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Epic Founder: Games Will Be "Absolutely Photorealistic" In 10 Years

Video games continue to look better and better. But how long until we reach photorealism?

Many believe it's a long ways off, but not Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney. He told GamesIndustry International that game graphics will reach an "indistinguishable from reality" level in less than 10 years.

He's talking about "absolute photorealism," but he added that such advancements will come with a brand new set of challenges that developers haven't yet tackled:

"That just moves the challenge of graphics to the problems we don't know how to solve. Like simulating human intelligence, animation, speech, lip-syncing," Sweeney said. "There are still a lot areas that will require ongoing research for probably the rest of our lives before we come close to approaching reality."

This echos comments from Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) visual effects supervisor Kim Libreri, who said last year that we'll see true photorealism in less than a decade. Here's the important question, though, and I quote Jeff Goldblum's character in "Jurassic Park:" "Your scientists were so focused on whether or not they could, they never wondered if they should."

Personally, I don't want games to look exactly like reality. I think at that point, I'll be done playing. It just...takes the fantasy factor away. I also think it's exceedingly dangerous but I'm sure I'm in the minority on that.

Tags: gaming industry, video games, game graphics, epic

7/11/2013 11:36:58 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (22 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 12:09:15 PM
Reply

I don't know how dangerous it is, maybe there the more realistic the violence becomes the more people will think in-game behavior is okay to duplicate in real life. I mean to a certain extent whatever is okay on TV becomes okay in real life ya know? But for the most part smart people don't mix up 2D and 3D life when it comes to games, whether or not that has to do with only graphics is a point of contention.

I also would not like to see a bunch of games that are indistinguishable from reality. Something like L.A. Noire would be perfect for that, but I'd rather games like Uncharted or an FPS like Killzone stay very clearly representations. In most respects they are already better than photoreal because they are more detailed and have more interesting lighting and color palettes.

Honestly I don't think that when it's possible it will become a common practice. Developers still want to be creative no?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 12:59:54 PM

It wouldn't be conscious. We are all unconsciously affected by the things we see, which can manifest itself in future behavior, unbeknownst to us.

It doesn't really have anything to do with intelligence or mental stability. When you give people the option to apparently manipulate other real people (or as real as they can look), you enter a danger zone that humanity has never faced.

It will become more and more difficult for the brain to differentiate between reality and fantasy. It was never a problem with the original Mortal Kombat in arcades, regardless of what the politicians may have thought. It'd be a very large problem if that level of interactive violence was photorealistic.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 7/11/2013 1:01:26 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 1:55:01 PM

I think it has a little to do with intelligence when considering how much of an impact on society we are talking about, but that's strictly to do with how dangerous it has the potential to become rather than the kind of dangers present.

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JROD0823
Saturday, July 13, 2013 @ 3:27:03 PM

Well Ben, with all due respect I hope you stay in the minority with your views on photorealism.

I want to be playing videogames inside of a Star Trek-esque Holodeck in 20 or so years time, and the games better look as real as reality by then, and fantasy looking games can be an additional bonus on the side.

Real all the way, baby!

Side note, I would love to hear your rationale on the dangers of going photorealistic in video games. I don't see how a game possibly looking photorealistic on a tv screen in a few years time could possibly cause me to lose the ability to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality when tv shows that already are photorealistic (because the actors are real people) don't affect me negatively in any way, shape, or form.

It seems as though you feel that the majority of people out there are really weak-minded and easily influenced by the media they consume.

Maybe you're right and I'm just in an exclusive minority of people that are in total control of how the external environment affects their internal state of being.

Last edited by JROD0823 on 7/13/2013 3:50:21 PM

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richfiles
Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 6:11:17 PM

Oh yeah, "dangerous"...

Cause "photorealistic" violence in movies and TV has totally warped my fragile little mind. Pointing to games, when the other medias have gone with no significant problems is just playing to sensationalism. /)_-

Last edited by richfiles on 7/14/2013 6:13:24 PM

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Masszt3r
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 12:31:39 PM
Reply

Making games so "photorealistic" will definitely take the charm away for me. Besides, I'm sure focusing so much on giving this level of visuals will be very expensive and/or time consuming. In addition, developers may overlook other aspects of the game for the sake of this photorealism.

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Temjin001
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 12:45:54 PM
Reply

Seeing that both Sony and MS didn't raise themselves to the bar Tim Sweeney wanted this gen with UE4's lighting model this makes sense he'd say this.
While I think we'll see plenty of sub-photo realistic games this gen, a true revolution in lighting won't happen until the following gen when graphics processors can compute a true real-time illumination system.

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Beamboom
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 2:08:01 PM
Reply

I think they by photorealism means that it looks "real", not that it looks "reality", if you get my point.

Like, The Matrix looks real in that what goes on on the screen looks like real people doing "real things within that universe", but it obviously doesn't look like reality as we know it.

I won't mind if we in Mass Effect 8 gets characters that looks alive, set on planet surfaces that could be a real planet (but isn't).

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PC_Max
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 2:24:45 PM
Reply

I agree with you on this one. Gaming, for me, is an escapism FROM reality. Same with movies. In fact so that when things start to get very close to realism... its almost as if they start to look ... fake or unreal. Experience is one thing which is close to reality, like Heavy Rain and the current LoU. But do I really want the majority of games to feel realistic all the time or just want that feeling of the unbelievable.

Its not quite, but almost like the difference between a book and a comic. Don't dump on my people. Comics have their enjoyment and place. I get to picture what characters are like and the environments based on the written word. Its mine world. Comics.... take a bit of that away because they are more visual than word descriptive. Still fun thought.

Not sure with games its related to CoD syndrome or just multiplayer antics where realistic physics, etc., seems needed or in cases possibly demanded by players.

If things go the way of realism... they had better, well for me, allow a VAST range of individual customizability... but how much will that cost in development... and ultimately the price tag of the games.

Keep Playing!

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AcHiLLiA
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 2:52:45 PM
Reply

It could get a little scary and I'm not talking about the "real" meaning.

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Advent Child
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 5:51:53 PM
Reply

I agree with you on the danger part and absolutely love your Ian Malcolm reference from my favorite movie of all time (also probably one of the best books I have ever read). When people start interacting with what appears to be a real world differentiating will become incredibly hard. All worlds will become "real" to the person experiencing them. That opens a can of worms that not only could be dangerous but possibly the start of a human extinction event. I for one would probably do everything I could to make sure I existed in a world more to my liking than my actual existence. Not to mention the possibility of never having to leave that world. There are already electronic existences that have a currency system where you can make real money. Become a virtual CEO, have all your in real life things taken care of by someone else paid from within the game and wham. Never have to exist in the real world again.

Last edited by Advent Child on 7/11/2013 5:55:07 PM

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Jawknee
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 7:40:48 PM
Reply

Errrr, no thanks. I prefer games to look like...well, games. If this does happen how much you wanna bet people complaints about Nintendo 'not living in the 21st century drrrrr' will disappear? :P

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Akuma07
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 8:12:56 PM
Reply

It will never happen. Because only a fraction of games are based on any kind of real life thing.

All of the fantasy games can't be photorealistic, because those things don't exist in real life.

Sure the graphics will make it all look real, but how do we know?

I wouldn't worry.

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Shauneepeak
Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 11:00:19 PM
Reply

I can see this definitely being possible at the rate technology advances but will it actually be reasonable to implement? Sure we may have the technology to achieve this within 10 years but how much would the machine to run it actually cost? To even run Skyrim with the higher end graphics mods you are looking at a $3k+ computer. Now even if the gameplay itself is not photorealistic CGI cutscenes are a different story =D.

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___________
Friday, July 12, 2013 @ 4:35:13 AM
Reply

and put your hand up if you actually give a sh*t!
1 thats hardly a good thing, theres lots of things you dont want looking realistic that would just be boring!
2 im so f*cking sick of this industries OBSESSION with hollywood!
ie everything has to be peeeeeerty and have lots of big fireballs!
and to hell with how interesting, engaging, and FUN the game actually is!
exactly why the ps1/2 era will always be THE best era in the history of the industry!

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Shauneepeak
Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 6:10:11 PM

Who ever said games can't be pretty while also being fun and engaging. The more graphics advance the easier that will be to obtain instead of spending 90% of a games budget to simply make it look good and ignoring gameplay.

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Kryten1029a
Friday, July 12, 2013 @ 12:36:46 PM
Reply

The Uncanny Valley is likely to be wider and deeper than he realizes!

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JROD0823
Saturday, July 13, 2013 @ 3:59:28 PM
Reply

Well Ben, with all due respect I hope you stay in the minority with your views on photorealism.

I want to be playing videogames inside of a Star Trek-esque Holodeck in 20 or so years time, and the games better look as real as reality by then, and fantasy looking games can be an additional bonus on the side.

Real all the way, baby!

Look, I don't have any problems with games having a fantasy, or sci-fi, or whatever setting, but if the characters look like humans (or not humans for that matter), then they should look and act like real flesh and blood beings.

Side note, I would love to hear your rationale on the dangers of going photorealistic in video games. I don't see how a game possibly looking photorealistic on a TV screen in a few years time could possibly cause me to lose the ability to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality when TV shows that already are photorealistic (because the actors are real people) don't affect me negatively in any way, shape, or form.

It seems as though you feel that the majority of people out there are really weak-minded and easily influenced by the media they consume.

Maybe you're right and I'm just in an exclusive minority of people that are in total control of how the external environment affects their internal state of being.

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JROD0823
Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 1:16:03 PM

I don't know why my post doubled like that, once in World's post as a reply, and once again in an original post of its own.

Technology having a mind of its own, I guess. ;P

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ricksterj
Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 12:41:36 PM
Reply

Games could've looked "Absolutely Photorealistic" (as they SHOUlD) when the PS2 came out; developers either don't want or have it in them to try

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Shauneepeak
Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 6:13:11 PM

Photorealism has been possible for a while I think I read an article in Popular Science few years back. They have been able to obtain 100% photorealism, except for the eyes, for quite a while but the eyes are the most realism breaking aspect of a person or creature so they simply haven't bothered.

Last edited by Shauneepeak on 7/14/2013 6:13:28 PM

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Ather
Sunday, July 14, 2013 @ 5:04:35 PM
Reply

Maybe it's a good idea. Maybe when we hurt a "real" person onscreen, we'll be so sickened by it, meddling politicians will finally shut up about the violence video games magically induce in us.

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