Would you like to learn to fly? Would ya? Would you like to see me try?” (One of my turns, Pink Floyd)

On February 2012, a Kinect application was needed to be included at Globant Labs’ stand in TEC La Plata on April. So came the idea of making a game where the user could fly.

Kinect is a new step in input devices. However, it doesn’t come without its flaws. Mainly, those actions it attempts to imitate (for instance, running, wielding a sword, handling tools, etc.) usually differ from their real execution. The difference between making the movements in the air and actually making those actions make Kinect’s interaction similar enough to reality to feel like a step forwards and different enough to feel unsettling. This is why the people in ExtraCredits(1) refer to it as “the Uncanny Valley of input devices”(2).

Sama is a game prototype made by Labs. Despite its need of further development and polishing, its mechanics don’t try to mimic real actions, but only imaginary actions.

It is played in the first person perspective. The user is placed in the role of a superhero. This superhero has several abilities. Mainly, flying and casting energy balls. There are some towers made out of bricks which will be wrecked to pieces if the player flies through them or shoots energy balls on them. The player may also irradiate energy outwards (pushing away all objects around him/her) and teleport between the planets on the stage.

The game’s success in TEC La Plata was a kickstart for a second development stage. As it kept being upgraded, other events took place and Sama was included in them.

Finally, the game’s third version was destined to Tecnópolis, in July. During the opening ceremony, the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, tested Sama for a few seconds on live television.

Being as it is, a prototype, it is not viable as a sellable product, but thanks to that, it can allow itself to work as a game in a purer way. The player doesn’t have an actual goal that determines wether he/she wins or looses. There isn’t a story to follow or an antagonist to defeat; only superpowers to enjoy and destructible objects to use them on. Once the towers are destroyed, the bricks respond to the gravity of the planets, thus creating at some point a strange asteroid field. The time comes when the player may want to run a command that rebuilds all the towers to start over again. That’s all it is.

When the immersion works properly, the player is filled with a strong sensation of a great power within, and this makes the experience very gratifying.

Sama was created and mainly developed by Damián Flores. Along the months, Sama’s development had the collaboration of Lucas Daniel Fares, Maximiliano Carrión, Esteban Newton, Javier Ausfet, Leonardo Marcarián, Martín Gómez Marredo, Alejandro Pérez, Celeste Maldonado, Alejandro Moreno, Héctor Pohl and Luis Salem.

It was developed in Unity3D, and it uses OpenNI, a library which allows Unity to get its input from Kinect.

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  1. Very interesting framework.
    A while back I was playing around with openCV (camera vision) and Kinect to get 3D spatial data out from the stereoscopic camera!
    Today this is the most interesting field in computing science, since we have enough computing power to implement the learning algorithms which aren’t that old either, so it’s all about to happen !