Cutscenes and the Uncanny Valley: AC Games vs RDR2

1 : Anonymous2021/03/07 04:31 ID: lzj4iu

In general, I've noticed that games these days, Ubisoft games being a prime offender, release with really weird visuals. Let's take the AC series as an example. Origins/Odyssey/etc are all guilty of this: Cutscenes involve close ups of people who are trying to emote something but end up either looking like they're having a stroke, or their soul sucked out of them. When they smile, they end up looking rapey as hell, and in general, the expressions are bad enough to be immersion breaking, especially in a scene that would otherwise be very moving just going by how good the voice acting is (AC Origins for example). I think I'd be totally fine with a wall of moving text that just relays the scene, or a non in-game rendering, or something more zoomed out instead of this uncanny-valley-on-crack stuff they do now. Hitman2 had rendered cut scenes, and though there was some uncanny valley going on, it didn't look nearly as bad. RDR2 had some of this, but for the most part, it also wasn't as bad. You could still kinda make out if someone was smirking or shaking their head and they didn't spaz out as much as characters do in the AC games. I was saddened to see that even the newer ACs suffers from this. I'm guessing they don't qualify as bugs, since Origins has been out for a few years now, and the issue still persists. It's sad because if they were to fix that, I think there would be a lot more love for these games.

Is anyone else bothered by this? I don't know much about game development when it comes to cutscenes, so I assume that getting expressions to fire at the same time as a vocal inflection, or just emoting body language in general is a huge challenge in games, though I'd love it if someone who knows about this/has worked on this could shed some light, and on the same note, maybe recommend some games with a great plot that don't suffer so much from this, old or new. Thanks for reading!

2 : Anonymous2021/03/07 05:18 ID: gq2iven

I noticed this as well. I'm going to guess that Assassins Creed for whatever reason doesn't use motion capture tech for their faces, which turns down the facial expression realism by like 10 notches unfortunately. I have no idea why they don't, either. It seems every other game that leans heavily on cutscenes, storyline, and dialogue do it.

And there's so many ways to get around it, like you said. Being more zoomed out for one, or hell, you could go the Halo route and just give everyone masks. Motion capture would be the real fix though.

ID: gq2la56

I remember reading that they motion captured a camel or some such. I was digging around and found this:

That hints at the fact that there maybe was some motion capture, but to your point, maybe for some incomprehensible reason they left it out of the cut scenes, or maybe it didn’t include the face(if such tech does exist in a usable form in video games), or used recycled mocap animations from other situations, who knows.

Either way, the end result is really sloppy and has the effect of it feeling like an Early Access game. I still enjoyed that particular game, it’d have been a game changer if they’d gotten it right.

ID: gq2lko0

These are interesting points. I’ll need to read up more on how this tech is used in games that do it well.

3 : Anonymous2021/03/07 05:41 ID: gq2kz79

In-engine cutscenes are problematic because the models are optimized for integration with gameplay and physics, so the rigging is usually much simpler than what you'd have in a cinema oriented model, and trying to do detailed animations results in weird artifacts where the mesh topology doesn't support specific movements.

Another factor, which weighs a lot especially in AAA games, is crunch culture, where underpaid artists and developers work overtime to match tight deadlines, so quality obviously suffers.

ID: gq2nzv5

Would it not follow that if they’d use (for cut scenes only) models identical to the in game models but with higher “mesh resolution” in the facial regions, emoting and expressions would be greatly improved? Or at least create a much higher resolution model, film the scene and play the recorded scene as a movie clip so it looks in game but isn’t? It’s a hack but it’d still be better than what they use now, I feel.

Yeah, I wonder too if crunch culture were mitigated, and maybe if they took an extra few weeks to get it right, it’d at least be much improved.

I also wonder if there’s some suits saying “Eh, why bother fixing it? It’ll sell regardless” as a reason to not invest more in this.

4 : Anonymous2021/03/07 06:46 ID: gq2q59r

Scope's the main culprit here. AC has tons of dialogue, so tweaking all of it individually isn't viable financially. Shorter games can do facial motion capture for their dialogue and they tend to look good. AC Unity's facial animations still look great for this reason.

CDPR's facial animation tech is great. The Witcher 3 managed to look decent despite being huge in scope and Cyberpunk runs on some black magic that makes it look almost as good as motion capture, even though it's not.

ID: gq2r83p

Whoa, this video is really cool. Thanks for posting that link. I’m halfway through it and it’s really interesting. I guess I could start playing that game once it’s in a finished state. Great facial animations but then they have this whole T pose thing the characters/enemies randomly do during a mission that’s both hilarious and infuriating.

5 : Anonymous2021/03/07 05:59 ID: gq2me9g

Really wish more games would have continued evolving the face tech from LA Noire. It's still possibly the best facial animation in a game today. If they could have mixed that with the textures and lighting we have in games now...damn.

ID: gq2rahr

I think uncharted 4 and TLOU2 have the best realistic facial expressions. Sometimes it feels like you re watching real poeple.

ID: gq2msqe

Facials in LA Noire were important as they were a feature in the game so they were kinda important so more money there.

ID: gq2odpg

Agreed. I’d even be all for using that tech in cutscenes alone since just that would be a great improvement.

ID: gq2zxgq

Yeah, even though the graphics quality wasn't great, the animation on the different emotions was amazing.

ID: gq3cme6

that face capture was HUGE though. That game was on multiple disks on the xbox 360 just for the video for the faces

6 : Anonymous2021/03/07 10:59 ID: gq35nl9

In the Odyssey DLC where Kassandra falls in love and had a child the absurdity of the cutscenes is turned up to 11. They try to tell this super grounded and real story about 2 people falling in love except both of them have claymation faces and the voice actor of the guy Kassandra falls in love with is beyond terrible. It’s like watching a hilariously bad movie.

ID: gq3bk9l

Oh, you’re missing out then. Try again as Alexios. Dude sounds like Kermit, and acts like he’s having a fit in any scene calling for emotion. I tried his character on my second play through to see if there’d be any improvement and I actually ended up liking Kassandra a lot more as I mystery scienced my way through the game.

7 : Anonymous2021/03/07 04:53 ID: gq2gg5x

Ubisoft is just trash nowadays, I haven't enjoyed AC since the Ezio trilogy.

ID: gq2mqp0

Ey don't treat my boi black flag like that.

ID: gq48f2q

Interesting. I have enjoyed every AC but the Ezio Trilogy.

ID: gq2hcxq

Why so? Did you feel the plots sucked? I actually really enjoyed Origins, in spite of the issues described in my post. The voice acting alone carried many otherwise cringey scenes.


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