets you choose individual dance moves and string them together into custom choreographed sequences.
Break-it Down Improvements
Individual move practice - Lets you practice a single dance move from any routine that's causing you difficulty without having to practice the entire song.
Repeat recap sequences - Lets you replay recap sequences in Break It Down. That is, you can practice specific dance sequences repeatedly. You would still have to practice the entire song.
Individual recap sequences - Lets you practice specific dance sequences from any routine without having to practice the entire song.
Improved feedback - The game will provide more specific feedback on what EXACTLY the player is not doing correctly. This may include arrows, text, auditory instructions or other feedback so players know how to correct their dancing.
Performance comparison - Lets you see a side-by-side video playback of your performance and the dance character's performance so you can see how your performance of the dance moves differed from the dance character's performance.
Easy song inclusion - Includes more songs that people new to Dance Central can play successfully.
Loose filters mode - Lets people flawlessly perform a move even if they are not perfectly accurate. This mode would be good for new players or at a party where greater participation is more important than mastering the moves.
On-screen lyrics - Lets you see the song lyrics on the TV while you're dancing.
Sing along - Lets people who are not dancing sing along to songs and score points for the person dancing.
Dance Central Store - Lets you preview and purchase additional content including new songs, news dance moves, character outfits and other items from the Dance Central game.
Voice control - Lets you use the voice commands to navigate menus such as selecting songs, selecting song difficulty, etc. Voice control will be implemented in addition to current gesture controls.
Dancer Character Customization
Build your own dancer - Lets you build your own character by choosing body shapes and features. This is similar to creating your avatar.
Customize your dancer - Lets you customize characters currently in the game by changing items such as clothing, jewelry, etc.
Song merging - Lets you easily import the songs from one version of Dance Central into another, so you don't have to switch between two discs.
Stop motion freestyle - Lets you see your freestyle played back in a series of photographs. This is how Dance Central currently shows freestyles.
Video freestyle - Lets you see your freestyle played back as a standard continuous video clip.
Non-photographic freestyle - Lets you see your freestyle played back as a silhouette or an other abstract version of yourself.
Copy-me freestyle - Lets you play a mini-game during the freestyle such as copying specific dance moves (like H-O-R-S-E for dancers)
Graphical freestyle - Lets you see your freestyle played back as abstract graphics or art work instead of any player representation.
No freestyle - Lets you continue dancing to choreographed dance moves without having to come up with your own dance moves.
Exporting pictures - Lets you export pictures taken during gameplay to your PC.
Exporting videos - Lets you export videos taken during gameplay to your PC.
Social Network picture sharing - Lets you export pictures taken during gameplay directly to social media networks such as Facebook.
Social network score sharing - Lets you post/share Dance Central scores through social media networks such as Facebook. You would also have the option to post an in-game photo of you or your character from when you earned that score.
In-game challenges - Lets you challenge your friends or the game can issue specific challenges to you. For example, challenge a friend for the highest score on a particular song or difficulty found within the game.
Downloadable content (DLC) challenges - Lets you challenge your friends or the game can issue specific challenges to you on content only available for purchase on-line.
Campaign mode - Follow a guided progression of dance challenges while working through the song list. Along the way you would earn rewards and unlock additional content (such as new characters, outfits, cinematics or songs)
Fitness mode - Lets you create customized workout playlists for continuous dancing (that is, without a break between songs). A calorie counter will also calculate calories burned within a song, playlist and across workouts.
Party mode - Lets you create customized party playlists for continuous music and dancing. This will include time between songs to allow players to switch. Additionally, achievements would not be scored during party mode.
2 player - Lets you play with a friend side by side simultaneously. You play together in a co-op game or against each other in a head to head dance battle.
2 player over Xbox Live Avatar - Lets you play online with a friend through Xbox Live. You and your friend will be able to see each other's Avatars performing the dance moves.
2 player over Xbox Live Silhouettes - Lets you play online with a friend through Xbox Live. You and your friend will be able to see silhouettes of each other performing the dance moves
Background dancing - Lets friends play behind the primary players as backup dancers. The performance of the backup dancers will help increase the number of points scored.
[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]