Epic: Photorealistic games in ten years

Written by Joe Martin

May 26, 2009 // 2:24 p.m.

Tags: #crysis #epic #futurology #graphics #photorealism

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."

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