You've been developing with Kinect for over three years now - how do you find working with Kinect today?
"In working with Kinect, three years in we've learnt an incredible amount about the technology. I've always felt that the right way to address a new piece of technology is to address in its own terms, so find out what it's good at and not necessarily focus with your imagination on what it could possibly do, so as much focus on what it can do and then use that to make the best game possible.
"It's really been our strategy from the beginning. With Dance Central, we came out with the best menu systems and the most rigorous detection of any game out there - at least according to reviewers - so we're really proud of that. It didn't come easy; it was a slog and I'd say we went through maybe 10 or 12 different iterations of strategies for detecting dance, and what we finally arrived at was incredibly good."
"Over the course of Dance Central 2 we did a lot of improvements to that technology and coming on to Dance Central 3, we started to look at what can we do with this technology that is unique and innovative, that pushes the boundaries of what we tried before.
"So three years in we're finally feeling comfortable, saying, 'Okay, what's the way that we can use Kinect data to find out whether someone is dancing to the beat or not?' or, 'How can we use live Kinect data to develop a type of detection that we generally develop offline?' and so all the lessons that we've learnt have piled up in a great way to allow us the opportunity to build completely new game experiences.
"Three years in there's still a lot to learn and we're learning new things everyday, but we're able to take the type of things we have - like swipe gestures and all that type of stuff - and apply that to our new modes, apply that to new ways to interact and build a 'best-in-class' experience like we always have."
You're showcasing new modes that have new tech behind them. What usually comes first - the idea for the modes, or the technology and you then decide how do we use it?
"It tends to be a mix of both, so for example the flash card generation in Make Your Move, you're doing a move and you repeat it four times, and then we developed detection and a flash card then moves on the fly. That actually came from some tests we did where [we asked] what would it be like to marionette the dancers - and we were like, 'Actually no, this doesn't work, it's not right for the game'. But the core technology behind that allowed us to build those flash cards.
"So sometimes it's happy accidents, like we build it for [a] purpose and find a new way to use it. The groove detection was something that we considered doing with freestyling in Dance Central and Dance Central 2 but it was always a little bit frightening to go after - because how do you tell if someone they're dancing well or not?
"We always base our work on a lot of research and a lot of user interactions, so generally speaking I'd say the idea comes first - but the way that we end up pulling it off is dependant on previous technical innovations that we've made, and sometimes we have to build brand new tech for it.
"So the on-the-fly detection that we built for Make Your Move was just something we knew we had to make if we were going to a co-op mode... we took some of the lessons that we'd learnt from our core detection and said, 'How can we use this in a real-time fashion to make an awesome new mode that we let detect the dance on-the-fly', so it's sort of a mix of both.
"Sometimes we find technology. We have this thing where we can tell you're dancing well, we can tell that you're moving to the beat, but what should we do with that?
"And we had a bunch of different ideas; we had a sort of tug of war thing that you were dancing back and forth with, who is more on the beat, and that's not that fun. Then we ended up taking some things like the on-the-fly detection that we built for Make Your Move and put that in Keep the Beat, and added that copying mechanic.
"It's a very opportunistic way of looking at the things that we've built and saying, 'Here's the stuff we've built', like, 'Here's our LEGO set, how are we gonna put these bricks together?"
Here you've added story mode for the first time to Dance Central...
"In Dance Central 2we had Crew Challenge where you met these crews and they sort of said a few things to you, you danced through all the songs on the disc, then you had an epic boss battle with Dr Tan and he sort of had a significant cutscene, he gave you a long speech, you defeat him, you destroy his airship.
"He had robots that were learning all the dance moves of the crews or something. It was a more lightweight story and not a full-on campaign mode. This time around we went all the way, we invented the Dance Central Intelligence Agency and we make you an agent.
"You're gonna have to groove to go back in time, you're gonna go through each one of these eras and collect various moves that end up being assembled into a dance craze like the hustle or like the electric slide, and you're gonna use those against Dr Tan and, well... spoilers!"
It sounds like while the second game's story was silly, this one is even more so. Was it nice to let your hair down and make it wacky and fun?
"Yeah, I think there's something unnerving for a lot of people about having to get up in front of a screen and dance, or get up in front of their friends and dance, and so with our party modes and with our campaign it would be even more intimidating if we made it a very serious story. And honestly, I can't even really imagine what story of great severity we could tell around these awesome crews dancing!
"Granted, we have a lot of respect for the characters, we want to characterise them appropriately. But you know, dancing is ultimately something we people do to express joy most of the time, it's a fun thing, especially the type of dance we have in Dance Central.
"So as we're going after a campaign, we said, 'Let's go back in time because that will give us a way to authentically show these old dancers in their proper context; in a roller rink in the '70s wearing '70s garb, and contextualize it for players who maybe had their heyday in the seventies'. It'll be like, 'Hey this is awesome, it's just what it was like when I was a kid'.
"Or people who are in their teens now and have no idea what that was like. We've got plenty of reactions to that. We like the goofiness, we like the silliness, we like the light-heartedness, and it just fits our characters, it just fits our brand and it helps to balance the nerves I think people get when they get up and dance."
How would you describe the tracklisting this time around?
"I'd say it's a broader, more international track list than we've ever had before. I think that given the sort of era theme of the game that we have less contemporary songs than previously, but it's actually a very similar balance to Dance Central or Dance Central 2, it's just that rather than getting some interesting songs from the '70s or the '80s, we got the songs, we got 'The Hustle', we got 'YMCA', we got the electric slide [from 'Electric Boogie'], we got the 'Macarena', we got the big ones.
"Then with our contemporary songs, we really tried to go as global and international as possible. We see pop music getting increasingly international with things like K-pop becoming big across the world, the emergence of electronic dance music and its existence in all sorts of places.
"Hip-hop and electronic dance music are having a really strong merger in a lot of cases, and we really wanted to get hits that we knew were playing in clubs everywhere around the world when we went after our contemporary songs, so it has a very much global and international feel to the soundtrack."
You can import all of your songs from previous games, as well as DLC. Was there much work required to work with the new modes?
"Export is something that I think our fans have come to expect, and it's something that we love to offer because it's great to - especially with our party mode - throw a party and have 200 songs to choose from and be queuing those up in your SmartGlass experience.
"It's an awesome thing to offer, but it doesn't come for free. We do a lot of work to add all the new functionality and all the new features that we have to those songs. There's reactivity in the venues now for all the peak state rhythms, they move in a very particular way per song, it's new to Dance Central 3, so all of that sort of stuff has to be added to the previous content.
"We have song shortening in Party mode, so a standard Dance Central song is more like three minutes, if you're playing in party mode then you have full songs turned off - we had to offer song jumps, so we had to have a specific place where we would jump here, and we're gonna stitch these moves together to let this song be a minute and a half rather than three minutes or three and a half minutes.
"So all that stuff has to go in and we have to author that up. This time around we also said, 'If it's a '70s song, we're gonna put you in the roller rink', so we had to go in and categorise every previous song and say, 'This is a song of the '70s, this is a song of the '80s' and then build the technology to make that happen.
"So it's a labour of love, but people have invested in the franchise and we want to respect that investment and give every reason to be playing Dance Central 3 and make it the absolute best Dance Central ever, and you never need a reason to put Dance Central 2 back in your tray because you have all the content that you could possibly want, all the great experiences that you have previously, all accessible.
"That goes even to character outfits from Dance Central 2, so we're bringing over all those great outfits, in addition to brand new outfits and brand new crews."
It's amazing you could do that in one year. Did it require a dedicated team for that?
"We have an amazing authoring team, they're in charge of a whole number of things. One of the things they're in charge of is just making sure that all of the detection for every single move in the game is spot on, and as good as any other move.
"On top of that, they offer basically all of the legacy content to be compatible with these new features, and they do other creation for the sort of verbal cues that are in what was Break It Down - we're calling it Rehearse now - so you slow down a move and you have the verbal cues. It'll be like 'step right', 'arm down', that sort of thing. They make each one of those cues for every single move in the game, and we're talking about something around 10,000 moves at this point.
"They've had to make those moves specific, we call them verb barks internally but verbal cues [externally]. So they're an awesome team, they are four incredibly talented people and they are hugely dedicated to making sure that every single song is the highest quality experience that it possibly could be."
Rock Band Blitz had connectivity with Facebook and offered leaderboards. Have you tried to do anything like that here?
"So we have our SmartGlass experience and we will have a Facebook experience. It's very different from the Rock Band Blitz experience because we don't have a sort of coin economy or anything like that within Dance Central, but it will, it will allow you to do some pretty fun things. We haven't really made any announcements about it, but we will have a Facebook experience."
What SmartGlass functionality does Dance Central 3 offer?
"Within our SmartGlass experience you'll be able to basically be a party DJ in Party Time, so like a karaoke book but none of the annoyances of a karaoke book.
"So instead of a random piece of paper with numbers that you're typing in, you see your queue and you can search through all your songs and add those to the party queue.
"You'll also be able to edit playlists, name playlists - which is great because previously it was difficult to enter text into and access them, so you can name your playlist - you can go to fill a shopping cart with DLC, you'll be able to interact with our fitness features and our forthcoming online features which we'll be talking about later, and also see your Facebook profiles.
"We really felt like it was crazy to make gameplay happen on SmartGlass, because the game is really about dancing in your living room and we created so much awesome new gameplay, what we really want to do is give people access to a way to control their party without needing to interrupt people or grab a controller and get in front of the screen.
"You can do things like, you see your friend and, 'Oh, they can't play on hard', so go into your settings menu on SmartGlass, change it to easy and boom, they're playing on easy.
"There's lots of ways for you to manage your party and make sure people are having the best time possible and do so as simply as like checking a text message."
Dance Central 3 will be available exclusively for Kinect on Xbox 360 on October 16 in Europe and October 19 in North America.
Additional reporting by Amy Woodhouse