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2K: Until We Hit Photorealism, We Can't Embrace Strong Emotions

A game like Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception looks totally amazing. And yet, we need to go further if we want to keep making strides.

Or so 2K Games believes. Company boss Christoph Hartmann told GamesIndustry.biz that if we want to reach new levels of emotion (like sadness and love), we have to strive for true photorealism. Said Hartmann:

"Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; recreating emotions in Brokeback Mountain is going to be tough, or at least very sensitive in this country... it will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies. Until games are photorealistic, it'll be very hard to open up to new genres. We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now.

To dramatically change the industry to where we can insert a whole range of emotions, I feel it will only happen when we reach the point that games are photorealistic; then we will have reached an endpoint and that might be the final console."

Some believe we can explore strong emotions without the need for super realistic graphics but on the other hand, he has a point. No matter how nostalgic we get about our favorite oldies, there's only so much emotion that can be imparted in a dialogue bubble above a tiny sprite's head. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. That being said, we still need great writing and acting to successfully implement the necessary emotions, so it's not all about the visual.

Tags: video games, gaming industry, next gen, next generation

8/1/2012 8:14:30 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (28 posts)

fatelementality
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 9:09:14 PM
Reply

I know that when Aerith died the world meant nothing to me. You know it as well Ben. Deep, deep pain........and hatred.

Last edited by fatelementality on 8/1/2012 9:09:31 PM

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Highlander
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 10:44:58 PM

Exactly. I honestly think that people with the mindset that photo-realism is necessary to convey deep emotions are essentially bereft of artistic ability. The death of Aerith is a perfect example. I *still* cannot play the game beyond it. It affected me that much.

Xenosaga Episode 1, the climactic ending of that game. When KOS-MOS stays behind and you think she's going to go down with Proto Merkahba, but she runs at the last moement in an attempt to reach the Elsa, and Shion. We hear Shion's anguished cries to the crew not to leave without KOS-MOS. Then there is that moment when Shion senses KOS-MOS and tells the captain to move in closer. Then KOS-MOS explodes through the wall leaping for the Elsa, and just catches Shion's hand.

But of course KOS-MOS is a heavy combat android and Shion is a small geeky girl, inevitably she starts to lose her grip. but she's along, no one can help her, she has to hang on. KOS-MOS will fall....and she loses her grip. Just as Ziggy reaches down and helps pull KOS-MOS to safety.

The music, the action sequences, the voice work, the graphics, everything that built the KOS-MOS and Shion characters and their relationship coalesced into that one moment. I'll happily admit that there were tears because I thought KOS-MOS was gone, I felt the loss that Shion felt, and then the moment of elation when KOSMOS appears, and of course joy when KOS-MOS is finally pulled to safety.

I recently watched some of the Idolmaster series in Japanese with subtitles. The artwork is good, and absolutely not photo-realistic. Yet there is a two episode sequence where one of the characters (Chihaya) loses her singing voice. Someone exploits a tragedy from her past in order to prevent her from performing, she literally can't sing a note, nothing comes out.

She breaks down and withdraws, saying she'll never sing again. Her friends, and producer try to get her to come back, and she realizes that she originally sang for her brother, who she tragically lost, and that she can keep singing for him, and herself. Her friends rally around her and write a song for her to sing.

Chihaya takes the stage at their next major performance, to sing. Yet when the music begins, she's hesitant, she's afraid - will she be able to sing? Her friends come on the stage behind her and start singing the song for her. As they do, Chiaya sees (in her mind's eye) her deceased brother in the crowd, smiling at her, there to hear her sing.

As the song reaches the first climactic chorus, everyone falls silent and....Chihaya sings. She belts the song out in a powerful, clean, beautiful voice. As she does she see's her brother enjoying the song, and she sings through to the end, and the congratulations from her friends and the appreciation of the audience. But of course, all Chihaya sees is her brother, smiling because of her song. There wasn't a dry eye in the house here among those watching.

Why I am explaining all of this? Easy, none of it is photo realistic, it's not even remotely close. Yet they convey very deep emotions, and are sufficiently powerful to move the player/ viewer. As such I utterly reject the thoughts expressed by Christoph Hartmann, I reject the idea that photo-realism is needed to convey emotion. It's complete nonsense to suggest that we cannot convey emotion without photorealism.

What of black and white film? Silent movies? Books? Songs? Music? Radio Drama? Dance? Poetry? etc... Never mind Anime or video games, what of these things? Can they not convey deep emotion without photo-realistic characters and environments?

What a load of rubbish some people in this industry do come up with...

Last edited by Highlander on 8/1/2012 10:50:09 PM

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ZenChichiri
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 11:40:27 PM

The ending of Xenosaga 3 choked me up a whole lot. It was such a good end, and to have everything come come to a huge climactic 7 hour long final dungeon (lots of story, like 8 boss battles) to bring everything full circle was insane. It was like a 7 hour emotional roller coaster. The Xeno series kicks so much ass.

And on that note go play Xenogears!

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Rogueagent01
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 12:19:14 AM

Man your telling of the Chihaya story almost brought a tear to my eye as I have played the drums for over 20 years, but ever since I got out of high school I haven't been able to play in front of a crowd(except for 1 time). And yes I did have a type of trauma around that same time, well seems I have to get my hands on that show now.

Thanks for that Highlander.

And I agree 100% that photorealism is absolutely not necessary for emotions to be conveyed. Think of how little empathy would have existed if that were true, only in the past say 40 years would we have gotten to the point to actually feel emotions.

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Highlander
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 1:25:45 AM

Thanks Rogue, that Chihaya story is interesting in a second way that demonstrates the folly of saying photo-realism is required for emotion to be conveyed. I have 'the song' on CD in my car, when the music builds to the chorus the first time and there is that pause before you hear her voice blowing your socks off and she finishes the chorus, with her voice just breaking from emotion.

Every time I hear it, I get a little chocked up and feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising. Part of it's the character, part is the story, part of it's the song and what went into it's creation, but the artist that provides Chihaya's voice manages to sing so powerfully, yet softly; with so much passion and emotion that you can't help but be moved. Instantly you recall the scene when she see's her brother and starts to sing. I mean, it's not like I'm literally watching the scene again, yet the song triggers the same reaction.

To me, that is the power of art which will *always* triumph over the mundane reality of photo-realism. Art engages your emotion and imagination. Photo-realism presents a pre-rendered scene that requires no imagination. Without the involvement of the imagination there is no 'buy in' to form the emotional attachments to characters that allow the full emotion of a scene to be conveyed with little more than a gesture, or facial expression.

Last edited by Highlander on 8/2/2012 1:26:37 AM

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Rogueagent01
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 9:36:11 PM
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Yeah...because the tears that came out of my eyes during FF VII or Valkyria Chronicles weren't real. What a joke of a comment this is! So then anything animated shouldn't get you to be emotional, I mean they aren't photorealistic. So yeah when I shed tears during The Lion King that shouldn't have happened.

Idiots like this are the reason we don't have that many emotional games, it has NOTHING to do with the graphics. It boils down to one thing, the "big picture". If you put together a game (or whatever) in a bad way then the emotional attachment will be drastically reduced. However if you paint a picture the right way then the emotional attachment can be ramped up greatly. I can't figure out how some of these people keep their jobs.

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Rogueagent01
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 9:40:10 PM

One other thing is I can't wait for photorealism to get here, so that we can hear what 2Ks excuse is for not making a game that has strong emotions is then.

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Cuetes
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 9:37:42 PM
Reply

I can't say I entirely agree with this. Photorealism can help but.....

There are plenty of examples that prove otherwise; FF7,Heavy Rain,RDR,MGS4,ICO & SOC(all games that carried some heavy emotions) plus countless others. Not to mention the countless books, art pieces and every day events (smells, songs or just a voice) that can bring on serious emotions. Notice how none of these could be considered "photorealistic"?
That leads me to believe that the way the message is carried to you is as or more important than the actual visual that may or may not be photrealistic.

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fatelementality
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 10:05:59 PM
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When photorealism hits they need to make a Homeward Bound game. Gets me every time. "Shadow!"

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homura
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 10:06:13 PM
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It seems that this guy never heard or played Heavy Rain and ICO, and never watch anime either like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle and Honey and Clover. He only knows the mainstream.

"We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now". What a f*ck up comment is that.

Last edited by homura on 8/1/2012 10:11:00 PM

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Lotusflow3r
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 10:34:21 PM
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Is this guy THAT one dimensional?

No wonder why this generation's iffy with these people running it.

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Metal Head
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 10:43:39 PM
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Lunar has alot of emotions and the graphics are very old. I prefer a good story over fancy cutting edge graphics.

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cLoudou
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 10:45:46 PM
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So is he also saying that animated movies can't be as deep as a movie with real actors too, unless it is photo realistic? I cried when Mufasa died.

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MrAnonymity
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 @ 10:49:58 PM
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If the current generation of consoles were at the height of graphical capabilities I would not be disappointed. Photorealism is by no means necessary to convey emotions; that can be done with solid writing. If that were the case then not a single novel reader would ever get emotional just by reading a book.

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Fox hounder
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 12:02:57 AM
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I still shed tears at the end of MGS1 when Snake is telling Naomi about Gray Fox's sacrifice, and that game is nowhere near photo realistic.

It takes interesting characters, and a personal attachment to those characters to convey emotion. Not photorealism (at least not for this gamer).

Last edited by Fox hounder on 8/2/2012 12:03:34 AM

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Qubex
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 12:50:49 AM
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I think he is dead wrong!

Highlander, you are spot on!

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

Last edited by Qubex on 8/2/2012 12:51:09 AM

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JonnyR
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 3:20:54 AM
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so we need photo-realism in order to convey emotive subject matter??

someone please show this guy the opening ten minutes of 'UP'

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firesoul453
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 10:12:05 AM

Agree %100 !

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___________
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 5:32:00 AM
Reply

WHAT!?
congrats dude hope your proud because that is THE poorest most pathetic excuse i have ever heard!
50 bucks says this is just a knee jerk reaction and excuse to why the company only makes mindless shooters!
not that im complaining, they make some of the best games out there!
but there not exactly heavy rain.........

actually come to think of it, so is he saying bioshock is not emotional?
i freaking loved that game, nothing has ever had a impact and shock on you like that will!
id like to think ken lervine would slap this guy silly if he said that to him!

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xenris
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 9:19:07 AM
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I'll just go out and say that this is a load of garbage.

I haven't been so tugged and yanked by my emotions as I have while playing Journey and guess how photo realistic those graphics are?

I think music tugs at emotions way more than visuals ever will. Kingdom Hearts when I first played it when I was just starting highschool made me a well of emotions. Again it was the music and themes that did that not the graphics.

I think its just a bad excuse. Just like that guy who said creativity is being limited by the hardware. What a bunch of jokers.

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Temjin001
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 2:22:44 PM
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I don't think this guy really understands what he's talking about. I see some truth in his point but it's mired with counter arguments. He's making a generalization about the tangibility and perception of emotions, demanding the need for photo realism. He's suggesting we CAN'T have it without this level of detail, without the possibility of any other alternative. Recalling my logic course, this may qualify as a false dichotomy.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 8/2/2012 2:24:19 PM

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Ninja_WafflesXD
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 3:00:51 PM
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Fail.

I'm pretty sure that real tears were streaming down my face during MGS4....Heavy Rain....and SotC...oh, and Crisis Core...hmmm, probably Valkyria Chronicles too (or maybe that was just debris...)

I could go on -_-"

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Beamboom
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 3:11:21 PM
Reply

Hmm. What a strange thing to say.
I'm inclined to think he must have meant it differently than how it came out.

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Warrior Poet
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 3:35:29 PM
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Movies are photorealistic and precious few of them can make you feel.

2K...has never played Tactics Ogre. That's all I've got to say there.

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Norrin Radd
Thursday, August 02, 2012 @ 9:14:04 PM
Reply

Seems to me books have been able to convey strong emotion with very limited graphical capabilities for quite some time. ;)

Last edited by Norrin Radd on 8/2/2012 9:14:37 PM

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Amnesiac
Friday, August 03, 2012 @ 12:56:20 AM
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I agree with the above statement

2K Games = cop out

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Bariikade
Sunday, August 05, 2012 @ 10:58:16 AM
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Norrin Radd, you speak sense my friend.

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SS4
Sunday, August 05, 2012 @ 6:52:32 PM
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Ill agree with everyone else that graphic is a non issue to convey feeling. Although Aerith death didnt bother me to much its probably since i wasnt really attacked to her, she kinda sucked in fights :P And maybe i liked Tiffa more, who knows lol

But i know in One Piece for instance when we see the past of the main crew there were some very gripping moments and the animation wasnt the best but it didnt matter, the settings, the music...everything matters when conveying the feelings.

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