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Epic founder expects photo realism in 10-15 years

Epic founder estimates that perfect graphical realism in games could be a reality in as little as a decade

Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney believes that games will achieve true visual realism in ten to fifteen years, saying that games are "only a factor of a thousand off" from achieving graphical perfection.

Speaking to Gamasutra, Sweeney said that graphical realism is not only possible, but inevitable.

"We're only about a factor of a thousand off from achieving all that in real-time without sacrifices," said Sweeney. "So we'll certainly see that happen in our lifetimes; it's just a result of Moore's Law. Probably 10-15 years for that stuff, which isn't far at all."

Sweeney describes this graphical realism as composing of "completely realistic lighting with real-time radiosity, perfectly anti-aliased graphics, and movie-quality static scenes and motion."

These challenges, said Sweeney, are merely a matter of brute force computing power, but the larger challenge - realistic human intelligence and behavior - is much farther off.

"A state-of-the-art game like the latest Half-Life expansion from Valve, Gears of War, or Bungie's stuff is extraordinarily unrealistic compared to a human actor in a human movie, just because of the really fine nuances of human behavior," said Sweeney.

"We simulate character facial animation using tens of bones and facial controls, but in the body, you have thousands. It turns out we've evolved to recognise those things with extraordinary detail, so we're far short of being able to simulate that."

Epic Games was founded by Sweeney in 1991. The studio is responsible for the Gears of War and Unreal Tournament series, as well as the popular Unreal Engine, known among other things for its graphical power.

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