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Uncharted 4 character faces animated with up to 500 "bones"

Uncharted 4 is going to push Naughty Dog's near-legendary motion capture and animation systems even further than before.


Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is Naughty Dog's first PS4 original; The Last of Us: Remastered was developed for PS3 and then upgraded. As such, it's going to give the developer a chance to really explore what the newer console is capable of.

Speaking to GamesTM, writer Josh Scherr and and lead designer Ricky Cambier said one of the upgrades the PS4 has enabled is much more detailed and flexible facial animation. For example, you'll be able to move the camera around as Nate climbs and see him grimace with effort.

“We’ve completely revamped our facial animation systems. The previous Uncharted games, and in The Last Of Us, the characters all had about 90 to 100 ‘bones’ in their faces which we used to moved the meshes around," Scherr explained.

"In The Last Of Us, the characters all had about 90 to 100 ‘bones’ in their faces. Think about that, about how detailed Joel and Ellie’s pained facial expressions were. Now, the faces have anywhere between 300 and 500 bones."

"Think about that, about how detailed Joel and Ellie’s pained facial expressions were, how well the game captured the respective actors’ – Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson – seminal roles. All that was achieved on the old tech.

“Now, the faces have anywhere between 300 and 500 bones.”

Naughty Dog hopes that increasing the level of fidelity and detail with allow players to empathise more with characters; it's not just a "technical marvel". Graphics-wise the developer is more concerned with setting moods than striving for photo-realism, and the power of the PS4 means the team can do a great deal more than ever before.

“On older games, some of the animations might have been sampled at 10 or 15 frames per second to save memory. That would have just been interpolated by our code [to run at 30 in-game]," Scherr said.

"While that looked fine, we can now afford to record it at 30 frames per second so that the animation looks that much smoother."

Cambier said the developer is "still trying to figure out exactly what we can do with" the PS4.

"It’s given us the opportunity to push the scale of the environment so you’ve got choices in the combat setups that are incredibly vast. So we can put that in when we want to," he said.

"There’s still times we’ll push the player into a very intimate combat space – if we want to layer on extra pressure for an escape sequence or something. It just gives us a wider variety of trees, density, variety, foliage, background environments and how vivid and detailed they are. It gives us all that to play with.”

The full article is a much lengthier discussion of Naughty Dog's approach to Uncharted 4 and PS4 development; go have a read.

Uncharted 4 is expected in the first half of 2016. It's going to be one of the PS4's most important exclusives, so expect Sony to go big on it at E3 2015.

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