Look Ma, No Hands! Motion Controlled LOTRO

February 15, 2011

General

Motion gaming has been evolving over the last several years but for most of us the use of motion controls have been tied to console games. That means no playing our favorite PC MMO with the fancy motion controls – at least not easily.

When the Kinect hit the streets it was snatched up by both the online hacking community and universities (not unlike when the PS3 came onto the scene and research facilities began loading them up with Linux for various projects). For what it can, it’s a cheap device in comparison to other specialized pieces of hardware.

So what does this mean for gamers? This means awesome labs like the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, create software like FAAST that taps into the Kinect and harness its power for motion control on the computer.

What You Need

First and foremost, you need a computer, LOTRO, and a Kinect! If you purchased one of the newer Xbox 360′s that came with the Kinect you will have to purchase an additional Kinect USB adapter to plug it into the computer. If you purchased the standalone Kinect you have everything you need.

Aside from your computer and the Kinect, you need several pieces of software to get communication flowing between the two devices. The list below is taken directly from the FAAST site. Please be sure to visit for the most up to date software and driver recommendations. As of this writing the most current is FAAST version is 0.06.

There are five pieces of software total. These must be installed in order:

If you have difficulty getting your computer to work with the Kinect, try going through the FAQ, or check out the Technical Support Forum.

Configuring the Software

Now that your computer recognizes the Kinect plugged into it, it’s time to configure FAAST.

In the software there are three tabs:

  • Sensor tab –  You can choose your screen size and FPS here. Choose “connect” to connect FAAST to the Kinect
  • Skeleton tab – not useable in current (v. 0.06) FAAST version
  • Actions tab – where keybindings go and custom input files. You can save configurations from here or load from a text file.

The actions tab is where you will spend most of your time. This is where you can load pre-created files or type free-form in the text box any actions you want to perform.

[node] [degrees/velocity] key [key]

left_arm_forwards 20 key tab

The above action means that when the left arm is extended forwards at 20 degrees (basically pointing straight in front of you), the FAAST software will register that as the tab key. So if you have LOTRO running with this command, as soon as you point forward you will target the nearest enemy.

The FAAST website has a definitive list of all actions that FAAST recognizes. They have even begun to support mouse movements.

Once you have what feels like a decent set of commands to start with, its time to get ready to test those moves!

Calibration & Playing

In order for FAAST to know what is your hand and what is your knee, it needs to calibrate your skeleton. To do this, ensure that the FAAST is connect to the Kinect and choose “Start Input Emulation” on the actions tab. Now walk in front of your kinect and stand with your legs straight, arms out, and bent upward like the photo on the left.

Once FAAST has calibrated your skeleton simply click on the LOTRO window to make it the active window and away you go!

Here’s a short video of testing some motion controls. I apologize for the jerkiness of the video – my laptop started to have difficulty running the various applications at once.

Here’s a list of the actions I used. When creating your own keybindings file you can use the # symbol to comment out sections for easier reading.

#movement
left_arm_out 10 key a
left_arm_across 10 key d
left_foot_forwards 8 key w
left_foot_backwards 8 key s
jump 5 key space
#target
left_arm_forwards 20 key tab
#attacking with hotbar items
right_arm_forwards 20 key 1
right_arm_across 15 key 2
right_arm_out 15 key 3
#using extra action bars by combining keys
left_arm_down 20 key control
right_arm_forwards 20 key 1

First Impressions

After trying the Kinect and LOTRO together I got a better feel for what actions worked and which didn’t, so I was able to stop and start a few times. It’s not perfect, and ideally gaming would work well with a wireless mouse or some other pointer that would allow for looting mobs and collecting crafting materials. I did try a wired handheld mouse, but the Kinect was confused by the cord and wouldn’t register all the actions properly.

Pros

  • motion controlled gameplay
  • novel
  • fun for ranged characters

Cons

  • Kinect is sensitive; used a wired handheld mouse and easily confused it.
  • having difficulty getting feel for movement – easy to over compensate turning one way or another.
  • playing melee character a lot more frustrating than ranged – need to be in correct position. Diff for burglar or position based classes. Easier time w/ hunter

Next Steps

My next plan is to work a little further on the keybindings and check out FAAST’s mouse input support. I’d also like to try this more with a ranged character, such a hunter.

I’m also going to look into another program called KinEmote. It looks like it is motion controlled focused mainly on hand movement, so it may not be as versatile as FAAST.


Comments, suggestions, or questions? Send them to: orchida@casualstrolltomordor.com

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Avatar of Orchida

19 Responses to “Look Ma, No Hands! Motion Controlled LOTRO”

  1. Roger Edwards Says:

    It was only a matter of time…

    I’m very interested in this from a technical perspective as I work in the IT industry and enjoy such problem solving.

    However, motion control may well be a fun means to interact with the game in a social environment but I do not see this being of any practical use during a two hour plus raid.

    Reply

  2. Sierra Says:

    aaaaaahhh I just bought a Kinect must go home and try this out!!

    /calms down

    Love seeing this sort of development, though!

    Reply

  3. legotho Says:

    That’s a more interesting way to get me doing exercise than jogging with the Wii Fit!

    Although… an kinship chat last night did raise the question of whether Minstrels can work with Guitar Hero (etc) controllers.

    Reply

    • Avatar of Goldenstar
      Goldenstar Says:

      OMG that would be sweet! Hold on I need to find the riff for Ballad of Swiftness! *rocks out*

      Make it happen Orchida! Figure this out for me :D

      Reply

      • Alphaman Says:

        I would assume that if you wanted to take the effort, you could tie certain actions (using common guitar positions, and then figuring out your hand positions) to the different skills, and then use a guitar or just do air guitar for it.

        Just throwing out guesses obv, I haven’t used kinect so I don’t know if it can be tied to physical objects other than people (which would make the idea even easier)

        Reply

  4. Geraldorn Says:

    Looks pretty cool, but I’m gonna wait for the brain implant device.

    Reply

    • Isilwren Says:

      ROTFL!!@ Geraldorn’s comment

      I love this idea. I wonder if you did the archery movements with your arms if you could fire arrows that way – or sword slashing strikes to do different melee movements.
      Wouldn’t it be cool if you could jump and twirl in the air for some of the Champion movements too? I’d be all up for that!! Forget the “Y”, it’s time to join the “L”!

      Reply

    • Heron Says:

      Oh, you didn’t know we all have brain implaints already? The Gov’ment has been playing lotro through us for years… unless you wear the tin foil helm of protection like I do.

      Reply

  5. Ealdoac Says:

    Minstrel Hero! With exclusive Lute controller pack in. Great article

    Reply

  6. Fandraen Says:

    As a player with serious nerve and tendon issues, this sort of thing (and the droolworthy brain mouse, cannot wait until the price drops so I can play with it!) is exactly what I’m hoping the future will hold. Awesome to see that the future is starting to be now…

    Reply

  7. JPW Says:

    I have been playing around with LOTRO and a Kinect for several weeks now. It works fairly well except it is difficult to control small turns. I have requested features from the FAAST developer that would help with this. I’ll have to look over your bindings to see if yours are better. ;-)

    Reply

  8. LGS Says:

    I have been playing LOTRO in conection with a treadmill. I have used it around the Shire and and Trestlebridge. When going up hills I have been manualy increasing and decreasing the incline on the treadmill, It makes the terain very realistic. When one of you get the Kinect interface worked out for a melee type please leave the details here. I’ve started playing about 25% of my time in testing emersive interfaces. I tried LOTRO with 3D but was having problems with clickable button. The cursor and clickable items were on different depths. Really screws with the brain. :-)

    Reply

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