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PS4, Xbox One is a step towards getting out of the uncanny valley – Square’s tech boss

Wednesday, 17th July 2013 21:04 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Julien Merceron, Square Enix’s worldwide technology director, is striving to create visuals which aren’t mired in the uncanny valley, and to Merceron, this can be accomplished with natural animation and more responsive AI.

Speaking with GI International, Merceron feels it will be long while before a game “nails it” though.

“It’s our duty to make progress on this front in this generation,” he said. “If improved graphics aren’t combined with better animation, all these games are going to dive into the uncanny valley. So it’s possible around the launch timeframe that we won’t actually see huge improvements in graphics because the developers still have to sort out how they will approach animation.

“That generally takes more time than upgrading your rendering engine. I think the human eye is capable of seeing a lot of subtleties…static characters will look good very soon, animated non-interactive characters a bit later, and fully interactive characters could take time, especially for some types of games.

“That’s the thing with the uncanny valley – you have to think not only about emotions and facial movements, but at some point we need to have deeper AI. We need to be able to interact with the characters and then there’s a new dimension of complexity.”

Merceron feels the next generation of hardware will make this easier thanks to the architectures of the consoles and additional resources from a CPU and memory perspective; however, teams need to create “solid bases for designing NPCs,” from an animation perspective.

“[This includes] physics, procedural elements like cloth, hair, and also from a behavior perspective,” he said. “How can we interact as naturally as possible with virtual characters in a game?

“There are probably some interactions with NPCs that people will not be open to today, but we have to think about the type of experience that players want to have with NPCs. So when we think about AI, maybe today people are not ready to speak through the TV to a character in the game and have the character engaging the player in a conversation, but there are technologies that are starting to support this.

“Internally, we are setting up milestones of how we want our NPCs to evolve over time and we’re carefully watching the evolution around us to see when people will be ready for new interactions.”

It is an interesting read from a tech standpoint, and you can read more on it through the link.

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7 Comments

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  1. Cobra951

    There’s more to the so-called uncanny valley than that. In fact, making computer graphics too realistic brings it on more than poorer or more-cartoony graphics. The character of Gribble in Mars Needs Moms is a perfect example. Game consoles, even next gen, will not be able to reach that level of realism, and ironically, that’s a good thing. This video explains it well:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FczWEz7oGxM

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Stephany Nunneley

    I’m personally not too bothered over ultra realistic interpretations in games. If I want real life, I’ll go outside and talk to people.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Ireland Michael

    Square should probably focus on making fewer terrible games before investing more money into pretty graphics.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. MFBB

    I am with Stephany here, dont care about graphics as long as they are fitting for the game.

    But I really hope AI makes a big jump foward in the next years.

    Feels like nothing has been happening there since years.

    Enemies are still so damn stupid and limited in there action/response, also in there movement/strategy.

    Last game I noticed it extremy (with the very dumb AI) was Metro Last Light.

    Our single player games would be so much more fun with better AI.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. jmg24bad

    I always keep in mind. Ps3 / xbox360 level graphics wouldnt be bad if the AI in those games was vastly improved , and the worlds expanded upon

    #5 1 year ago
  6. sh4dow

    Hahaha I love that jab against Kristen Stewart that nobody seems to have noticed or found worth mentioning ;)

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Gigabomber

    The question is: will it make me think twice before shooting someone between the eyes in GTA VIII? Probably not, but maybe.

    #7 1 year ago