2K: New Genres Impossible Without Photorealism

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2K: New Genres Impossible Without Photorealism

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The reason we don't have Brokeback Mountain: The Game is that the technology just isn't ready.

The game industry, perhaps more than any other medium, has some problems with innovation. Sure, every now and then there are unique games that defy classification, but for the most part big-name developers don't like to stray from tried-and-true formulas. 2K Games president Christoph Hartmann sees this, and says that the drought of new ideas will continue until we reach graphical perfection.

Hartmann claims that the problem revolves around empathy, or lack thereof. Speaking in an interview with GamesIndustry, he said that videogames are still inferior to movies in terms of conveying emotions, particularly the ones that drive characters and let the audience connect with the people on the screen.

"Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; recreating emotions in Brokeback Mountain is going to be tough, or at least very sensitive in this country," Hartmann said. "It will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies. Until games are photorealistic, 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."

In essence, it's far easier to identify with characters when they aren't straight from the uncanny valley. "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 photorealistic," Hartmann continued. "Then we will have reached an endpoint and that might be the final console."

Hartmann's argument makes sense in a way, but he seems to confuse story genres (like tragedies or romances) with game genres. We certainly have the technology to make a Citizen Kane video game, but how fun would it be? While we may not have a first-person shooter that works as a romantic comedy, developers like Quantic Dream are starting to challenge the limitations of what a narrative-focused game can achieve. "Action" games aren't incapable of being emotional anymore; BioWare was able to elicit powerful emotions (for better or worse) from the Mass Effect trilogy, which had fairly standard cover-based shooting as its core gameplay. Start dusting off your innovation hats, because that graphical plateau may already be here.

Source: GamesIndustry

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Sounds like bullshit to me. An excuse to disregard innovative gameplay for shiny pretty.

Quantic Dream takes your claim 2K and tears it to pieces, there are other games as well that have made me feel genuine emotions, but they're often more filled with action and from several different developers on different platforms

Spec Ops: The Line is an example of an action game as well that have made me feel genuine emotions, maybe not positive emotions, but it was interesting to play a war game that actually made me feel harrowed after playing it

Dammit Uncanny Valley!
I wish I could Quit you!

If a cartoon can convey emotion without photo realism, give me one reason a video game can't.

HAHAHAHA I can disprove the "you need photorealism to invoke emotion" in just two letters:

Up

Emotion is invoked through story, not graphics. Most games fail to invoke emotion besides basic "fun" (which, in fairness, is generally enough!) not by any failure of graphics but by failure in the story.

You don't need good visuals to covey emotion or to get players to identify with your characters. How many of you had tears welling up when Aeris died in FF7? You felt the loss that Cloud was experiencing because you identified with him.

Yet most innovation comes from indie games with nowhere near the graphical fidelity of AAA games. There are indie games that convey emotion very well. I'm not seeing the connection.
Captcha: end of story.

I have made the same argument, really the industry as a whole will not change much until they reach a plateau where gfx cant get any better, the technology is dirt cheap, and everyone has access to it.

after they get there then they have to really try things like maybe spending a few million on developing decent AI for games, truely interactive worlds, etc.

the odd game here and there that dares to do something really different does not mean that AAA biggies like EA, MS, are going to put much if anything into any really different games, sony is way better in that area.

This article upsets me, or at least what the 2k guy said did.

Why would you think that greater photo-realism is the answer to "how do we generate greater empathy?". Games look more realistic than they ever have, and yet I feel far less engaged with modern characters.

It's a meaningful original storyline that makes us relate to the game, dude, not a pretty picture.

When I hear someone say "Oh, games are as good as we can make them right now til technology gets better" I immediately think: 1. You're lying, 2. You're lazy.

civatrix:
You don't need good visuals to covey emotion or to get players to identify with your characters. How many of you had tears welling up when Aeris died in FF7? You felt the loss that Cloud was experiencing because you identified with him.

Wow. This was EXACTLY the story and game I thought of when I was building up my list of reasons this guy is wrong.

Man, The Lord of the Ring was so assanine! The story was fantastic, the actors did a great job, the script was amazing but the graphics sucked and therefore the movie didn't have an emotional impact. If only it were shinier!

Sounds to me like this guy has no idea what he's talking about. I might be wrong, considering he's the president of 2K, but then again I don't know anything about that studio or any of the games they've made. From the sound of it though, I can guess they specialize in games about shooting people?

Ugh, this guy is an idiot, if you can't be photo realistic then don't try, go cartoon, you can have just as big an impact if not bigger with a toon style.

civatrix:
You don't need good visuals to covey emotion or to get players to identify with your characters. How many of you had tears welling up when Aeris died in FF7? You felt the loss that Cloud was experiencing because you identified with him.

FF7 was is mostly about graphics...

I'm just going to have to compare DX and DXHR. DX has very bad graphics and yet it's story upholds as a great game however DXHR had good grapics but a fairly okay if not mediocre story/plot.

ThePS1Fan:
Yet most innovation comes from indie games with nowhere near the graphical fidelity of AAA games. There are indie games that convey emotion very well. I'm not seeing the connection.

The connection is that this guy has no connection with reality or creativity. It's the usual executive nonsense talk that aims to set goals shareholders can understand (more realistic graphics) than actually convey an idea that's useful.

not ready for new genres: 2K and smellovision...

Bull shit. There's more way to innovate than just by showing emotions. Like the article says, genres in games aren't about the emotions elicited, they're about the mechanics and experience. And even if you wanted better emotions you don't need photorealistic graphics. There are two sides to the uncanny valley and plenty of games have already mastered the unrealistic side. It's a perfectly valid way to portray characters. And there's far more games can already do apart from just shooters and action games. This guy sounds like he isn't even part of the industry.

This is bullshit. I've had plenty of games that evoked more emotion and empathy than any piece of cinema could. Oh, and they were all far from photorealistic.

The industry needs to get over its graphics fetish already.

The path to more emotional responses is better graphics I say!

...

What? Hire better writers? What good would that accomplish?

Honestly, this just sounds like excuses, I'd imagine they just don't want to experiment on Brokeback Mountain: The game (or something of that ilk) because they've no idea how to do it, it could turn out awful and regardless of that, it'd probably sell terribly anyway. Which I suppose is a good enough reason to not do it, just don't try to tell us it's out of your control.

Pyrian:
HAHAHAHA I can disprove the "you need photorealism to invoke emotion" in just two letters:

Up

Emotion is invoked through story, not graphics. Most games fail to invoke emotion besides basic "fun" (which, in fairness, is generally enough!) not by any failure of graphics but by failure in the story.

And this definitely proves him wrong. Up probably makes it into my top 5 saddest fictional stories. Another of the top 5 is the Futurama episode Jurassic Bark (Fry's dog), and that's a damned cartoon and my number 1 sad story is the Green Mile, specifically the book (as I read that first, and like most people (read:hipsters) in most of these film/book situations, think the book is better), I can't imagine that my imagination is photorealistic, it's just a vague image of what's going on.

Silly 2K man.

Well I'm fairly certain you can avoid the uncanny valley by moving to be perfect or by moving to be slightly less perfect, something we are perfectly capable of doing. On top of that, games don't need to be photorealistic, some are stylistic. Stylistic games can already reach as perfect as they are going to get.

Anyways though, this guy is wrong for very simple reasons. 1. People have already felt emotion in games, and a short survey could tell you that they have felt just about ever emotion depending on the game. 2. People have felt emotion in other mediums that aren't photorealistic. For example, cartoons. The Lion King wasn't photorealisic and yet people felt emotions during that movie.

Smokescreen:
Sounds like bullshit to me. An excuse to disregard innovative gameplay for shiny pretty.

Took the words right out of my mouth... so, could you saty out of there?

Anyways, I think its not the graphical limitation as much as the mental limitation, and by that, I mean the mentality behind things. I think it is possible to make an emotionally engaging game that also happens to be fun to play, what matters is actually delivering that story. And I dont think photo-realistic graphics is the only means of doing this.

The man has a point. Getting animations down properly is a big part of getting people to connect with characters, especially when it comes to the face: the eyes in particular are difficult to do properly without breaking immersion. Once we have photorealism, then we'll have to focus more on things like crafting characters properly instead: it'll be a real step forward in the narrative process, I think.

Oh for fuck sake! How am I supposed to have hope for the industry when it is so obviously in the hands of complete morons?

You don't need photorealism to elicit emotion. Disney and Pixar have been proving that for decades. The death of Bambi's mother? Mufasa's death in The Lion King? The end of Monsters Inc?

Hell, what about the games that already got emotional responses out of players? Things like FF7, Earthbound, Planescape, and so on.

The reason games are stagnating is because of the exorbitant cost of games. Pushing for photorealism is not going to make games cheaper to produce. Quite the opposite. As long as publishers feel that they stand to lose millions each time a game comes out, they're going to force developers to take the safe, boring options.

This is a guy who could stand to dip his toes in the indie market, a little. I've played flash games that were good at conveying emotions. If your games can't convey emotions, it isn't a problem with the graphics.

scotth266:
The man has a point. Getting animations down properly is a big part of getting people to connect with characters, especially when it comes to the face: the eyes in particular are difficult to do properly without breaking immersion. Once we have photorealism, then we'll have to focus more on things like crafting characters properly instead: it'll be a real step forward in the narrative process, I think.

Sure it won't hurt. Still, people who won't/can't connect to the joys & miseries of the little critter on screen probably won't develop any sense of empathy overnight. Give hair & fur modifiers to Marcus Phoenix all you want...

But if it could end the shooting genre, or at least cause it to mature, it would be worth it.

I think this guy both has a point and doesnt. Currently games are extremely bad at setting up things like facial expressions which are key. If they cant properly show emotions its really hard to create a serious game like he is talking about. A game kind of loses all emotional impact when you can see the protagonists blank emtionless face.

civatrix:
You don't need good visuals to covey emotion or to get players to identify with your characters. How many of you had tears welling up when Aeris died in FF7? You felt the loss that Cloud was experiencing because you identified with him.

You mean the chick who got shanked after joining me a whole two hours ago? Yea I didnt really give a shit about her when she died since she was barely even a character. She was never focused on, her character was never expanded, she was just a throw in who had no reason to be there and whos only purpose was to get shanked.

Photorealism?
image
Got that.

Even with Quantic Dream and others pulling their way out of uncanny valley, it's not exactly necessary to elicit emotional response. Look at the Bioshock series - games that are cartoonish, styleized, and question the basic fundamentals that society is built on. I get the argument - that emotions can't be expressed properly without being subtle in the changes - but gamers do not need that amount of graphic fidelity to have their "Ghost" or their "Titanic".

WanderingFool:

Smokescreen:
Sounds like bullshit to me. An excuse to disregard innovative gameplay for shiny pretty.

Took the words right out of my mouth... so, could you saty out of there?

Anyways, I think its not the graphical limitation as much as the mental limitation, and by that, I mean the mentality behind things. I think it is possible to make an emotionally engaging game that also happens to be fun to play, what matters is actually delivering that story. And I dont think photo-realistic graphics is the only means of doing this.

Will do my best. It's dark and kinda dry in there anyway...

I cant help but feel his point is proved invalid by books, comic books, anime, cartoons, and interactive video novel type games like Myst and 999.

Pyrian:
HAHAHAHA I can disprove the "you need photorealism to invoke emotion" in just two letters:

Up

Nice example. With a bit more letters, (two words), I can give an even better one, that is almost a video game:

Katawa Shoujo.

Though I admit that that he might be right about MAINSTREAM acceptance of dramatic games. It's probably no accident that all these mediums that use non-photorealistic characters, like comic books, cartoons, anime, video games, are all considered either too childish or nerdy to be taken seriously by the average viewer.

There is just something about simplified character faces that people with mature social skills demand, but they are still good enough for a certain audience.

"It will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies."

Umm, no it won't be.
In fact we can create things like that right now. Writing, acting, music, atmosphere are much more conducive to crafting emotion than shiny graphics.

If graphics were truly essential for creating emotions, than why has this scene made so many people cry?

What I find so funny about this article is the majority of games that I have had emotional reactions too are games that look the least realistic but had great story, characterization, or atmosphere. Problem with always going for realism is until you perfect it (which we haven't yet)we will have to sit through tons of uncanney valley moments that invoke no emotion just disconnect.

captcha: riff-raff. Yes the guy from 2k sure is that captcha. Good eye.

Cognimancer:
Hartmann claims that the problem revolves around empathy, or lack thereof. Speaking in an interview with GamesIndustry, he said that videogames are still inferior to movies in terms of conveying emotions, particularly the ones that drive characters and let the audience connect with the people on the screen.

Has this mug played Journey?

I call bullshit.

People are shouting Quantic Dream, like it's some kind of messiah, but all they've managed to accomplish is unrealistic looking people in nicely rendered, non-interactive environments with awful, awful stories that have no bearing on anything good.

As for "must be pretty to be next gen"? Bull. SNES games had emotion, they had innovation, they had touching characters and stories and all they needed was a good story. You can express anything and everything as long as you've got a story and are creative.

So far, Quantic Dream is neither and judging by their recent releases neither is 2K.

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