It has taken me a while to review all of the cool things I saw at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the big game trade show in Los Angeles last month. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the cool tech gear that I saw at the show. I look at gaming from a tech point of view every year, and it always makes me feel good about the forward progress of both gadgetry and gameplay.
The consoles are certainly looking outstanding. The 3D animations of the newest blockbusters look spectacular. I’m particularly impressed with the realism of the human faces and bodies in upcoming games such as Sony’s Until Dawn, which is a horror game that debuts on the PlayStation 4 in August.
In Until Dawn, video game artists have created faces that look like the real thing. Supermassive Games uses motion capture and face capture technology that takes the acting performance of a real person and then overlays an animation on top of it.
The result is incredibly lifelike. The same goes for Naughty Dog’s depictions of characters like Nathan Drake, Sully, and Elena in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Those high-quality animations are just so much more compelling than the previous generation of video games.
Michael Mumbauer, director of visual arts at Sony’s North American game division, and Mark Sagar, director of the Laboratory for Animate Technologies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, gave an excellent talk on the subject at the most recent Game Developers Conference. They showed the first 15 minutes or so of Sony’s outstanding 2013 of video game, The Last of Us. That title was one of my favorite of all time, in part because that beginning scene was so compelling and emotional. But Mumbauer and Sagar underscored the importance of the realistic human animation by converting the scene to an 8-bit rendition with text-based dialogue. It just wasn’t compelling anymore. And that shows just how important the best visual and voice quality are to a scene.