New Technologies, New Experiences

Sean here again. Recently at my blog, Lucid Delusions, I did a recap of the games I’m looking forward to in 2011. My mini write up on L.A. Noire for my that post really got me thinking that I want to expand on my coverage of the game. However I realized there’s one part of that coverage that I wanted to dedicate a whole post to. Lately I’ve been trying to keep the talk on the blog a little casual but today we’re going to get a bit more technical. That is to say, this post is going to explore the new motion capture technologies that are driving forward today’s entertainment. Once again I’ll just warn you this will get a little technical but you’ll have a better understanding of the tech that’s powering the games you’re playing.

In my best of 2010 post I kinda gushed over one of the few PS3 games I played last year, Heavy Rain. While the finished product didn’t look exactly like the cutting edge graphics from Sony’s infamous E3 2005 video, they came pretty damn close. Quantic Dream may have just released the game last year but about four years ago at E3 2006 they released a tech demo that showed off just what their new motion capture technology was capable of. Not only could they do full body capture but their new system would allow them to accurately capture a person’s face, providing even more accuracy for the end product. The following demo was just a sampling of what they would soon be capable of.

This was all captured in real time and then translated to the character model for the portrayal that you see above. Considering I’m a former animation student I can assure you that traditional means while effective could not have come this close to matching the performance of the original actor. And even still, four years ago this representation still left a little to be desired. The syncing of the lips and dialogue still isn’t the best but it’s damn close. Having played the final product that Quantic Dream released last year, I can say they succeeded in their task of using this motion capture technique to convey emotion in 3-D characters that was unparalleled by any other game, for the time that is.

Later on in 2010 we’d finally get the first taste of what Rockstar and Team Bondi had been working on for the last five or so years. Team Bondi’s end game is to create an experience where the subtle twitches of a face and a person’s mannerisms can impact your investigation in L.A. Noire. In order to achieve this they employed a similar use of motion capture technology that was used by Quantic Dream for Heavy Rain. Using their new facility they are able to scan and capture the full performance of an actor with incredible accuracy, providing just the amount of detail they set forth to create for both presentation and game play purposes. Here’s a look at the revolutionary MotionScan tech being used by Team Bondi.

Character performances in games that evoke real emotion are no longer as rare as they used to be. However it’s great to see that technologically, that gap is getting even smaller. Again not only does it help from a design and presentation stand point but it enhances player immersion. The real test to how effective MotionScan will be when L.A. Noire releases later this year. Until then you might want to brush up on your investigative skills for when you sit in the interrogation room with these virtual suspects.

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