Epic: Photo-Realistic Graphics Will Exist Within Ten Years

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Epic: Photo-Realistic Graphics Will Exist Within Ten Years

unreal engine 4

Epic's Tim Sweeney says graphical advancements still follow Moore's Law, but true photo-realism will pose new challenges for the industry.

For most of gaming's history, graphics have been the driving force behind technological progress. Sure, the visual gains may appear smaller each generation, but we're still moving forward, even if we're not photo-realistic just yet. That said, we may not have long to wait. Epic's Tim Sweeney, speaking at this year's Develop Conference in Brighton, shared his belief that perfectly realized graphics will arrive sometime within the next ten years. Unfortunately, he also notes that advanced visuals have drawbacks: Animations and believable AI pose unique challenges for a photo-realistic industry, and will require far more time and research to counter than high-quality graphics.

"Things are going to get really interesting," Sweeney told the audience. "We'll be able to render environments that are absolutely photo-realistic within the next 10 years, like indistinguishable from reality level of graphics ... That just moves the challenge of graphics to the problems we don't know how to solve, like simulating human intelligence, animation, speech and lip-syncing. There are still lots of areas in graphics that require ongoing research for probably the rest of our lives before we come close to approaching reality."

As a co-founder of Epic, Sweeney knows a fair deal about technological progress. Since 2000, the company's Unreal Engine has become a reliable industry benchmark used by a staggering number of professional developers. Even so, Sweeney is quick to add that there's no reason for all games to be photo-realistic. Even Epic has a few small-scale projects in the works that will forgo the Triple-A experience the company is known for.

"Last generation, most of the company was focused on building Gears of War 3, a massive project," Sweeney explained. "Gears of War 1 was a 60-person project at peak. Gears of War 3 was more than 100-people at peak. Now we're building several games at different scales. We're building Fortnite, a PC online game which is a fun, sort of Minecraft meets Left 4 Dead. It's a 35-person team. It's not aiming to beat Call of Duty in terms of graphics. It's more of a Pixar art style and a limited project in scope, just aimed at fun as opposed to massive breakthroughs in scale."

While I'm sure the visuals of tomorrow will be a wonder to behold, Epic's diversity is probably the safer approach. It sidesteps the limitations inherent in photo-realistic graphics, and could even allow for some unique gameplay innovations along the way. "It's really cool," Sweeney says. "We're testing our development at all scales and learning it as we go. We're trying to master development at every scale."

Source: Eurogamer


It may exist, but the better question is can the industry support it?

We can build space stations, but unless you are the richest man on earth you might as well not think about it.

Would we even have the people to staff the game development of highly photorealistic games? As it is there is a shortage. Employee poaching is still a very real thing now and driving up wages, so how can we even hope to have that level of graphics on the cheap in just 10 years?

Here is the thing, it may take 10 years to make Photo realistic in game stuff. but it could take another 10 years to make it affordable. If you know... there is even an economy in this world by that point. yes I'm a pessimist, so sue me.

Sounds cool. However, like 3D printers, if we're able to do this, it'll be abused. Blackmail, framing for crimes, porn, fake terrorist attacks or presidential shootings will all be created using it.

Maybe not the best technology for society.

And a drawback he doesn't mention, apparently?

The exponential increase in the "costs" associated with making games with said graphics. Or how much it'll cross over to screw the consumers, either directly (cost of games) or indirectly(quality of games).

I haven't seen anyone begging for "Photorealism" in their video games. And you know why? There is no point to it, plain and simple. No matter how much you pour into animation or AI, it'll be lifeless. No matter how many pixels you pack into some persons eyeball, despite what David Cage says, you'll never see more than a blank, dead doll-like stare.

It's a pointless, worthless endeavor that benefits no one. Consumers get nothing out of it, while the major companies can circle-jerk themselves to sleep proclaiming how "real" their graphics are compared to everyone else.

I, for one, don't give a rat's ass to being able to see every filthy, dingy strand of hair on, well... a rat's ass. No one does, and absolutely less than 1 out of 10 will ever even bother checking said ass to ensure that it is, indeed, realistic.

And to what end I wonder, you know if I wanted something as dull as reality I wouldn't be a gamer at all... I come for the cool shit reality can't do.

$5 says they still won't be able to replicate human eyes. Those damn eyes, curse them. I'd pay a pretty penny for that level of detail, though. Maybe a new line of dedicated eye cards to complement discrete graphics and physics?

$5 says they still won't be able to replicate human eyes. Those damn eyes, curse them. I'd pay a pretty penny for that level of detail, though. Maybe a new line of dedicated eye cards to complement discrete graphics and physics?

Clearly the solution is to make games set in a world where people have no eyes. They could even make it a game mechanic where you could switch to first person and it'd be totally dark because your empty eye sockets can't process anything.

OT: Yup. Pretty much what everyone else is saying. Not cost effective, stupid, etc. etc. etc.

CAPTCHAL face the music. Why yes, I certainly think the triple A industry needs to do that.

But I play games to get AWAY from real life. If it all looks the same... I seriously just want art direction and style that fits my game and works with the mechanics. Realistic graphics would've sucked in Okami and I'm glad they couldn't afford to do it and the product is much better and more creative for it. 'Specially now that you can get it in HD on PSN though it just makes the sumi-e painting style looked freshly inked - 's nice.

This was PS2 era. Guess which one would've looked outdated by now:

And therefore, everything will be BROWN! I don't really see the fascination with photo realism in games, do you really want more people saying "it's t-t-training people for violent stuff" as an addition to whatever it is that they say now about games?

I got a headache after watching God of War 3 on the Ps3 the first time, I don't want my head to split because of this shit. The more "realistic" something looks, the more "backyard film" feel things give. Those "Look how HD this TV is" films they put on department stores are already annoying, I don't want games to look like that.

That's what they said 10 years ago.

That's going to be so expensive though. Not to mention my graphics card is awful.

Amaranth: What's the ETA on games that have solid gameplay mechanic, depth greater than a teaspoon and plots that are equal to or better than those found in porn?

Because those are things I actually give a crap about.


Oh great, something that the industry doesn't need. Something that would destroy all choices in art direction within games while simultaneously pushing game prices through the roof.

Would prefer it if developers chose their own art styles and then developed their games towards those styles, instead of trying to be as realistic as possible. Even if we were at a stage where photo realistic graphics were possible, I'd prefer them to not be used at all.

Ya no. How about they work on making people in videogames ACT a bit me realistically first? "Here are your beautiful photorealistic graphics, with characters that walk weirdly, clip into other objects, and repeat the same sentence at each interaction (if you can interact with them at all)". Sigh... Even more uncanny valley, here we come.

I remember when crytek boasted that their cryengine 3 will rendfer photorealistic graphics. remmeber, back in 2007? yeah, just like with moon base, the clsoer we get the mroe it gets delayed.
Photorealistic will come one day when the hardware will be able to remder it easily and thus we wouldnt need to think about programming game in a way where graphics will slow it down. till then, it will remain a problem. and with consoles holding the processing speed down...

This video explains why photorealism isn't the best direction to shoot for:

Missed the point by such a large margin that their argument accidentally curved out of our solar system and hit some poor bloke on Betelgeuze III in the head. Good job.

Photorealism isn't desirable. It's not nice to look at. FMV games could be argued to have had literally "photorealistic" graphics, and were those any good? Mostly not.

Graphics are NOT all about technology. They are about style and presentation, about proper design most of all. Even though I am not a huge Blizztivision fan, I have to bring up Warcraft here. Both Warcraft 3 and WoW were way behind their times in strictly technological terms, but still both games were extremely pleasant and interesting to look at. Why? Because the graphic design was done REALLY damn well. Take the Zelda games, too, or the contrast between the newly announced Dead Rising and the old ones - which one is better to look at? Hint: it's not the photorealistic one.

PS: Half Life 2 could be argued to have been driven by its graphics engine, but that's not too true. When you get down to it, Source was an advanced engine for its time, but that's mostly due to physics and light effects, NOT because of its general graphic fidelity. Even though it tried to achieve a sense of photorealism, Half Life 2 also hat great art direction and a sense of everything fitting together. A lesser engine COULD have pulled that off, as well. Visually, the game still works fine on the lowest possible settings.

Ya no. How about they work on making people in videogames ACT a bit me realistically first? "Here are your beautiful photorealistic graphics, with characters that walk weirdly, clip into other objects, and repeat the same sentence at each interaction (if you can interact with them at all)". Sigh... Even more uncanny valley, here we come.

thats it in one. things might look just like real life and even with accurate animation they may look real but AI lags WAY behind and will drop you in the uncanny valley in a second.

take skyrim for example. it doesnt matter how good it looks, the moment you scrap off the thin facade the mechanics and AI show through really badly

Uhm....you guys all realize he's pointing out in this very same set of quotes that Epic realizes that being diverse and focusing on things other than AAA omgphotorealism is the way to go?

Yes, we'll get photorealism in real time on consumer hardware in the next ten years. But this is just the start of a new revolution. Look at all the games not afraid to be made out of voxels that are becoming popular.
Heck. Gunpoint was the best selling game on steam for awhile and it was made in Game Maker with 2d sprite art.

$5 says they still won't be able to replicate human eyes. Those damn eyes, curse them. I'd pay a pretty penny for that level of detail, though. Maybe a new line of dedicated eye cards to complement discrete graphics and physics?

This. I don't believe they're ever going to animate/capture fluid and natural eye movement. No game or animation I've seen has truly won me over with the eyes.

Ten years? Frankly I'd wager that that is a conservative estimate, we're coming up on it now in my opinion.
However, there are always going to be some niggling little things that make it possible for even a child too instantly differentiate between a CGI face and a real human face, even with photo-realism, as long as it's shown moving and not just a still image. The human eye can detect fakeness really well, it's actually one of the things we're hardwired for, seeing differences in people and objects quickly and efficiently. It's what helped us differentiate between us and them while we were still in our tribal phase of evolution.

I don't know really we are still in uncanny valley. So yeah we might be close but will we ever break out of uncanny valley.

That I Kinda accept that in games things are not hyper realistic. Because in the end it is about gameplay, story and other factors.

There are quite a few games that look great but I don't play because they don't attract me on other areas. It is like a blond bimbo really.. they put so much time on looking good that there is no further content to go with it.

And I love stylized graphics. Easier on the rendering leaving more space for the rest of the content. That No Ni Kuno game is awesome..

And really do we need another super realistic shooter.. in what the graphics are "realistic" but the gameplay is not. I mean..just hide behind this wall and your health will regenerate. Oh look at that we have a doggy... yeah

Photorealism is meaningless, we need videorealism and that requires physics animated cloth, hair, muscles etc. Research will not solve the fundamental problems of physics based animation, it just takes incredible amounts of processing power, 10 years might be just enough to make it feasible for a single character demo ... but not a real game.

the player in me doesn't care. The game tech enthousiast in me wants to see it NOW.

Admit it. Even if most of us don't actually care about graphics in our games long as the gameplay is good and even with the distaste for photorealism that's been growing for the last few years as more and more publishers have been abusing the concept and Crytec's been acting as if there was nothing more important in the world than photorealism, it's still bloody interesting. And I sure as hell want to play at least a few photorealistic games.

You can never stop Crytec from being dumb and saying dumb dumb things. Condemning the concept of photorealism in itself, however, is not going to help it. A lack of games striving for photorealism would make cartoony art styles the new status quo.

Diversity is a good thing. That's why I also think that Epic's approach (as in splitting the studio up and working on more projects with different scales and art styles) is a step in the right direction for the studio (Especially now that Cliffy B is gone. Say what you will about his looks, I do not like that man).

Is it just me thinking a game with photorealistic graphics but without the AI or animation to match would make a really, really good horror game?

Imagine being in a world where everyone looks real but their movements are clunky and occasionally their arm will snap in the wrong direction and they don't speak or act the way they should...I think you could craft a pretty terrifying game out of that.

You can make photorealistic looking games with today's tools. Well, atleast they would somewhat photorealistic in screenshots, but there are many things that completely break down photorealism - mediocre animations, unrealistic response/feedback from the environment etc. Photorealism in games isn't only a bout graphical fidelity, it's about physics, interactions, animations as well.

I don't want ultra-realistic graphics. Have you seen reality? A lot of it looks like ass. I want cell shaded funtimes please!

Unfortunately, he also notes that advanced visuals have drawbacks: Animations and believable AI pose unique challenges for a photo-realistic industry, and will require far more time and research to counter than high-quality graphics.

You know, you could ease up a little on obsessively chasing after those high-quality graphics and instead devote more time and research on everything else. Just an idea.

*sigh* I certainly hope not. Why oh why must we keep striving for uncanny valley instead of just making a good game with interesting visuals. Art style people come on let's see some creativity.

Of course this is Epic they are just like Crytec and David Cage "Polygons Polygons Polygons! Graphics aaahg YES! the Graphics!"

Damn it wish I knew how to post of gif of Jim Cages emotions dance.

And on related news: Several developpers & publishers whine that all their games flop even though they sell millions, because of their shitty budgets.

Jep. Makes sense. And yesterday we had a thread were someone said it's the gamers fault, that publishers make shitty budgets, because of our demands.

Oh gaming industry, can't you please crash already so we're over with this cesspool of ignorance and incompetence. Thanks a lot.

OH BOY, I can't wait till the barren, brown wastelands of Triple A games look like actual barren, brown wastelands!

After the last gen of games, I no longer care about graphics... if anything I think we should go back to sprites. It would do us a world of good.

I hope that one day all games will be so photo-realistic that we are forced to judge a games graphics by how in-sync the lips are.

So let's just widen that "Uncanny Valley" into the "Uncanny Vast Expanse of Barren Nothingness" and create the most absolutely highest resolution, super-scenic totally boring and barren of compelling content pile of shit ever made. If I want reality and realism, I wake-up in the morning; I don't pay some game developer $60 to create a fucked-up version of it.

Game developers, please, please, please, stop this hell-bent focus on graphics and start learning how to make an actually interesting game. Any trained monkey can make a highly detailed, pretty picture, but only a true artist and craftsman can actually make something interesting and great, because the artist/craftsman understands that it takes more than just graphics.

I'm not going to deny that great graphics can a good game better, but, it should not be the focus. However, we have long passed the point of the graphics being "good enough" and the focus needs to shift to inventing better ways of constructing the actual GAME aspects of the game, like plot, pacing, puzzle and challenge design, challenge progression, balancing (for competitive games), game-mechanics, control schemes, basic game concept, AI, strategy, appropriate use of multiplayer, appropriate use of social features, and pretty much just about every other long neglected aspect of video game design and construction.

There an especially big gap in understanding how to meld the story of the game with the gameplay, game-mechanics, and pacing of the game in a self-consistent, coherent, and logical manner such the game is able to properly suspend disbelief. Creating realism is not necessary to create suspension of disbelief and, hence, immersion; all that's needed is to create a self-consistent game-world/platform that clearly establishes its rules and abides by them.


No. No it won't exist in the next 10 years.

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