- "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" coming to the Kinect system
- Combat and casting magic will still be done through the handheld Xbox 360 controller
- The English version is expected to be released during the week of April 23
- Kinect lets players use voice commands to arm weapons and activate spells
Game developer Bethesda Softworks is ready to take role playing to the next level by adding voice commands via the Kinect controller to its wildly popular video game, "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim".
Skyrim, the second highest grossing game of 2011, takes players on an epic campaign as a warrior born with the blood and soul of a dragon. The game offers many adventures and quests, and players are free to roam and accept challenges as they wish.
The Kinect functionality in Skyrim will be available in five languages -- English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. The English version is expected to be released during the week of April 23 with the other versions following close behind.
Called "Project Adam," Bethesda began formulating the idea of merging Kinect's voice capabilities to "Skyrim" shortly after the game's release in November.
Pete Hines, vice president of marketing and public relations for Bethesda, told CNN.com in an exclusive interview before the official announcement that the developer wanted to add functionality that didn't exist in the original release.
"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 Kineck] you can use voice commands to do things very easily, to jump to different cities on the map," Hines said. "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."
Hines said the development team also wanted to enhance gameplay. Voice control naturally leant itself to "Shouts," special vocal powers that the players have access to in the game.
"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," he said. "You just say the Shout, and as long as you have the ability, your character will just use it on the fly."
Kinect will also let players use voice commands to arm weapons, activate spells and tell your companions what to do. The commands are designed to be intuitive, and Matt Barlow, general manager of Xbox Marketing, said Kinect support will add more than 200 voice commands to the game, providing a new level of access for fans that goes beyond the controller.
"Working closely with the talented team at Bethesda, they have done an amazing job of honoring the core gameplay functionality fans of "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" know and love and using Kinect for Xbox 360 voice control integration to complement and strengthen the core experience without changing the fundamental game mechanics," Barlow said.
While two other games ("Mass Effect 3" and "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13") also use the Kinect for voice control, Barlow said allowing players easy access to menus and inventories, and to quickly create and load saves during gameplay is unique to "Skyrim."
However, don't get the idea you'll be waving your arms around in front of Kinect as you fight a dragon. Combat and casting magic will still be done through the handheld Xbox 360 controller. But simple actions that could be done through menus will be available easier with the Kinect.
"(Totally replacing the handheld controller) would be a whole other can of worms," Hines said. "Doing combat and swinging your sword and all that stuff without a controller would dramatically change the game. We're trying to enhance the experience as we designed it with some additional functionality."
Hines said the Kinect functionality will be an update to the existing game that will automatically download when Bethesda is ready to release it sometime later this month. Players won't have to do anything to enable the voice commands and will have the option to turn the Kinect functionality off if they choose.
The idea to merge Kinect with Skyrim came from one of the game's designers after the its release last year. During a "game jam," where game designers are given a week to work on whatever they want as long as it is related to the title, Ricky Gonzales, a programmer on "Skyrim," came up with the idea of using voice commands to do things within the game.
"He deserves a lot of the credit for putting the time in to get it to work and then working with Microsoft on some of the extra bits that they helped us out with," Hines said.