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Graphics Games Technology

Game Developers' Quest To Cross the Uncanny Valley 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the photorealism-is-a-surrogate-for-gameplay dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Nearly 30 years after Super Mario Bros., video game graphics have advanced to heights that once seemed impossible. Modern sports games are fueled by motion capture of actual athletes, and narrative-driven adventures can seem more like interactive movies than games. But gaming's increasing realism brings a side effect — a game can now fall into the 'uncanny valley,' a term coined by robotics professor Masahiro Mori of the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1970. Jon Brodkin talked to game developers, engineers, motion scientists and a variety of other folks about the 'uncanny valley problem,' in which (some) people feel revolted when confronted by a robot or digital character that doesn't quite look real. In games where human-like characters are necessary, the uncanny valley can be an even bigger problem than in animated movies; gamers control characters rather than just watching them, creating more opportunities for the illusion of realism to falter. New and better tools can help developers and animators deal with some of these issues, but crossing the 'valley' successfully still remains a challenge. Or is crossing it even possible at all?"
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Game Developers' Quest To Cross the Uncanny Valley

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  • Fool's Quest (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binarylarry (1338699) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:00AM (#46246437)

    Games are not meant to be merely a simulation of reality.

    Is music an attempt to accurately recreate the sounds we hear in nature? No, that would be moronic.

    And then there's this guy.

  • by johnrpenner (40054) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:01AM (#46246451) Homepage

    in the hyper quest for realism — we forget that all those perfect pixels doesnt improve the story nor the gameplay.

    pac man was a hit without all the fancy graphics

  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:10AM (#46246595) Homepage

    So imagine you have super-realistic characters, then you have them do something impossible like ride a dragon or glitch out on the physics engine... no matter how many hours you put in making them look really Real all it takes is one fuckup and you find yourself staring up from the Uncanny Valley wondering what happened.

  • by Dan East (318230) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:59AM (#46247213) Homepage Journal

    In games where human-like characters are necessary, the uncanny valley can be an even bigger problem

    I disagree. The very fact that you have control over a character that you are watching is unnatural, and for me disconnects from "reality". That pretty much goes for anything else interactive as well. We know already know the actor in the game cannot be human because it behaves arbitrarily as commanded by the controls we are operating with our hand. Our brain can't be fooled by pure visuals, because we already have a far deeper realization of the truth (that it is not a real human) because it is interactive.

    When it comes to movies we are total observers, and the uncanny valley kicks in when we recognize that something is intended to look perfectly human, but our incredibly acute perception in identifying humans isn't fooled.

    We have now become so used to seeing CGI humans that it's more of a boolean flag when they are recognized as such - I simply have an awareness that what I'm seeing isn't an actual human. When that happens it is a distraction and reduces how immersed I am in the movie. I don't think of it as "spooky" or that I want to kill the fake human or something, but it is simply a realization - I get a glimpse of the man hiding behind the curtain pulling the strings. A perfect example: The big Matrix Reloaded fight scene. Some little switch in my brain kept going: Real. CGI. Real. CGI. Real. CGI. Kind of makes it hard to enjoy a movie.

  • by AudioEfex (637163) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:05PM (#46247273)

    You are looking a little too deeply into this in hopes of finding something offensive.

    "Interactive Movie" was actually traditionally used by the games industry back in the early days of digital video when they would incorporate it into a "game" but there wasn't enough game to actually call it a game, like Night Trap.

    In modern context, it simply means a game that is so realistic that it would be indistinguishable from a motion picture visually, if one could choose character actions during a motion picture. It's an aspirational goal of the game industry, not the film industry trying to hone in on the games industry.

    That said, the real issue with realism in games is that game developers keep pushing the envelope in the wrong direction. Even on the next gen systems (well, since they are out I suppose they are now current gen), they keep focusing on textures and increasing numbers of polygons on the screen instead of making what is there more realistic. I am always stunned when I see a brand new game and they STILL cannot get lip sync right. It doesn't matter how detailed the hairs on a characters head are if their lips don't move in sync with their voice.

    not about people being "revolted" because they sense something "wrong" on an unconscious level, it's that they spend so much time trying to increase resolutions and textures that they don't focus on what makes characters alive - how they move and how they react. It's not about making single frames look more realistic, it's how they work in motion which really hasn't improved in step with the "how many hairs or pores can we texture on to this character".

  • by westlake (615356) on Friday February 14, 2014 @12:25PM (#46247485)

    In games where human-like characters are necessary, the uncanny valley can be an even bigger problem than in animated movies

    In 3.38 seconds watch Disney bring a character to life. Disney's Frozen "Let It Go" Sequence Performed by Idina Menzel [youtube.com]

    This is how it's done and you don't need photo realism to do it.

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