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Epic: Photorealistic games in ten years

Epic: Photorealistic games in ten years

Epic's Tim Sweeney reckons that not only are photorealistic games inevitable, but will be with us soon.

Epic's Tim Sweeney has spoken out on where he thinks the graphics industry is heading, claiming that he thinks truly photorealistic games are not only inevitable, but will be upon us within the next decade.

"We're only about a factor of a thousand off from achieving all that in real-time without sacrifices," Sweeney said in an interview with Gamasutra. "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 clarifies what he means by photorealism too, just to leave no shadow of a doubt. Photorealism consists of totally realistic lightning with real-time radiosity, perfect anti-aliasing and movie-quality animations and static scenes. He's confident that the issue can be solved by a brute force approach, so the only issue is generating the computing power to manage it. On that front ten years isn't such a long time either if you compare games from 1999 to games from this year; say, System Shock 2 to BioShock.

The real challenge as far as Sweeney can imagine will be AI and emulating the nuances of human behaviour without falling into the uncanny valley.

"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," he said.

"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."

Let us know your thoughts on where the games industry is heading in the forums.

25 Comments

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[USRF]Obiwan 26th May 2009, 14:45 Quote
Do we actually want photorealistic games? I remember to good old laser disc arcade systems back in the days it was fun while it lasted. Better graphics and AI ok, but real life looking is a whole other gameplay.
C-Sniper 26th May 2009, 15:14 Quote
While I think it would be awesome to have photorealistic games, i would rather have an A.I. that is more powerful and more innovative and make it as if you were playing a human.
Bauul 26th May 2009, 15:27 Quote
I don't think so actually. I reckon graphics are slowing down massively. Take some of these examples. Starting with Doom (1993) and using the FPS/FPSRPG genres as the pinacle of graphics, and going in three year jumps, lets have a look at how graphics have moved:

1993:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/de/Doom_ingame_1.png

1996:
http://mac.softpedia.com/screenshots/9-548_1.png

1999:
http://unrealitymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/quake-3-arena.jpg

2002:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/a0/Morrowind1.jpg/800px-Morrowind1.jpg

2005:
http://www.counterfrag.com/screenshots/fear%20game/1.jpg

2008:
http://www.gameguru.in/images/crysis-warhead-ss2.jpg


To be honest, since 2002, games have looked pretty damn good, and ever since then all we've really managed to do is increase the pretty post-processing effects and increasing texture size. We're still churning polygons in the same way Quake did all those years ago. I mean, given the best looking game out right now came out a year and a half ago, it's not exactly like graphics are thundering along at a blistering pace now are they? I think the hay-day of every game breaking new graphical barriers are coming to an end, and we'll see a real slow down in the improvements people are making to game engines year on year.
B1GBUD 26th May 2009, 15:39 Quote
I did laugh when I saw the 3DMark Vantage Benchmark, the guys in the first demo look like they've messed their underwear when they start to run.... then the strike a pose, shoot while looking pretty gey
Dreaming 26th May 2009, 16:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
To be honest, since 2002, games have looked pretty damn good, and ever since then all we've really managed to do is increase the pretty post-processing effects and increasing texture size. We're still churning polygons in the same way Quake did all those years ago. I mean, given the best looking game out right now came out a year and a half ago, it's not exactly like graphics are thundering along at a blistering pace now are they? I think the hay-day of every game breaking new graphical barriers are coming to an end, and we'll see a real slow down in the improvements people are making to game engines year on year.

Agree and disagree. It's true with any line of improvement, ultimately there are limited returns. But just as you say post-processing has got better - surely anything looks better with post-processing? So I think graphics is definitely moving forward, that doesn't have to just through continuous improvement of FPS and such but also as the industry evolves and grows there is much more ingenuity and new ideas. For example, procedurally generated textures may be the way forward but they're not implemented in any games yet - it's all still down to the artist.

Look here: http://www.bit-tech.net/gaming/2006/11/09/Procedural_Textures_Future_Gam/1
http://images.bit-tech.net/content_images/2006/11/Procedural_Textures_Future_Gam/01.jpg

And without a doubt there will be new ideas and concepts (the majority of which probably wont make it through to the end project) that will continue to open new boundaries and new possibilities that aren't just a linear progression of today's tech.
delriogw 26th May 2009, 16:10 Quote
while it's always exciting to see where they can take the technology, i'd really much rather they concentrated on making GOOD games instead of PRETTY games
Floyd 26th May 2009, 17:20 Quote
Yea if the story is great the graphics dont matter as much. Sort of how people are still playing the N64 Zelda games.
Omnituens 26th May 2009, 18:02 Quote
in 10 years i hope Epic will be a distant, bad memory.
NikoBellic 26th May 2009, 19:03 Quote
I would reccomend that you google Caustic Graphics... thats all that I'm gonna say :)
Skiddywinks 26th May 2009, 19:22 Quote
Agreed. Definitely the way forward me thinks.

To be honest though, if they just made every game look as good as Crysis with some of the texture mods etc, then I would be happy. I'm pretty sure if everyone could play a modded Crysis maxed out with 8x AA and all that jazz, no one would be complaining. But still, I do love progress!
HourBeforeDawn 26th May 2009, 19:55 Quote
didnt they say the same thing 10 years ago lol...
azrael- 26th May 2009, 20:17 Quote
Joe, kudos for weaving a reference to System Shock 2 into this story! You just can't mention System Shock 2 often enough! :D
Star*Dagger 26th May 2009, 20:20 Quote
I for one am looking forward to the incredible graphics in this great hobby we call PC Gaming
Henk 26th May 2009, 22:22 Quote
I would love to be able to buy graphic upgrades to old games, lets say at least 5 years old?
Not necessarily animation and physics, but better textures, models, shaders and other effects, multicore support etc.

Never gonna happen commercially though, there's only fans doing that sorta work :(
The_Beast 26th May 2009, 22:30 Quote
It would be cool but better AI comes first
SMIFFYDUDE 26th May 2009, 23:36 Quote
I'm not that bothered about graphics getting better and better every year or two, cos simply, you can't miss what you haven't seen yet. We may now have dx10, but can anyone say dx9 is ugly, even some dx8.1b games still look ok. Ofcouse I would like to see pretty new graphics, but not so often that i am upgrading my graphics hardware constantly. Its far too expensive.

Its AI, physics and great storylines that are most needed in new games. Oh, and the bottom to fall out of the console market.
LordPyrinc 27th May 2009, 00:52 Quote
I agree that gameplay > graphics anyday, but... To me the more realistic the environment looks, the more immersive it feels, especially when teamed up with great gameplay. I remember when I first played FEAR2 and was thoroughly impressed by the graphics. The film grain setting really makes it look less-plasticy and less-fake looking.
Skutbag 27th May 2009, 01:10 Quote
Reminds me of a story on Wired- that big tech 'jumps' just aren't as impressive anymore. We kind of know they're going to happen- who'd have thought about recording video on a mobile 5-10 years ago? And now? Its pretty meh.

I'm sure there are still some gob-smacking revelations to come- but graphics are being overdeveloped while AI, animation, design and quality control can barely squeeze the time and/or money they need. Priorities please!
naokaji 27th May 2009, 01:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by delriogw
while it's always exciting to see where they can take the technology, i'd really much rather they concentrated on making GOOD games instead of PRETTY games

QFT.

Games don't always have to look good, take System Shock for example, the graphics are horrible by todays standards, but the gameplay still is among the best of any game.
zimbloggy 27th May 2009, 01:59 Quote
I thought that the old area 51 arcade shooter was photo realistic!
Elton 27th May 2009, 05:13 Quote
Photo-realistic is...overrated. Take HL2 for example, a much more enjoyable game than say...Crysis, if only because Atmosphere is important. I'd rather have a game that has great atmosphere, a bit less polygon pushing, and have it enjoyable rather than pretty.

STALKER: CS, not the best game, but it's atmosphere, story, and just general aura is much better than Crysis, hence why I'd enjoy playing that rather than Crysis.

In other words, as delriogw said, quality over looks and quantity.
UrbanMarine 27th May 2009, 12:43 Quote
As long as everyone stops using the easy button with the Unreal 3 Engine anythings possible.
erratum1 28th May 2009, 00:20 Quote
I would love photo-realistic games.

I think in the future games will be just as powerful as a good movie.

Making you laugh, cry, fear, guilt and even anger when a child in a hostage situation for example gets killed.

You don't really care at the moment because the graphics are still crude, hell, people might even end up falling in love with characters.

Real emotion while your playing that the crude graphics of today can't really manage.

In 15 years time crysis will look as crude as doom does now, and we'll all laugh about how we all thought crysis in the day looked great.

I say bring it on, i would love a gaming experience like that.
Bauul 28th May 2009, 12:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by erratum1
I would love photo-realistic games.

I think in the future games will be just as powerful as a good movie.

Making you laugh, cry, fear, guilt and even anger when a child in a hostage situation for example gets killed.

You don't really care at the moment because the graphics are still crude, hell, people might even end up falling in love with characters.

Real emotion while your playing that the crude graphics of today can't really manage.

Our survey says.... ERRRR!

Graphics have nothing to do with emotional connection. Ever read a book? Doesn't even have any graphics, but a good novel packs 100 times the emotional content of something like Cyrsis (hell, make that 1,000 times).

It's the script, writing and delivery that makes a game emotional. Graphics are totally and utterly irrelevent.
Chocobollz 31st May 2009, 21:08 Quote
I agree. What's important isn't the graphics but the gameplay. Great graphics means nothing if the gameplay isn't good. Well.. there's one game genre who need that kind of improvements, which is... hentai games! :D
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