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GoatLord

When games finally become 100% photorealistic

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If you're anything like me, then you grew up during the transition from games with crude, blocky, untextured environments to the astoundingly detailed worlds we see now. Games like L.A. Noir have proved that in some cases, certain aspects of the video game world have very nearly surpassed Hollywood's special effects, as the facial expressions in that game are more convincing than the CG in most contemporary films. Meanwhile, the Unreal Engine 3: Official Samaritan Demo represents a level of real-time detail that is nearly unbelievable.

But it'll take another two decades at least to smooth out the remaining wrinkles--the inevitable limits of textural detail, the angularity of polygons, the accuracy of physics, the propagation of light, limited environmental interaction, etc. Call me an eternal optimist, but I think fully convincing real-time photorealism is possible, even if it doesn't yet exist in the movies, and it will be here in a matter of years. How will we be affected, mentally? Will we even be affected, since the change will be so gradual?

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If LA Noire taught me anything, its that I can't read peoples faces easily :p Still, it was amusing to recognise actors. I find it hard going back to other games and watching their wooden faces and poor animations.

I think one day we can get there (ignoring Armageddon), but Im not sure computers will ever be suffiecient to replicate the sheer enormity/complexity of our world. Perhaps they will figure out how to hijack our brains to do the rendering/simulations. Thats a level of immersion that scares me.

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Planky said:

Perhaps they will figure out how to hijack our brains to do the rendering/simulations. Thats a level of immersion that scares me.

The question is: will virtual sex be as cool as its real counterpart?

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K!r4 said:

The question is: will virtual sex be as cool as its real counterpart?


No STDs, not having to care for whatever fetishes your partner might have that you don't like while being able to fully indulge in yours, not hurting yourself physically, being able to do it at will... If it's done well, about the only disadvantage would be the lack of an emotional connection. Then again you've got these guys marrying their realdolls or video game characters, so hey.

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We can conclude that everyone will have a brain implant once it's available then.

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Planky said:

Perhaps they will figure out how to hijack our brains to do the rendering/simulations.

If a human brain is capable of that, so is a computer, even if computers may not be at that level yet.

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Video games are never going to be 100% photorealistic. They're still not even 1% photorealistic. Stop with the myth that video games are on some kind of trendline approaching something that can be confused with real life. They're on a trendline toward smooth, static 3D cartoons and little more.

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Frankly, I'd rather not have games require a 10 year dev cycle because of the art assets requiring perfection. Christ, we're not even that far off today.

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AndrewB said:

Video games are never going to be 100% photorealistic. They're still not even 1% photorealistic. Stop with the myth that video games are on some kind of trendline approaching something that can be confused with real life. They're on a trendline toward smooth, static 3D cartoons and little more.


Not even 1%? Isn't that a bit harsh? Look at the progression from say, 1990 to 2010. The level of detail has increased at a frightening rate. Do you really think that years from now, we'll have barely progressed any further? I don't think enough people look back at the past to see how quickly the complexity of 3D rendering has evolved.

Quast said:

Frankly, I'd rather not have games require a 10 year dev cycle because of the art assets requiring perfection. Christ, we're not even that far off today.


With hard drive/memory capacity and clockspeed continually increasing, as well as the increased use of procedurally generated content, I think we'll see a gradual decrease in development cycles.

Planky said:

Perhaps they will figure out how to hijack our brains to do the rendering/simulations. Thats a level of immersion that scares me.


I like this idea a lot, even if it Matrix-y. Humans produce energy and there's no reason we can't figure out how to harness it the way you're describing.

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As it is, devs are putting way to much time and effort into graphics than they are game play. Games today look great, but the they are short, overly simplistic, and provide little incentive to replay.

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True, but we're not talking about that. I'm just as jaded from modern games as many of you are. In fact, other than a few key franchises, I only get excited about new games because of new levels of visual detail.

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I wish videogames went back to a way to escape reality and play in a new, different one, rather than trying to emulate the current one that really blows.

I'm tired of current games that look and feel and try to be movies. I want games that look and feel and try to be games.

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GoatLord said:

Yeah I know, but we're not talking about...eh, forget it.


Well the problem isn't the graphics, it's everything that comes along with looking like a real-life scene. With a cartoon-like environment (such as TF2 for example) developers can get away with not having to implement a lot of subtle facial cues and movements on the characters and focus just on exaggerated expressions, movements, and the like. When you're focussing on realism, all of that has to shrink to just a barely noticeable level.

Plus, the engine has to play real to feel real. Polygons have no space, and the only way to check for bounds on models is math operations. Plus there's the fact that motion capture can only take you so far. There's nothing worse than me noticing that the "standing still" movement cycle in a character I'm controlling or looking at loops. Ditto goes with the engine trying to find "footing" for the character model and his foot/arms/hands go through the world. I see this on a consistent basis even with new games. Characters still move floaty during action scenes like 3D Movie Maker. I don't see that changing unless the engine calculates and monitors every single world collision going on at once.

And the characters are what really matter, not that the grass moves with the wind.

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GoatLord said:

How will we be affected, mentally? Will we even be affected, since the change will be so gradual?


It makes me think of Inception - how can you tell which one is the real reality? I think it would screw up a lot of people. I imagine you'd need a lot of mental conditioning or whilst being 100% photorealistic, making it obviously unrealistic reality...

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Okay, let me rephrase what I mean by "photorealism." Obviously, there will always be games that go for an abstract, cartoony, painterly or otherwise non-true-to-life look. When I say "photorealism," I mean that the game doesn't have the appearance of being rendered; no visible polygons, clipping, pop-up, missing or limited shadows, chunky textures, framerate issues, poor collision detection, you know, shit like that. The photorealism will come from seemingly endless detail and accurate physics.

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There already are/were "100% photorealistic" 2D/prerendered games even on the Amiga. I don't see why all this excitement.

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Maes said:

There already are/were "100% photorealistic" 2D/prerendered games even on the Amiga. I don't see why all this excitement.

Heh, yeah. Could we use Dark Seed as an example?

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Rendering methods are fine and all, but the animation department is lacking. Today's CGI people move with inhuman gracefulness and their various parts are a single mesh that gets stretched like putty. Likewise, fabrics move like they're underwater and made of the finest silk.

In real life, people move with tensing and relaxing muscles that twitch and jerk and are not very precise. Clothes are starched and stiff, and drape in odd ways.

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Maes said:

There already are/were "100% photorealistic" 2D/prerendered games even on the Amiga. I don't see why all this excitement.


And high-resolution sound!

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AndrewB said:

Video games are never going to be 100% photorealistic. They're still not even 1% photorealistic. Stop with the myth that video games are on some kind of trendline approaching something that can be confused with real life. They're on a trendline toward smooth, static 3D cartoons and little more.

I don't know... some special effects look pretty photorealistic, without being overly huge. For example, bumpmapping. I can see no difference between a real wall with spatial noise, lit from a direction, and a virtual one.

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Csonicgo said:

I wish videogames went back to a way to escape reality and play in a new, different one, rather than trying to emulate the current one that really blows.

I'm tired of current games that look and feel and try to be movies. I want games that look and feel and try to be games.

I want to say I agree with this and leave it at that, but then it depends on what kind of games we're talking about. Generally speaking sports and racing games benefit from increasingly photorealistic visuals and other aspects. Anyone who says such games from the 80's and 90's are better than current ones is deluded, or is at best is being stubborn and nostalgic and refuses to acknowledge how advancements in technology have resulted in better games of this genre(s).

Maes said:

There already are/were "100% photorealistic" 2D/prerendered games even on the Amiga. I don't see why all this excitement.

Heh.

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There's a lot of things people tend to forget to factor in. Actual realistic animation is one of the dealbreakers and it's still a tremendous challenge even the AAA devs are lagging behind on, in comparison to other graphical advances.

Then there's of course things like liquids behaving like actual liquids. Imagine a game where water behaves just like it would in real life. If you blow up a giant water tank it'll flood out everywhere realisticly. You can apply heat to evaporate it or cold to freeze it solid. Aside from just presentation it would also open up many new gameplay possibilities (the first game to utilize such tech would probably be centered around it in an awfully gimmicky way). Or glass cracking/breaking as it does irl, etc. I think we'll probably develop technology for that stuff before we solve the animation issue.

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In order for any kind of virtual reality to appear photorealistic you have to simulate everything a player could perceive with his eyes. Good luck doing that within the next 50 years!

Depending on how your game is designed, increasing the detail of the visuals can directly affect gameplay. I have to say Skyrim is the first RPG I've ever played where I felt my real visual deficiencies affecting the game in a realistic way. It became really hard for me to sneak up on those bandit fortresses because I simply couldn't see the bandits. My eyes were being misdirected by the same sorts of extraneous detail that causes me to suck at finding people in the real world. Fun stuff.

What's this nonsense about games being shorter? Games these days are too damn long. I don't finish half the games I play because I'm bored of them by the time I'm 2/3 through. Old games seemed longer to us because they were either ridiculously difficult (most arcade games) or we were very fascinated by them as kids. I have no idea why I'd play anything as long as I played Wolf3D in the 90s. I think it was a thing 12-year-olds do.

Some games do work well when they last for hundreds of hours. It's basically the point of games like Skyrim, Elite, WoW, etc. That still depends on the player, though. I'd rather spend six hours with an awesome game (Portal) than however many more it almost took me to pass something like BioShock.

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Aliotroph? said:
Depending on how your game is designed, increasing the detail of the visuals can directly affect gameplay. I have to say Skyrim is the first RPG I've ever played where I felt my real visual deficiencies affecting the game in a realistic way. It became really hard for me to sneak up on those bandit fortresses because I simply couldn't see the bandits. My eyes were being misdirected by the same sorts of extraneous detail that causes me to suck at finding people in the real world. Fun stuff.


Unreal Tournament 3 is this problem turned to 11.

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Aliotroph? said:

It became really hard for me to sneak up on those bandit fortresses because I simply couldn't see the bandits.

Yeah, it should be totally obvious where every enemy is because presenting the player with any kind of challenge besides button-mashing combat is out of the question.

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In the case of Skyrim, this is a part of the game play, or a "boon" if you will. Rather than an impediment of it. In the case of Unreal Tournament or in my case Quake. There are other things that are important to the game play, and then details become a detriment. Because immersion into the world as an actual place isn't part of the equation.

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Aliotroph? said:

Depending on how your game is designed, increasing the detail of the visuals can directly affect gameplay. I have to say Skyrim is the first RPG I've ever played where I felt my real visual deficiencies affecting the game in a realistic way. It became really hard for me to sneak up on those bandit fortresses because I simply couldn't see the bandits. My eyes were being misdirected by the same sorts of extraneous detail that causes me to suck at finding people in the real world. Fun stuff.

I also have trouble with that, but only because the "detail" is just stuff to obscure my view. In real life, I'd be able to adjust my focus to see through branches and undergrowth, for the most part. Also, I don't have the advantage of echolocation that I would in real life. There may as well be no sound at all in the game.

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When games finally become 100% photorealistic

I'll be pretty impressed if they ever get to this state. There's a lot of things that pose problems (including the amount of work needed to create these assets), but if they can be solved that would be interesting. I find it amusing how every generation, there are games that are given the "photorealistic" word in their description, and yet when you look at them from the future, they're anything but.

However, I would hate it if technological advances intended for more realistic graphics start interfering with stylistic games for some random reason. While realism works with certain games, stylistic things work out rather well with other games.

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