When playing as video game characters, you often perform actions that you wouldn’t normally do, such as shoot aliens , escape from a train about to fall off a cliff or to stroll outside a space station. The degree of tolerance we have towards the repetition of these activities in video games is very high because these are actions that we tend not to know, so we tend to trust what the developer has created for us .
However, things change when video games show extremely common actions and gestures, like opening a door or two characters hugging. All the intimate interactions between the characters are very complicated to recreate and take so long to create that most of the time they are simply ignored, or inserted thanks to a few tricks, such as moving the frame further away or working on the depth of field, i.e. -say the vagueness. them. If you see a well-crafted intimate scene like a kiss or hug in a video game, it’s because the development team decided that that element was particularly important to telling the story and therefore worth it. to invest time and money in it.
This decision was taken for example by Guerrilla Games, the Sony-owned studio that developed the series Horizon, an adventure game set in a distant future in which humanity has barely survived a catastrophe of its own making. The protagonist of the series is called Aloy, a hunter engaged in the most classic of missions to save a world populated by enormous mechanical creatures very reminiscent of dinosaurs. Aloy’s tribe has marginalized her since her childhood as an orphan, which has inevitably had a significant impact on her relationships with other characters in the game. Since 2017, when it was published Horizon Zero DawnAloy was an example of how you could create characters that didn’t. were necessarily stereotyped that they had credible emotional growth throughout the story and that establish personal relationships useful for enriching the character rather than just being functional for the story.
Guerrilla Games released last April Burning shoresthe extension of the second chapter of the series, the launch of which was accompanied of a trailer who was immediately noticed by the presence of a particularly successful hug. “This hug at 12:45 a.m.,” he wrote Xalavier Nelson Jr, director of the Strange Scaffold studio, “it’s a technical virtuosity you have no idea about”, also adding that a hug like this alone is capable of impacting the production budget by an additional $1 million to $8 million.
Richard Oud, director of animations at Guerrilla Games, explained in an interview with the site IGN because scenes that show moments of intimacy are extremely expensive and complicated to produce. The creation of characters in this type of video game is carried out using a technique called “motion capture”, which consists of dressing the actors in special suits filled with sensors positioned on anatomical relief points such as the hands, feet , joints and faces, which are filmed from Precision cameras allow you to recreate movements in a virtual environment. The virtualization of the actors’ movements therefore becomes the skeleton around which developers and artists create the character, dressing them, for example, with the clothes and armor that we then see in the finished video game. When two actors kiss, kiss, or are very close, the system is no longer able to recognize these sensors, which must therefore be traced manually by the developers. This process is extremely long and complex to carry out and is sometimes entrusted to external studios which only take care of preparing the motion capture acquisitions for the animators.
Once this problem is overcome, however, there remains the problem linked to the final appearance of the character. The motion capture suits are extremely tight and effectively create a virtual animation of a character as if they were naked. “Let’s take Aloy’s armor for example: not all the pieces that make it up are taken into account by the motion capture,” explains Oud, “someone still has to indicate to the system that each piece of the armor exists, and it must interact with someone.” both inside and out. »
The dynamics that regulate the physical interactions between characters, usually called “collisions”, must then also be integrated with other elements that make up the character itself, such as hair. To make the movement of Aloy’s hair believable, the developers divided it into a series of “tubes” that can interact with each other, in a way that conveys the idea of volume and something that moves in a coherent. However, under normal conditions, these “pipes” can only interact with each other, and not with external elements. Oud says that in the case of hugs, it was necessary to create a “moving collider” (an element created solely to be able to make the hair understand that it should move) which imitated the movement of an arm around the neck, so that the The tubes that form the basis of Aloy’s hair structure knew they had to move to make room for her arm.
In general, video game production (just like cinema) has always been characterized by the search for systems and “gimmicks” to make something seem real that is not true. One of the most recent examples is how developers of Star Field they realized rain in their game. Star Field is a space-themed adventure developed by Bethesda, one of Microsoft’s in-house studios. This is a game defined as “Triple A”, that is, a production with a huge budget (which reaches hundreds of millions of dollars) and which, with the intention of the publisher, especially if it is an exclusive game like this, serves to show the qualities of your system compared to that of your competitors.
In Star Fieldwhen it rains, it doesn’t rain in the entire game world, but only in a limited area around the player. “Whether you use first or third person view, the rain looks real. But if you switch to photo mode and zoom out, you’ll see that the rain is actually like a small particle system, about 3 x 3 meters, that’s right on top of your character,” he said. -he writes in a message.interview with Polygon Karl Schecht, a three-dimensional environment artist who explained how everything in a video game is a complicated compromise between wanting to recreate something as realistically as possible, like rain or snow, and making sure the console or the computer that has it to make it work are not overly burdened with it.
Although the insertion of certain mechanics or animations is not essential to the success of a game and has a concrete impact on the final cost, several developers still choose to develop these elements to simply make the experience as realistic as possible. possible. There are many examples of these details: in the remake of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare there is a ball which deflates believably if you shoot him, in Control you occasionally encounter freshly mopped floors with still the traces of the brush while in The Last of Us Part II at one point the protagonist takes off her shirt with an animation so well done be perfectly credible. Invest time and therefore money in these details for many developers it’s not just an exercise in style, but a way to make the player feel even more involved in what they’re doing.
There’s a scene in The Last of Us 2 where a character… simply takes a shirt off, over his head, without any cuts, and it’s probably the most technically impressive thing I’ve ever seen in a game ?? Have you ever seen a character do this in a game before? pic.twitter.com/v4AvYe0JGz
-Dan Hindes (@dhindes) June 19, 2020
Oud also believes that certain elements, regardless of the cost of creating them, should always be included, especially if it is believed that they can add something to the building of the story or characters. With Horizon Guerrilla Games also wanted to tell Aloy’s personal story, which like everyone’s is made up of human relationships and physical contact. “If we gave up cuddling, or intimate moments in general,” Oud concludes, “the story just wouldn’t be complete. So we have to find a technical solution to be able to do all these things and at the same time make sure that the player is emotionally connected to the character and that it all feels so natural that the player doesn’t have to think about it. it’s too much.”