This generation has been an extremely interesting one when it comes to developers improving the graphics and overall visual fidelity of their games. Besides pushing out more polygons for character models, developers have been improving the core tech of what helps create the games like creating new motion capture and animation techniques. Back in the day motion capture was a fairly basic process that involved placing a few motion trackers on a performer and then using that movement to drive the game character. But these days we have motion capture that records the movement, face and audio at the same time to offer maximum detail in an individual’s performance.
These days the big thing on the motion capture front and general goals of developers is to improve the facial performance of a CG character. Games in the past have either suffered from featuring terrible facial performances or the dreaded mannequin syndrome in which a model will look good but does a terrible job at emoting. Games like Heavy Rain and Uncharted have made incredible strives at improving the emotion shown by CG characters and as of now L.A. Noire is the game to beat thanks to its unparalleled facial capture tech. But now we could have a battle at who does the best facial (not the type you’re thinking of though) as Alan Wake developer Remedy is touting the facial animation tech and graphical engine featured in its next game. I think everyone will agree that Alan Wake was a bit stiff when it came to the range of emotions the characters display but apparently Remedy has gone back to the drawing board and have gone as far to say that they could set the bar compared to what’s offered in L.A. Noire.
Remedy’s new facial rendering system supposedly allows for nuanced performances that also allows details such as a system that simulates blood flow on a person’s face. Remedy’s new system also allows its developers to adjust expressions captured by an actor – all in real-time. The results of Remedy’s hard work and technical know-how of course haven’t been made public and the company hasn’t even commented as to which game the tech will make its debut in. Though I’ll take a guess and say that Remedy will likely debut their new tech with expanding the emotional range of realism of a CG character in Alan Wake 2, which while not officially announced is likely to be in production right now.
It’s nice to see that developers are keen on expanding the visual detail found in the fidelity of human CG characters, but I’m going to remain cautious about what Remedy has in store of us. I don’t doubt the talent behind the folks at Remedy, but as of now it seems like there’s a massive pissing contest between Team Bondi/Rockstar, Quantic Dream (David Cage isn’t impressed by L.A. Noire) and Remedy about who can do the best facial animation. I’m happy to see developers strive to be the best but at the end of the day they better back up what they say otherwise gamers won’t be impressed at all.