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Games will be "indistinguishable from reality" in 10 years, says ILM

Industrial Light & Magic predicts the end point for gaming's journey across the uncanny valley

The market leading visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic believes that video games will cross the uncanny valley within 10 years.

In an interview with CVG, ILM visual effects supervisor Kim Libreri discussed the cinematic aspirations of LucasArts' new project, Star Wars 1313. However, while the game's visual fidelity impressed the crowds at E3, Libreri claims it points to far greater achievements in the near future.

"The way its going, it's gonna be pretty hard to tell the difference between something that is interactive and rendered in real-time, and something that was done for an animated TV show, or even a live action thing," he said.

"Ten years from now, I'm pretty sure, if you extrapolate where we've gone with the console generations and the changes in video and ATI hardware... We're getting to the point right now [with real-time rendered graphics] where we're matching the quality of an animated movie seven or eight years ago, and another ten years from now, it's just going to be indistinguishable from reality."

In an interview with GamesIndustry International last week, 2K Games' Christoph Hartmann described the importance of games achieving photo-realism, specifically the ability to render believable human facial expressions.

"Until games are photo-realistic, it'll be very hard to open up to new genres. We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now," he said.

"To dramatically change the industry to where we can insert a whole range of emotions, I feel it will only happen when we reach the point that games are photo-realistic; then we will have reached an endpoint and that might be the final console."

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Latest comments (17)

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 9 years ago
Hmmmm. Don't tell that to Vanillaware or anyone else wanting to do a 2D game or anything stylized in 3D for that matter. At the end of the day, it's the gameplay that matters (and yeah, a decent story adds even more to the experience)...
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Stephen Richards Game Deisgner 9 years ago
Eight years eh? Do show me a game that looks as good as The Incredibles...
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game9 years ago
Also don't tell that to a studio that shut down because selling a million copies wasn't good enough.
Square Enix have said it would be impossible to remake FF7 with modern graphics due to resources needed. Now I'm not convinced it needs remaking, but the fact that modern graphics seem to limit the ability to replicate the most popular JRPG of all time seems a bit sad to me. Over the last few years I may have spent more money on XBLA titles than AAAs.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend9 years ago
Well, even though they might have 'realistic' looking characters in 10 years, the actual functionality and feedback of NPC's is terrible and probably won't get much better if everyone is focusing on the visuals.

If you ask me we need to get the rest of the games immersion up to where the graphics are before going any further.

Realistic NPC behaviour and feedback > realistic visuals IMO.
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Emily Rose Artist 9 years ago
100% agree with Darren, you don't get realism from the graphics (case in point - books) It's all about things reacting in a realistic way, and good writing, the stories in reality are pretty good...
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Dan Lowe 3D Animator, Ubisoft Montreal9 years ago
Photo-realism may be possible in terms of rendering, but animation wise there are a few extremely difficult problems that are caused by interactivity, rather than hardware limitations.
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Andrew Animator 9 years ago
People seem obsessed with this idea that all games need to do to be photorealistic is to 'look' photorealistic.

As mentioned earlier, the behaviour and inteligence or characters need to be equally fluid and believeable. It would be a simple matter to make a game look photorealistic in a screenshot. Making it look photorealistic for 20hours of gameplay is an entirely different challenge.

And I have still to see anything which explains the trail of thought which leads to people saying photorealism is a pre-requisite for new generes. Please explain...
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 9 years ago
Whoever wrote this has no understanding of game design.
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Emily Rose Artist 9 years ago
Indeed the skeletons for game animation are more complicated than the ones used for film, It seems ILM are projecting..
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Hugo Trepanier Senior Game Designer, Ludia9 years ago
And then consider all the little rendering glitches that are almost inevitable in any large project, collision issues, AI, pathfinding, etc, all those little details that remind you this is only a simulator.

These details will also have to be absolutely perfect for true photo-realism to hold. As others already mentioned, dialogues, character and world interactions are also equally important to maintain realism, if not more than just the visual aspects.

A single deviation from perfection brings us straight back into uncanny valley.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Hugo Trepanier on 6th August 2012 7:17pm

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Tyler Moore Game Designer & Unity Developer 9 years ago
Horray for the graphics technology if they can pull it off. But, as a designer and as a producer, I don't see the need for true visual realism in games. It just makes it so that you need realistic audio and realistic mechanics. Stylizing the experience lends itself so much better to gameplay.
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Michael Gunter Monster Hunter 9 years ago
Really? We need better graphics to make a more compelling interactive experience? Just look at all the "better love story than Twilight" memes out there (Disney's Up being a prime example) and tell me you couldn't make a compelling emotional video game with current capabilities...
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development9 years ago
Who the hell wants reality. I already get that for free!
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Andrew Animator 9 years ago
Who the hell wants reality. I already get that for free!
Give it a few years and we will be paying tax on it.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 9 years ago
You know when playing a game, being real never was important to me. I just want a game thats fun to play. And I appreciate, imaginative, creative and unique, visual aesthetics over realistic graphics like heavy rain, anyday. Cause then it just becomes a movie. And honestly, I find graphics like the ones found in borderlands, Persona 4: Arena, blazblu, Darksiders to be much more interesting. In games like heavy rain or many first person shooters that aim to be realistic, the way they are implimented make the graphics, world and characters cold and lifeless. im not against realistic graphics, I just dont think realistic graphics will make a game any more interesting then other less realistic graphics. At the end of the day, its all about game design and if the graphic aesthetics are relevant to the type a game made. Photo realism is ok, but when creating a game, their are many more factors involved then when creating a movie. Im sorry, but I think making a game is much harder then making a good movie.
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Andrew Animator 9 years ago
When people say photorealistic games I think the holodeck from star trek. Anything less simply won't be convincing......so the question is will games look indistinguishable from reality in 10 years? Simple answer....no.

This sequence in the new spiderman was entirely CG
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_rbYv_teIM

Now I was very impressed, but I still wouldn't call it photoreal. Lets call that the benchmark though, can anyone see 2 characters doing this in gameplay???? Even 10 years from now.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Andrew on 7th August 2012 5:50pm

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Jeremy Glazman Programmer 9 years ago
That was my reaction exactly. Sure, as long as nothing has to move around, or talk, or emote in any way, then sure it will be indistinguishable from reality... unfortunately the cost of 'realistic' feedback with current technologies is pretty high.
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