Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Next Generation of Gaming

It is amazing how far the visuals in video games have come over the past 50 or so years.
1961 - Spacewar!
2012 - Halo 4
So, here's a look at the game engines that some of the games of the next generation will be using.

Though technically run on the Playstation 3, the tech demo Kara is developer Quantic Dream's (Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls) attempt to show how modern game engines allow them to create much more expressive characters.  Quantic Dream's games are largely plot centered games, almost like interactive movies.  They need to reproduce realistic facial expressions in order to strengthen the emotional appeal of their characters.  Kara is an intriguing short story about an android (a robot built to resemble a human) that gains sentience.

On the more tech heavy side, Epic Games has shown of their Unreal Engine 4 in the Elemental Cinematic tech demo.  For this engine Epic Games concentrated on something that remains particularly difficult to achieve, particle effects.  In particular, things like snow, rain, fire, and smoke can be particularly hard to produce because in the real world they all involve lots of extremely small pieces.  As a result, in most games none of these effects actually physically react with their surroundings.  Epic Games however, has managed to reproduce the real world behavior of light in their engine.

The final tech demo is Agni's Philosophy.  This is a real time tech demo shown by Square Enix to demonstrate the technology they will be using in their Final Fantasy games, games famous for their long cinematic.  One of the focuses of Square Enix was to get the characters' hair to look realistic, another issue that is particularly challenging for video games due to the numerous, individually moving pieces.

The incredible detail in these demos makes me wonder, how long until we cross the uncanny valley?

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