SOE want to animate your face/voice into your avatar

Apparently:

SOE is adding new facial recognition tech to EverQuest 2 that lets the game track your movement and facial expressions and replicate them on your avatar in real-time. Voice chat is also built into the feature so that your character will animate naturally while you talk.

PCG have an interview with SOE’s director of development about this.

It may say something for my lack of enthusiasm that I could think of at least a zillion reasons why I might not want to do this, ranging from “I don’t have a webcam” to “what if it sees me picking my nose” or “what if my character is male and I’m not?” (The latter is presumably solvable using filters, which are mentioned in the interview.) PCG do also point out that most RPG players spend a lot of time looking at their characters’ backs rather than their faces.

Having said that, there may be something in the notion that any RPG will eventually have to come around to the idea. It’s just that MMO players are so used to using voice chat anyway outside of the game that having a lipsynch feature in game may be just a bridge too far. Not to mention wondering what the extra processing load might turn out to be.

However, it is true that a lot of human communication is passed via expressions and body language. I’m just not sure whether I prefer that CRPGs keep the communication fairly limited, its one of the things that makes them so good as escapist experiences. There was an originally a notion that your character in a virtual world was a character with a background and culture of its own (even if it wasn’t all that well detailed). The closer characters get to the players, the more that difference fades. In a way, real facial animation ™ is a kind of anti-story device. If you see someone’s character actually rolling on the floor laughing when someone tells a dick joke on vent, are you still going to think of them as a paladin of the light? Just saying.

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12 thoughts on “SOE want to animate your face/voice into your avatar

  1. I’m in the middle of a blog post about this right now. My first reaction was along the lines of yours but the more i think about it the more possibilities I see.

    It’s not in game yet and it really will have to be tried before judgment can be passed, but I wonder if this might not be one of those innovations that no-one knew they were missing until they had it and then couldn’t imagine how they’d ever done without it afterwards.

    • I could see that as a possibility. It may end up feeling very natural. I may be just a bit too used to having voice chat as a ‘backchannel’ (ie. it isn’t supposed to represent things /my character/ would say.)

  2. Of all the MMO’s out there that I might want to see this in, I would rank the uncanny valley models of EQ2 dead last on my list. That would be too horrifying, to say the least.

  3. I’m seeing more opportunities for creepy griefing and jarring out-of-character experiences over immersive roleplaying though. Just sayin’.

    That tongue on that Froglok, eeew.

  4. It’s an interesting idea, but several problems (besides the aforementioned ones) leap to my mind:
    My reactions as a player are not necessarily the reactions my character would have. (Example: I find the rather sadistic humor of SW:TOR to be hilarious. My characters, to whom said sadistic humor is happening, are not, for the most part, amused by it.)

    The animation in most games isn’t good enough to copy real facial expressions well. You can really see that in the YouTube linked where the froglizardthingy (haven’t played EQII) just flaps its mouth while the guy talks, but I doubt that even better animated games could copy facial emotes well enough. It would make the fact that games aren’t movie-quality animated really obvious.

    Most people – so far as I know – don’t actually use in game voice chat. They use ventrilo, teamspeak, skype, etc…

    Also, I really don’t see the point to this unless the game world reacts to it, which would be pretty much impossible to code.

    Though, that does make me think that they might be on to something if they created a character and world builder software with this technology embedded and sold it as a computer based “tabletop” rpg. That could be interesting for long distance gaming.

    • Despite my dislike of TOR, you very much express my thoughts on the topic. When my character needs to be a stone-faced diplomat, i personally might still stare at the screen in a hateful manner and while when some action of somebody actually amuses me a lot, my character would be about to do some hateful kicking. The broad smile on his face would just not be matching.

  5. Pingback: Performing Avatar Gaze & Real Facial Animation in EQ2 | Ironyca Stood in the Fire

  6. Raids are going to be so enhanced with 38 people sitting around looking drooling bored or pissed, while 2 have no expression at all because they’re AFK and the entire raid is waiting for them.
    XD

    • Then just wait for the next step of the system, where the armour of your characters is adjusted to what the camera sees. Along comes the tank in his fine-serrate shirt… :D

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