Oct 25, 2013
By now, you’ve probably played a game made with mo-cap. And it probably proved to enhance the character models significantly.
So, what is motion capture, and why is it so significant? Well it’s a form of character animation, whereby real-life actors are used to create life-like in-game characters. If you’ve seen the guy who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings backstage, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is a huge step forward for the games industry, previously reserved for high-budget Hollywood films. Wireless motion capture means that human actions can be tracked doing literally anything.
Now that video game revenue matches or even exceeds the movie industry, motion capture is big business.
Mo-cap manages to blur the lines between movie and game even further than it is. Take Beyond: Two Souls that has recently become centre stage on the internet, and any other media channel. People who aren’t even gamers have heard of it. With actors such as Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, usually reserved for Blockbusters, it is certainly paving the way for gaming to become a more socially-accepted and critically-praised form of media. It seems Liam Neeson in Fallout 3 was only the beginning. Imagine if in a few years, actors like Christian Bale or Edward Norton came to the gaming world, as it has gained more respect. We could be witnessing the start of something very special.
Gaming has become an art-form in itself, and mo-cap has almost certainly helped with this notion. Creating figures that move like reality, and are not hindered by graphics or character models, allows the content to open up to a wider platform: movie lovers.
Co-CEO of Quantic Dreams, of Beyond: Two Souls and Heavy Rain fame, stated the following:
“Systems have been pushed forward to become more accurate, offering in particular the possibility to track very small markers from a relatively large distance. Very subtle facial movements can now be captured with fewer cameras and with far less constraints than in the past.”
He highlights how far the technology has come since it was originally used in the nineties. If you’ve ever played LA Noire by Rockstar, you will have witnessed the minute details that can now be tracked with motion capture. The basis of the game revolves around detecting lies in faces, and was a huge step for the gaming industry and mo-cap. No doubt this has helped to popularize it in other franchises when the potential was shown, and obviously has made it’s mark in the characters of GTA V, as GTA is a series known for it’s pretty shoddy graphics and characters otherwise. Look at the hands of a PS2 era GTA protagonist. They look like feet. And their faces were fairly pixellated. But not anymore.
Mo-cap essentially allows better interaction with a character in-game. If they appear to be more human, as they move like they would in real-life, then the audience is much more likely to respond to their views. Consider a cut-scene where you can see the emotions on a characters face, compared to a game from a decade ago where only the mouth opens. It’s a notable difference.
So, where does motion capture render itself in the future? Well, with the upcoming Kinect 2.0 and PlayStation Eye, it could be brought to the living room. There is a lot of potential, and Microsoft is not scared of boasting about their new motion control. It could become a lot more natural, and when utilized properly by the right developers, the Kinect could become a key component of the next-generation of gaming. The controller may not become entirely null and void, but there is certainly an alternative to the traditional input materializing. Kinect may transform motion capture from the elite, to the everyday. And with the next-generation of consoles, the restraints of hardware have been lifted.
And along with the advancing technology, small studios, including indies, can now take advantage of motion capture. The possibilities for truly unique and realistic experiences is certainly there, it just takes a developer willing to make use of the technology and do it justice. It opens up the gaming experience to replicate reality much more closely, and create something much closer to an art form. Although in my opinion, when done right, video games can easily be classed as an art form. Not only do games have to remain realistic, but it opens up a whole host of unthinkable possibilities; all it takes is a bit of imagination, and innovation.
Motion capture is certainly making it’s mark on the gaming industry; yet it is certain to evolve even further. The possibilities of where it could lead are truly mind-boggling. When looking how far it has come in the last decade, it is truly inconceivable to consider where motion capture will take us in the next ten years.