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Game Developers' Quest To Cross the Uncanny Valley

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the photorealism-is-a-surrogate-for-gameplay dept.

Graphics 134

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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Aki Ross (4, Funny)

TWX (665546) | about 8 months ago | (#46246343)

I still have a bunch of posters from when Aki Ross made the Hot 100, in Maxim all those years ago.

Some day I'll be able to sell them for tens of dollars!

Re:Aki Ross (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 8 months ago | (#46247459)

Mori “hypothesized that a person’s response to a humanlike robot would abruptly shift from empathy to revulsion as it approached, but failed to attain, a lifelike appearance,”

Obviously Maxim fails to even approach a lifelike appearance with their models.

Re:Aki Ross (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247949)

Nobody's looking at their models' faces.

Citation Needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246347)

'and narrative-driven adventures can seem more like interactive movies than games'

Citation Needed

Re:Citation Needed (2)

emj (15659) | about 8 months ago | (#46246513)

'and narrative-driven adventures can seem more like interactive movies than games'

Citation Needed

You can watch The last of us [youtube.com] as a movie instead of playing it. It's 4-7 hours depending on how much gameplay there is I guess. But live streaming or editing your game sessions is big business now, so I guess it might just be a shift in what is considerd entertainment.

"I make videos of me doing stuff, so you don't have to!" - Washington.

Re:Citation Needed (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#46246713)

Perhaps more importantly, why would the category 'interactive movie' even get to exist when the category 'game' already does?

I realize that movies (sorry, 'Films') are High Art while 'games' are arcade trash and murder simulators for maladjusted children, so maybe this is an attack-by-superior-culture-cred; but if one looks past that, I'm not certain why a medium that has always been non-interactive (even theatre, while it often doesn't choose to use them, recognizes 'breaking the fourth wall' and audience interaction as potential elements of a piece), would be entitled to branch out into an area built by game devs.

Re:Citation Needed (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#46246853)

Perhaps more importantly, why would the category 'interactive movie' even get to exist when the category 'game' already does?

I don't know if "interactive movie" is the correct term. But I think there is a difference between that and a game. I don't have time to play games like I did in my youth. But I did enjoy the Mass Effect series. I was surprised with the third Mass Effect game in that it had not only the typical easy, medium, and difficult settings. But it also had one in which you could go through all of the dialog but not have to shoot or do any of the things that typically make up a game. I think it's a significant difference from what I would consider a game.

In the past the story was usually a bunch of cine images that you wanted to skip through as quickly as possible so you could get down to shooting stuff. For me, this actually changed when I played Dues Ex. The game play was fun in that game. But all of the character interactions really made the game a lot of fun. Plus there was a ton of dialog that I found really interesting that didn't have any effect on the game play at all, but was just really in line with the story.

Two words: Heavy Rain (1)

VeryVito (807017) | about 8 months ago | (#46246955)

Henceforth, my default answer to this will always be "Go play Heavy Rain." I'm not a gamer, but Quantic Dream's interactive fiction is much closer to cinema than game, and yet the player is very much in control of what transpires throughout the process. The game/movie is mesmerizing and gut-wrenching (despite the infamous "SEAN! SEAN! SEAN!" glitch, which plays more like a blooper real for The Shining), but it's certainly not what most would consider "fun" or "gamelike."

It's enjoyable in a way all great art is, though -- and it also treads heavily on and across the uncanny valley.

what ? (1)

Fluffy the Destroyer (3459643) | about 8 months ago | (#46247013)

Movies are a representation of the people who works in it... Lots of movies aren't art...trust me. Also some actors are aware that a movie sucks big time, a big pile of trash as well but they still work in it cause they work with the movie with what they can.

Also, I don't see murder or arcade trash in simcity games ... you should be careful with what you say. Not every game has murder in them. thus making your statement about games being false.

To note, when a movie or tv show breaks the fourth wall, that becomes trash.

Re:Citation Needed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247035)

There is an annoying set of "games" that roughly consist of someone's short story with quicktime events to proceed. Instead of the somewhat mocked 'press square to win' action games with one easy tactic, this is the 'jiggle controller while rotating the analog stick to make soup' type.

I have watched 'play'thoughs of a couple of them, and they really are just crappy short stories with animation that demand activity from the 'player' at random moments to remind you 'this isn't a movie.'

On the other hand: 'Press X to Jason'

Re: Citation Needed (5, Insightful)

AudioEfex (637163) | about 8 months ago | (#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".

Re:Citation Needed (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 8 months ago | (#46249159)

The best games have all the elements that are not essential to game play abstracted away so they don't distract the players. Like Chess, or Go. Increased realism detracts from game play.

no need (1)

Fluffy the Destroyer (3459643) | about 8 months ago | (#46246925)

You just need to play a narrative-driven adventure game to have a feeling of a movie like experience. Think of most point and click adventure game. You click and you let your character do the movement and most of the time in adventure games you got cutscenes to accompany it. Not only adventure games but action games and theres one in the metal gear series that seriously felt like a movie which is the third or fourth one on the PS console.

Re:Citation Needed (2)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#46247083)

Bioshock infinite. It was more compelling and entertaining than most movies on screen

Re: Citation Needed (2)

Number42 (3443229) | about 8 months ago | (#46247589)

But it had a lot of gamy-ness. "Interactive Movie" is most often used to refer to games that involve little gameplay.

Re: Citation Needed (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#46248725)

Disagree. What op meant was video games that offer a sweeping cinematic experience, often moreso than many movies. Many Hollywood starlets are stuck in the uncanny valley as well.

Re:Citation Needed (1)

Slider451 (514881) | about 8 months ago | (#46248567)

"Too much fighting" was a frequent complaint against Bioshock Infinite. People loved the story but had to wade through hundreds of bad guys to advance.

If they had an "Interactive Fiction" mode like Mass Effect 3, the game could have appealed to a much wider audience than the FPS crowd.

Granted you can watch it on YouTube to get around the fighting, but that's very interactive.

Re:Citation Needed (1)

Slider451 (514881) | about 8 months ago | (#46248583)

NOT very interactive.

bleh.

Well, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246375)

If beta is any indication. It is impossible to cross.

Before crossing the uncanny valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246423)

Any evidence about the uncanny valley hypothesis? I'm genuinely interested because I've read about the hypothesis but have never seen anyone discussing the evidences for this hypothesis.

Re:Before crossing the uncanny valley (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 8 months ago | (#46248901)

well, it's in your mind. ..I mean, fuck, just look at the final fantasy movie. though you could just argue that its shitty model making.

which is what uncanny valley ultimately is, no artistic talent so you just make "realistic" shit.

personally, if its good stuff I don't care if it's animated in stick figures. one of my favorite games ever, from art standpoint, is interstate '76, and its anything but realistic in its cutscene and game graphics, but dang it works. and in a game its friggin frustrating if the graphics are lifelike but due to that you can not then do anything in the game - that makes you feel like youre rewinding and forwarding a vhs tape.. and not playing a game.

Fool's Quest (3, Insightful)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 8 months ago | (#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.

Re:Fool's Quest (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 8 months ago | (#46246963)

Exactly. With a few exceptions he games that I get the most enjoyment out of are the ones that don't look like real life. Games don't have to look real to be fun. Some games may benefit, like sports games, but even in those kinds of games it's not that important after you reach a certain level.

Re:Fool's Quest (2)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 8 months ago | (#46247041)

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

By whose definition, exactly? If the game designer/developer desires to make something that looks closer to reality, they're more than welcome to. That's the thing about art: you do what you want, not what some random Slashdot commenter says you should be doing.

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

Wrong comparison. A better comparison would be synthesizers, which have evolved ever closer to reproducing actual instruments. Many people have lauded them as being heralds of a new age, where people could produce music without requiring expensive recording and mixing equipment. Are you saying that they're also wrong for not following your extremely narrow point of view?

Even better: striving for more realism isn't mutually exclusive with striving for more stylized renditions! Just look at Pixar's movies: they've kept their own style and their art is very far from realistic, but they've most certainly leveraged the latest advances in light transport, materials, filtering, particle effects and much more.

Comment Title (1, Troll)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 8 months ago | (#46247187)

I think you've confused "Games" with "GPU / Graphics Rendering."

Re:Comment Title (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 8 months ago | (#46247285)

Not really. A lot of techniques first done in movies trickle down in games as graphics horsepower increases. Games are inextricably tied to graphics rendering.

Re:Comment Title (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 8 months ago | (#46247745)

Games are inextricably tied to graphics rendering. <- FAIL

Re:Comment Title (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247997)

Yeah, because the graphics in "Colossal Cave" were fantastic!

Re:Fool's Quest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46249607)

Wrong comparison. A better comparison would be synthesizers, which have evolved ever closer to reproducing actual instruments. Many people have lauded them as being heralds of a new age, where people could produce music without requiring expensive recording and mixing equipment.

More like without expensive musicians. I bought an 8 track digital recorder (expandable to 32 tracks with ADAT), for less than my last notebook computer. At $199/mic (say a Shure SM100 + stand), I could record an entire orchestra for $10k. In fact most orchestras are recorded with a single pair of mics and a 2 track recorder (~$3k total, you want to use top shelf mics).

So that is the equipment cost, and it can be reused from session to session. I would hazard (though I have no experience with this) that hiring an orchestra for one day would cost around $30k (guesstimate: $1000/day * 30 musicians).

Even the cost of instruments, which dwarves the cost of a recording channel, is dwarved by the cost of instrumentalists.

Re:Fool's Quest (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 8 months ago | (#46248579)

Well it depends on your games style and medium.

Not all games would be simulation of reality, cartoons, or other odd characters really help get the point across.

However there are other games that would prefer more realism, and they want you to believe that you are in the game, as opposed to watching it. So you would want far more realism and break the Uncanny Valley.
Right now for more realistic stuff, it is usually in the form of cut scenes with live action actors, however that doesn't really help the game, as it forces you to follow a particular chain of events.

Beta games (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246445)

Beta is ruining the industry. F-word beta.

realism doesnt improve gameplay (3, Insightful)

johnrpenner (40054) | about 8 months ago | (#46246451)

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

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246667)

pac man was a hit without all the fancy graphics

Pacman? That had fancy graphics!

Rogue was a hit without all the fancy graphics.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246795)

dwarf fortress doesn't have fancy graphics.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246837)

dwarf fortress doesn't have fancy graphics.

In comparison to Rogue, it does.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246915)

Rogue? That had fancy character-based graphics!

Colossal Cave Adventure was a hit without all the fancy graphics.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (1)

Holi (250190) | about 8 months ago | (#46248505)

Who needs graphics? Fancy or otherwise, Zork FTW

Re:Classic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46248861)

PONG

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246761)

Absolutely. I challenge anyone to find a more compelling story in modern games than pac man.
The guy's just minding his own business eating a nice dinner of pellets & fruit when he's senselessly attacked by a gang of ghosts.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246881)

Pac-Man with cutscenes about blithering on about something-something Moderne Worf Air I wasn't listening, and quicktime events when ghosts get too close

PRESS (A) TO WIN ...but there's no button, only a joystick

PRESS (A) TO WIN

Coming Fall 2015...
PM: GHOSTS

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 8 months ago | (#46248151)

Isn't he supposed to be in the sewers, collecting the discarded balls from the pong players above. The ghosts are their guards, because even though they don't care about the balls they can't stand the thought of lower classes taking their stuff.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246841)

Now that's a bit unfair... it's like saying that remember "how that boiled meat with no salt was a hit" when noone had anything to eat? In a starved market pac man was a hit, would it be today? It didn't really have great "story" or gameplay (that's more arguable). However, I agree with a poster saying that games are not meant to replicate real life, same as music is not meant to replicate nature sounds. :)

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (2)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 8 months ago | (#46248169)

Well, Flappy Bird was pretty popular, and it had even less story than Pac Man.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (3, Interesting)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 8 months ago | (#46247297)

pac man was a hit without all the fancy graphics

So is flappy bird. But to compare it to, say, The Last of Us would be bordering on the ridiculous; they are completely different types of games.

we forget that all those perfect pixels doesnt improve the story nor the gameplay

While they might not improve story or gameplay, they may improve the experience. Take any reasonably modern game with 'perfect pixels', and force it to be completely lighting and texture-less - I doubt it would be quite as good. That isn't to say that those 'perfect pixels' are the game's only saving grace - or that there aren't titles produced that are complete turds despite all the graphical polish they receive - but the fact that those 'perfect pixels' can be used does allow game designers to make these games in ways they otherwise could not. They would have to make 'the next pac man' instead.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247447)

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

Uh, Pac Man was a hit when the only alternative was pong.

Bit harder of a challenge today.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 8 months ago | (#46248481)

There were a lot more alternatives to Pac Man in 1980. Pong was kind of old at the time and wouldn't have really been much competition.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 8 months ago | (#46248117)

There's also the case where the graphics can be incredible, but where we still don't imitate reality. And even if they have perfectly formed 3D objects, and global illumination, the landscape and beings could be totally alien.

agreed but... (1)

schlachter (862210) | about 8 months ago | (#46248373)

it does increase immersion...which makes different demands on our cognition than pac man or super mario.

Re:realism doesnt improve gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46248933)

One word: Pong

Uncanny valley using Super Mario as benchmark? (1)

fleabay (876971) | about 8 months ago | (#46246471)

"Nearly 30 years after Super Mario Bros., video game graphics have advanced to heights that once seemed impossible"

This should have been, "20 years after Doom......." in keeping with the subject. I don't think Super Mario ever had aspirations to be anything approaching realism.

Re:Uncanny valley using Super Mario as benchmark? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246505)

"I don't think Super Mario ever had aspirations to be anything approaching realism."

Indeed. Nobody in his right mind would employ an Italian as plumber.

Re:Uncanny valley using Super Mario as benchmark? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247511)

Indeed. Nobody in his right mind would employ an Italian.

FTFY

Re:Uncanny valley using Super Mario as benchmark? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 8 months ago | (#46246711)

I believe the point was to show the degree to which video game graphics had changed. Can you think of a popular game at the same time that had significantly better graphics than SMB? It likely wasn't the best, but is far more popular than other contemporaries.

Some games are stepping back from it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246577)

One game series that the developers seem to have stepped back from the uncanny valley is the Everquest franchise. EQ2 models originally started fairly near that valley, but the second set of models went with a slightly more anime-ish twist.

EQ:Next has gone the route of trading realism for being close to a 1950s Warner Bros. cartoon effect for their characters, thus being well out of the uncanny valley.

Cole Phelps gently slides down the Stairs (3, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | about 8 months ago | (#46246595)

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.

Re:Cole Phelps gently slides down the Stairs (4, Informative)

akozakie (633875) | about 8 months ago | (#46248641)

Ride a dragon? That's not at all what uncanny valley is about. This is strictly about things almost perfectly resembling humans. Riding a dragon will not cause this problem. Glitches in the physics engine... Maybe, depends. Something like a not-quite-anatomical pose. Or maybe timing glitches in movement sequence (Crispin Glover's character in Alice in Wonderland - intentional application of this).

In other words, this is a very strong but purely emotional reaction. It gets stronger as you get closer to reality. "Humans" from Shrek? No problem. Aki Ross, at least in motion? Definitely a problem. When it's at its strongest, you might actually have problems pointing out the imperfections that cause it. That's because they are not spotted by conscious reason.

Why is this distinction important? Most deviations from reality in entertainment are spotted by reason and easily covered by willing suspension of disbelief. If the entertainment is good, we will tolerate almost anything, if not, the deviations from reality will add to the list of critical comments. In short: "Yeah, it's BS, but it's fun!"

However, uncanny valley is a subconscious emotional reaction and willing suspension of disbelief does not make it subside. You may consider the movie/game/whatever really fun, but you still simply feel bad looking at it.

That's why it's a big problem for creators of "realistic" games. With simple models this feeling was not there. As models get better, consciously they seem more realistic, but "the body" starts telling us that something's wrong. So, only three solutions - stay away (keep human models imperfect enough), get it perfectly right (is it possible?) or... find a way to eliminate this problem.

hyper realism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246639)

Painting managed it centries ago and has taken it over the valley (see hyper realism)
Arguably films have managed it
Its only a matter of time (but that could be a very long time).

The only uncanny valley that revolts me is babies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246653)

Talking or singing or dancing babies...just don't.

The only talking, singing or dancing babies I can get behind are the muppet babies...

Re:The only uncanny valley that revolts me is babi (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 8 months ago | (#46247277)

Bet you love those E*TRADE commercials.
Or the one where the guy's car is a giant baby.
Or the Allstate commercial with the talking baby who complains about a talking mime.

Re:The only uncanny valley that revolts me is babi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247683)

Ha...I really can't remember what commercials use babies in that way...unfortunate for them. Unfortunately, for me, that means I can't actively avoid their products.

Thanks for the help, for at least some of them.

Civ5 and strategy games in general (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246799)

I'm not a big pc gamer myself, but when I do play on my computers, usually I play 4X strategy games. My biggest complaint about the genre is by far the difficulty. Civ5, for example is either too easy(anything bellow immortal) or just artificially difficulty(immortal and deity difficulties). When I play at those difficulties, I don't really play a game, I just follow an algorithm(build order, research focus, etc), and if I don't do that I will lose. And it's not only me. Let's Play videos on youtube are pretty much all the same as well. For me it's simply not fun anymore. Better AI is simply mandatory. I don't need photorealism, I don't need 3D, I don't need 4K, I don't need VR. Immersion comes from the gameplay. If the gameplay is flawed, no amount of eyecandy is gonna fix it.

Re:Civ5 and strategy games in general (2)

ildon (413912) | about 8 months ago | (#46247565)

When I play at those difficulties, I don't really play a game, I just follow an algorithm(build order, research focus, etc), and if I don't do that I will lose.

That is a game. It might not be the game you're looking for, but it's still a game. I'm not going to, e.g. tell professional StarCraft 2 players or speed runners for various games that they are not playing a game. They're just not playing a game I want to play, even if they're playing it in the exact same game engine with the same tools I am. Optimization, memorization, and execution are all "game" skills. For some people, a game isn't fun until they're maximizing those specific attributes, for others, the more important those attributes are to success the less fun the game is. But it's still a game.

As for "better AI", I think what you're really looking for is a strategy game with a human opponent.

Re:Civ5 and strategy games in general (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 8 months ago | (#46249315)

professional StarCraft 2 players

I still don't understand why those exist. It just feels so wrong.

(Yes, the literal answer is "marketing" I suppose)

UltraRealism is Hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46246805)

As an artist I know that passing the uncanny valley into the ultra realistic world is actually one of the most difficult tasks any artist can do, particularly if your attempting to do it consistently through say a film or game. In truth their seems to be only a small group of professional artists who can do such a thing consistently and they all exist of course at the highest pay grades. This is one "note the word one here," of the reasons why we get stylized works in animated films and video games is because its cheaper and easier to find artists who can pull it off.
Remember your working with a team of artists not just one to pull these animated works off.

This will take a long, long time (2)

Andrio (2580551) | about 8 months ago | (#46246823)

CGI humans in movies--pre-rendered by giant server farms for as long as it takes--still fall into the uncanny valley.

It'll be a long, long time before graphics can be rendered in real time with no uncanny valley. Although, with that said, humans still look fake enough to me in games that there is no uncanny valley. So I don't think it's a problem yet.

I don't think graphics really matter anymore, though. They're far from perfect, but 3D graphics have been "good enough" for a while now. There was a time that 3D graphics meant that hands had to be mittens with no individual fingers, and faces were just drawn on textures. Not anymore.

Re:This will take a long, long time (1)

neo-mkrey (948389) | about 8 months ago | (#46247201)

Look no further than young Flynn / Clu from TRON legacy as proof that the Uncanny Valley is alive and well.

Re: This will take a long, long time (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247495)

And Neo in The Matrix. Looked so lifelike in stills, but the lack of any facial movement killed all belief that he wasn't CG.

Re: This will take a long, long time (1)

tomlouie (264519) | about 8 months ago | (#46248179)

> And Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. Looked so lifelike in stills, but lack of any facial movement killed all belief that he wasn't CG.

FTFY

Re: This will take a long, long time (1)

CaseCrash (1120869) | about 8 months ago | (#46248335)

> And Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. Looked so lifelike in stills, but lack of any facial movement killed all belief that he wasn't CG.

FTFY

That was the joke

Re:This will take a long, long time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247731)

I sometimes wonder what's the point of trying to make realistic CGI humans. Wouldn't it be much cheaper and easier to just film a real person and edit them in?

Re:This will take a long, long time (1)

sysrammer (446839) | about 8 months ago | (#46248381)

No royalties

Re:Celebrities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46249023)

Adult Movie Business will layoff a lot of people when they could create real looking people

Reflectivity map... (1)

moosehooey (953907) | about 8 months ago | (#46247075)

In the same way that they have a bitmap (image) for the color of the surface, why don't they do a map for reflectivity? Real people and other things aren't uniformly reflective over the whole surface. That is why even raytraced stuff looks like plastic. Maybe someone has done it, but I've never seen it, even in movies where they have as much time as they need for raytracing.

Re:Reflectivity map... (1)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 8 months ago | (#46247373)

First Google result for Specular Map: "Specular maps are the maps you use to define a surface's shininess and highlight colour." Basically, every video game already does this. http://wiki.splashdamage.com/i... [splashdamage.com]

One of the best videos I've seen showing some of the problems was the original Nvidia Ira tech demo. They mention things like how skin doesn't just reflect light off the surface, but absorbs and defracts it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

Re:Reflectivity map... (1)

Shinobi (19308) | about 8 months ago | (#46247863)

Yeah, a specular map alone won't do anything. One of the techniques used to try and simulate skin is Subsurface Scattering http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

Need more Uncanny Valleys (3, Funny)

Nyder (754090) | about 8 months ago | (#46247121)

Being a male gamer, I can not get enough of uncanny valleys. The deeper the better, lots of bounce doesn't hurt. I remember my first glimpse of uncanny valleys in Custer's Revenge, but now with realistic graphics, I can finally enjoy uncanny valleys how they were meant to.

Re:Need more Uncanny Valleys (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 8 months ago | (#46248569)

Custer's Revenge. You lucky dog you.

Not such an issue for games (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about 8 months ago | (#46247213)

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.

Re:Not such an issue for games (1)

iMadeGhostzilla (1851560) | about 8 months ago | (#46247957)

I'd just add that the degree to which our brains can be fooled depends on the emotion we have invested in it. For years I haven't played any games after Half Life, and once I watched the gameplay of some to me uninteresting western game, "Red Dead Redemption", some poker playing character made some joke about his wife, and I had a clear realization that the computer is playing a WAV file on cue. I was a completely separate, objective observer of an audiovisual rendering machine. But then I watched Portal, with its teleporting thing invoking a slight dread from the HL days, and suddenly all that GladOS was saying was real. I had to fish for that feeling in my mind that can look at the game objectively for what it is.

So I'd say what makes something feel real is its ability to make us project into it. Graphics can help, but is only a part of it.

Re:Not such an issue for games (1)

sysrammer (446839) | about 8 months ago | (#46248457)

Interesting points. Fwiw, I enjoy both games, and my "immersion observations" are the reverse. I can immerse myself in the western, while Portal I find to be an interesting puzzle game with robots.

I wouldn't forgive me (2)

Miletos (1289588) | about 8 months ago | (#46247331)

From the article:
Ira isn’t an actual human being—he’s just a computer model—but you’d be forgiven for not being able to tell the difference.

Well...I wouldn't forgive me. You can tell by:
- The crazy amount of unnatural (colored) lighting used to hide low detail and/or too-uniform shading. Show me the same head model in a field on a cloudy day at 2pm in March
- The limited polygon count; look at the edges of his ear (which is a bit weird looking in itself btw)

Much more impressed by these, but they are pre-rendered:
http://www.cgtrader.com/blog/w... [cgtrader.com]
http://www.cgtrader.com/blog/w... [cgtrader.com]
http://www.3dtotal.com/index_g... [3dtotal.com]

Instead of unnatural lighting they have a lot of added skin detail (wrinkles, dirt) to hide too-uniform shading. There's a lot of detail / noise / subtle imperfections in real life you don't normally think about, but when it's not there you instantly notice it on a subconscious level.

Re:I wouldn't forgive me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247601)

Sometimes I have to wonder if some other people just have really bad vision or a bad prescription from their optometrist. My vision isn't perfect but I can always pick out a computer generated character from a real one.

Already crossed IMO (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 8 months ago | (#46247481)

Games already have ultra-realistic-looking characters that aren't creepy...Crysis series, Far Cry 3, DMC4/5...in fact I can't think of any games with Uncanny Valley characters. It's like they leapt straight across the valley at some point rather than trudging through...which kind of makes sense. We had motion capture tech before we had machines powerful enough to render ultra-realistic characters.

Re:Already crossed IMO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247609)

You must not have played Oblivion.

No need for a bridge. (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | about 8 months ago | (#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.

Re:No need for a bridge. (2)

QilessQi (2044624) | about 8 months ago | (#46248143)

This. In Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics" and "Making Comics" books, he talks about how human beings tend to identify more with a character when that character is less realistic in appearance. I can't remember the specifics, but IIRC this may be because the figure we see is overtly representational, so our unconscious is freed up from dealing with fine details and we can project ourselves into the character more easily.

The ultimate examples of this are stick figures and emoticons. We're fine-tuned to read faces, so all we really need to convey a human emotion is this: :-)

Many cartoonists also rely on techniques like caricature and exaggeration of important or distinguishing details. For example, the oversized eyes/mouths/heads in manga don't look wrong, because for human beings these are the most important features to attend to (take a look at many comics, and you'll see that heads and eyes especially are abnormally large when compared to the bodies).

If catering to Western tastes, attractive women are drawn lithe and curvy whereas men are large, stocky and angular, because these are simple exaggerations of the body differences between the sexes.

Which brings us back to your example of Disney and "Frozen". Elsa is beautiful (by Western standards), but a real woman with those facial proportions would look frighteningly wrong walking down the street. She's beautiful in part because (at some level) our brains understand that she's a caricature. But within that context, her face and movements are far more natural than the best CGI simulations of any "realistic" woman I've seen so far.

Re:No need for a bridge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46248757)

Elsa kinda looks like Devon Aoki but with bigger eyes. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm122... [imdb.com]

Re:No need for a bridge. (1)

sysrammer (446839) | about 8 months ago | (#46249211)

+1, excellent post, thx

Re:No need for a bridge. (1)

volmtech (769154) | about 8 months ago | (#46249587)

It's not just humans. My daughter is a hair dresser. She brought home a mannequin head with a full head of hair to practice on. Her husband mounted it on a pedestal so she could reach it easy. Later their miniature dachshund came in the room. When she saw it she went bat-shit insane attacking this disembodied head.

Any actual research? (1)

NeverWorker1 (1686452) | about 8 months ago | (#46247741)

The Uncanny Valley wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] lists very, very little research (one "study" was based on five monkeys; because n=5 is totally statistically significant). Perhaps we should determine in the uncanny valley is actually a thing before we start speculating about how to cross it.

I crossed the Uncanny Valley at Pong (1)

monk (1958) | about 8 months ago | (#46247817)

That left paddle was hot!

I love the beta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46247973)

The beta is awesome. The beta appears to make any post that says beta minus one. I'm testing the beta.

The summary is missing some new link (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 8 months ago | (#46247977)

http://www.shamusyoung.com/twe... [shamusyoung.com]

Just today Twenty Sided blogged about the "Uncanny Valley" in games when better AI makes the game feel more stupid.

Re:The summary is missing some new link (1)

sysrammer (446839) | about 8 months ago | (#46249331)

To save Slashdotter's time, here's the "blogged about" part.

"
This reminds me of the Uncanny Valley. Up to a certain point making the AI better and better makes the NPC seem more real, until they become too convincing and then their shortcomings suddenly become glaring and overshadow everything else.
"

The words "Uncanny Valley" are linked to the Wikipedia page. The blog is all about Skyrim, so all you 'Rimmers out there might like to check it out.

Not just a technological problem (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 8 months ago | (#46248093)

Most of the problem is artistic, not technological. We have more than enough horsepower to get photo-realistic rendering. At least as long as everything stays still - it's when things start to move that it all breaks down.

Particularly faces, but there are some games that look breathtaking in screenshots that look absolutely horrible once characters do anything beyond an idle animation (I'm looking at you, Skyrim). And plenty of games that manage to do good move animations and good facial animations don't do them both at once - everyone has to stand still to talk. And eye animations are very difficult, but very important if you want to cross the uncanny valley.

Much of it comes down to animators being trained mostly for non-interactive works, and game engines not being good at merging animations together or altering them dynamically (look at how feet clip through small ground obstacles). I think what is really needed are combined programmer-animators, who can write code to dynamically animate complex systems. Some games have done this in limited ways, but if you want to cross the valley completely, you need that extremely rare skillset combined in one person.

You can bypass all these problems by using prerendered cutscenes, but that makes it not exactly a "game" at that point, just movie snippets.

Of course, the other way to bypass it is by not aiming for photorealism. You don't even have to go as far as cel shading - Bioshock: Infinite certainly isn't aiming for photorealism (look at the eye-skull ratio and head-body ratio), but it also certainly isn't what I would call "cartoony".

Artists have found ways to cover up the things the coders can't do well - look at how many characters have something that covers their mouth or eyes. The good ones have always found ways to do this - Samus's massive shoulder orbs are partly to cover up how they couldn't get the complex shoulder joints to work right.

Re:Not just a technological problem (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 8 months ago | (#46248857)

(look at how feet clip through small ground obstacles)

It's far worse when they don't. http://www.youtube.com/watch?f... [youtube.com]

Re:Not just a technological problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46249565)

"...it's when things start to move that it all breaks down."

THIS.

I was going to post that what they can do is improve the animations rather then the models and textures. Really successful motion captured behaviors add so much.

The way the models run, idle, and stand, etc. No matter how good the face is, if the eyes don't blink or if there is no expression, you will be repulsed. And the reverse, even a poor model can have a lot of shortcomings overlooked with really good movement.

Canny (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 8 months ago | (#46248317)

I don't believe there is any video game that comes anywhere near the "uncanny valley".

It might happen some day, and I hope it does, but we're not even close yet.

In regard to the comments suggesting that games don't need to be realistic to be fun, I absolutely agree. But I've noticed lately that I really appreciate games that have realistic portrayal of light. So many games get this wrong. The world seems flat and claustrophobic instead of giving the feeling of space. I don't know why I'm noticing this more and more, but I find that the games I want to inhabit are the ones that have an expansive, open feel to them.

Great game idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46248495)

Great idea for a game! You have to cross the uncanny valley.
You start out and everybody looks like Mario or cartoon.
In the valley, things look almost human but are too menacing and you have to avoid them and find the secret path through.
Finally you get to good-looking people land.

The Walking Dead vs The Last of Us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46248503)

The Walking Dead and The Last of Us are interesting for how they take different approaches to the same kind of world. Both have the player control a middle aged man protecting a young girl as they journey through a ruined world infested with zombies and bad people. However, The Walking Dead has a watercolored look and more of a focus on decisions made through dialog, while The Last of Us has more realistic graphics and action focused gameplay.

I was impressed by how much better Walking Dead dealt with uncanny valley issues than most other games. Its graphical style avoids the question of photorealism and its well written and acted dialog tree, with combat not making the majority of the gameplay, makes the characters feel believable. I've played through the first season of Walking Dead but only seen videos of Last of Us. For those of you who've played both games, how would you compare them? Which set of characters did you empathize with more? How do their development budgets and schedules compare?

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