previews\ Apr 15, 2014 at 10:40 am

PAX East 2014: There Came an Echo is voice control done right


Many have tried, but few have succeeded in effectively utilizing voice commands in video games. So it's understandable if you're a little skeptical when you hear that There Came an Echo is being built from the ground up with voice command gameplay in mind. Here's the thing though, it actually works.

At PAX East this weekend, I was able to get some hands-on time with the newly crowdfunded project, featuring the voice of Wil Wheaten, and I'm now a believer. Though my time with the game was limited I was able to play a brief demo that effectively showcased the game's voice control functionality.

I was first brought into a sound-proofed booth -- about double the size of a phone booth -- where I put on a headset and learned the basic commands to control my troops. It works like this: locations you can run to on the map are labeled with coordinates (A1, A2, B1, B2). Commands like "Corinn move to alpha 1" worked flawlessly, moving the character to the A1 point on the map.  Iridium Studios' CEO Jason Wishnov explained to me that each character names and action commands can all be customized to whatever the player wants. I changed Corinn's name to "Lance" and lo-and-behold, it still worked. My only gripe was that the actual name above the character didn't change, which could make remembering the name you changed it to difficult.

Of course, this was in a mostly sound-proofed booth. So I went to the show floor to test the game's functionality in the open space of PAX and the microphone still picked up my commands without a hitch. I literally played the entire training tutorial of the game's story without having to place a finger on the controller, but that's not to say I couldn't. Wishnov told me that the goal with There Came an Echo is to create a fun strategy game first and foremost. To that end, you can choose to play the game with voice commands and/or a controller. It doesn't look like you'll need one though.

It's important to note, however, that I demo'd the game using a microphone. With There Came an Echo coming to Xbox One and PS4, there's also the option to use the Kinect and PlayStation Camera. Unfortunately, the game wasn't playable at the show with the Kinect and Wishnov told me that they've yet to really work with the PlayStation Camera due to some technical reasons.

Granted what I saw was limited in nature, but it certainly does look like Iridium Studios is on the right track. There Came an Echo is due out for PC first, and coming to consoles shortly after.

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