Notch Calls Out 2K Boss Over Photorealism Comments

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Notch Calls Out 2K Boss Over Photorealism Comments

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"I had way more emotions playing Proteus than I ever did playing any 2K game," says Notch.

2K Games boss, Christoph Hartmann, turned a few heads this week when he declared that the industry can't effectively explore new, emotionally driven genres until it achieves photorealistic graphics.

As he told GamesIndustry International:

"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... " he said. "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."

The responses to Hartmann's comments have been abundant and vitriolic as gamers scramble over each other to provide counterexamples. One such dissenting voice belongs to Minecraft creator, Markus "Notch" Perrson, a developer who doesn't hold much stock in photorealism.

"No, Christoph," he tweeted, "you limit the number of new genres if you focus on photorealism."

He then added the following:

"I had way more emotions playing Proteus than I ever did playing any 2K game."

"Also, Futurama has made me feel sad more than most sad movies can.

"The Sting, Jurrasic Bark, Luck of the Fryish. Photorealistic? No."

Personally, I'm wondering if Hartmann misspoke in the original interview. The idea that non-photorealistic visuals make it difficult to convey emotions is just straight-up wrong, as any first-year animation student will tell you. His comment on games expanding into new genres once photorealism is achieved seem more reasonable, though many argue that the increased costs such a graphical style would entail would hinder creativity rather than encourage it.

Source: Twitter

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While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

zungerman090:
While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

Aye, cant help but feel hes just expressed his point badly. Photorealistic graphics will make it easier to show emotion on the screen but good story writers will still be required to actually pen a plot that allows us to connect with the characters on any kind of emotional level.

I mean I nearly cried at this scene in a game and its simple 2d stuff:

I think he got misunderstood. Maybe he meant to say that after we achieved photorealism we can concentrate on trying to express emotions better.

I think he is talking about better facial expressions in which case it does have a very good point and certainly in a world where there are no budget issues for games then it certainly would be.

I think the people ripping on him are being intentionally dense. Cell shaded games are easier to express emotion in as the emotional markers are easier to display in non realistic games.

What he is talking about is the genres of games that use near photo-realistic engines like LA Noire, Mass Effect, or Grand Theft Auto which attempt to carry across some of the deeper emotions of their genres but are limited by the technology they run on.

zungerman090:
While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

That's not the fault of photorealism, though, that's just bad animation. A smooth animation and care to avoid clipping still allows for plenty of stylization. This is just big-shot developers pushing more graphics power because that's what they always flippin' do. I guarantee that any emotional scene you can think of in a realistic game can be matched with a stylized look.

Even in more grounded visual styles, it's still just a matter of getting the execution right more than the horsepower. Look at Half-Life 2, which still holds up today in terms of expression despite being a game from 2004. It may not have L.A. Noire levels of visual fidelity, but a skilled animator should be able to pull off just the same amount of motion. The challenge is mimicking the expressions, not recreating the face.

zungerman090:
While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

Then look at almost any Pixar film. In Wall-E we managed to get romance between a bulldozer and an iPod and still portrayed those emotions well.

Just because a studio that uses canned animations and relinquishes control of a characters' appearance can't make a realistic romance scene, doesn't invalidate the rest.

Further, writing, character, empathy, and depth will trump graphical fidelity most of the time.

getoffmycloud:
I think he is talking about better facial expressions in which case it does have a very good point and certainly in a world where there are no budget issues for games then it certainly would be.

The Source Engine's Faceposer has been brilliant at doing this. With a skilled animator you could get semi, or stylized graphics that can still portray quite a range of emotion. This is why people attatched themselves to Alyx Vance, and - more recently - Wheatley.

Notch is right, but is everything Notch craps out tweets news worthy?

Hartmann's argument is completely wrong. Why? Because for centuries authors have written books that make you feel very strong emotions. An emotion comes from a situation. And that all comes down to writing. The problem is that these guys have no idea what the hell they are talking about when it comes to writing. For more than a decade this industry has been focused on graphics, QTE and huge productions. They totally forgot that games like friggin' Zork or Day of the Tentacle or Fallout can convey emotions just fine. You don't need 64x FSAA and Dynamic Atmospheric Cloud Lightning 4.0 to do that.

This is the difference between Hollywood and the rest of the movie industry, by the way. How many blockbusters don't have embarrassing love stories? Not many.

Shakespeare, Lovecraft, Balzac and Victor Hugo (among the thousands of other great authors that were masters of making you feel just by printing black letters on white paper) must be rolling in their graves. George R.R. Martin must be having a blast, too.

zungerman090:
While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

This is because all of this is poorly designed and written. You don't *have* to show a romance scene. Even in movies, most of the time it's to justify showing the butt of an actor - very rarely is a sex scene actually relevant.

I think the thing this man meant to say is that, when we have the capacity to achieve, at will, nearly any graphical effect, at least up to photo-realism, it will offer a much better palette for those who want to create emotional experiences in games.

Games like Heavy Rain and LA Noir, which are going for a setting in the real world obviously benefit from looking the part, but games like Proteus, Minecraft, and even team fortress show that you can achieve great effect without realism, it just requires you think more about how you break from reality.

This burden is something that would be better as a choice to embrace rather than a limitation of the medium.

Evil Smurf:
Notch is right, but is everything Notch craps out tweets news worthy?

Like. He's been eating a few too many hot pockets lately.

And since other people are putting out their interpretations, I think Christoph is talking about wookies. We need to be able to portray wookies more accurately than ever accounting for every hair on their bodies while taking into account shedding, fleas/ticks/lice. I can't wait to play wookie groomer.

The first 15 minutes of Pixars Up shit all over the 2k argument. But gaming wise? Most of the most moving games are not in any way shape or form PR, Look at how moving a game like Wind Waker is compared to something like Heavy Rain, All the "Realistic" faces in the world, beaten to hell by a cell shaded 12 year old in a magical boat.

drkchmst:

Evil Smurf:
Notch is right, but is everything Notch craps out tweets news worthy?

Like. He's been eating a few too many hot pockets lately.

And since other people are putting out their interpretations, I think Christoph is talking about wookies. We need to be able to portray wookies more accurately than ever accounting for every hair on their bodies while taking into account shedding, fleas/ticks/lice. I can't wait to play wookie groomer.

I liked the original Wookie Groomer for Sega Genesis, If they can keep the fantastic narrative and music then I think this HD rerelease will be worth it.

Stylised characters are often better at conveying emotions through expressions than actual humans.
And you can't get more photorealistic than reality itself.

I don't know if he misspoke or not, and I don't think anyone anywhere is in position to say that for sure. However, his comment isn't entirely true, but it's not entirely false either: it's not IMPOSSIBLE to convey emotions without the use of photorealistic graphics, but it is harder depending on the media.
Heavy Rain was a great game, and until this point, in my opinion, it is the most photorealistic game I've ever played, but for all the drama the story brought, it did not manage to shake me emotionally (yes, I was astounded by the twist on who was the murderer, but a plot twist doesn't need graphics of any sort). Bioshock on the other hand, and even more so Bioshock2: Minerva's Den, shook me tremendously, they're both from 2K and they're not photorealistic.
Let's compare Batman: Mask of the Phantasm to Nolan's trilogy, both are great, but Phantasm carries much more emotional impact.
Basically, it's all about the ability to convey the given emotion into a game, some emotions might be harder than others, as someone previously stated, the sex scenes in Mass Effect and even Heavy Rain are laughable, but I wouldn't call it lack of PHOTOrealism, more like lack of "life", they're always like two statues/automatons kissing each other, it feels... strange. Animations have pulled it off though (Heavy Metal, SOME Final Fantasy CGIs, etc...), but that's a matter of freedom and ability to give the characters emotional responses, such as believable movements and facial expressions. So far, that's easy to do in a Pixar movie, a game CGI, etc. But hard when it comes to gameplay per se...

zungerman090:
While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

Mass Effect's romance scenes are laughable because they're poorly written and poorly animated, not because you can't use graphics at their present level to convey as much emotion as any movie. Considering facial animation down almost ten years ago and no one's really improved on it yet, not to mention some of the most emotionally expressive games I've ever played had even less advanced graphics, the idea that better graphics will lead to conveying better emotion is laughable since no one's really managed it. And if anything, creeping ever closer to the uncanny valley is only going to make emotions, body language and facial animation more unnerving when it's slightly off. If anything, simpler graphics are more emotionally expressive and resonant than the absolute top of the line AAA photorealism attempts.

Evil Smurf:
Notch is right, but is everything Notch craps out tweets news worthy?

Can't help but agree here, just because he made one game that was a hit doesn't mean he's an authority on the videogame industry.

Danial:
The first 15 minutes of Pixars Up shit all over the 2k argument. But gaming wise? Most of the most moving games are not in any way shape or form PR, Look at how moving a game like Wind Waker is compared to something like Heavy Rain, All the "Realistic" faces in the world, beaten to hell by a cell shaded 12 year old in a magical boat.

I think ALL of Wall-E also qualifies for this. about 75% of the movie is non-verbal robots but that is where most of the emotion lies.

Realism =/= emotion

Where I'm from 2k games are infamous for just being horrible. I would never take anything that company says seriously.

I still find this odd coming from the company that just released "spec ops: the line" that had massive emotional impact on me and the graphics in that aren't all that great. I'm just gonna assume that 2k's boss is a moron.

Oncea again, Notch is correct. Photorealism does not mean something is good.

Also, Luck of the Fryrish is like, the best episode of Futurama. That's not to say the rest is bad, it's just that one episode shines very bright.

I think there's a place for stronger emotional connections through BOTH realism AND fantasy. It all really depends on the context of the overall game though, and some games work better on an emotional level using a number of different visual styles. As for Mr. 2K, I think he mis-spoke.

Or I'd like to think that since I would like to think people in this business know what they're talking about...

I don't like Notch much lately. He comes across very aggressive and condescending :/

Maybe he just doesn't know what photorealism is.

zungerman090:
While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

You know what? You're right about Mass Effect, but not that guy. That is the problem with the standard of graphics we use today. Because of the level of graphics we've achieved, many developers foolishly think everything can now be rendered in-game, but that just invites bugs into the cut-scenes. This wouldn't have been a problem at all if the characters were - rather then rendered through typical xbox/ps3 graphics - hand drawn. So yeah, that 2K guy is VERY wrong... if anything, once we reach photo-realistic graphics, there will be 10x the bugs sneaking their way into the cut scenes. Expect some serious moments in games to become funny youtube videos in the future!

But yeah, in response to the actual post I will just say this is EXACTLY what I expected a suit at the head of a game development company (in this day and age) to say. Making things prettier will make them better and add immersion! Wow... things are just as bad as I always exaggerated. This explains the many bland and lackluster "AAA" games this gen. It's like Michael Bay talking about how explosions make good stories and making every character the 'comedic relief' adds depth to them.

zungerman090:
While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

Fasckira:

zungerman090:
While people are hating on this guy, he does have a point. Look at Mass Effect romance scenes. While they are meant to be meaningful and serious, it is hard to take them seriously due to some really bad animation and/or clipping.

Aye, cant help but feel hes just expressed his point badly. Photorealistic graphics will make it easier to show emotion on the screen but good story writers will still be required to actually pen a plot that allows us to connect with the characters on any kind of emotional level.

I mean I nearly cried at this scene in a game and its simple 2d stuff:

The issue with those romance scenes (and a lot of other emotional sequences) is twofold. It's due to stilted and jarring animation and borderline amateurish, shoehorned writing. More so the latter then the former mind you.

It doesn't matter how realistic it is, as long as the characters are distinct and recognisable, well written and move like something that's NOT out of a creepy nightmare.

Just gonna say, Jurassic Bark was sad as fuck.

"Notch Calls Out 2K Boss"; what is this an episode of Jerry Springer?
(We've got a surprise for you Notch, we've got Christoph Hartmann backstage! *chair comes flying from stage left)

Writing is one thing. You can portray a lot through words, or through some sort of other communicative media.

Graphics that parallel real-life will however be easier to identify with. You see Otacon start to cry and you think gee, that's sad, but the more realistic Otacon looks the more you can identify and immerse yourself in the scenario.
[He's cried in pretty much every game he's been in hasn't he?]

You can't really emotionally portray an expression of betrayal or stoic depression with a smiley face icon.

The Guy has a point while graphics can get better companies will focus on them until they achieve perfection. Once they do that they will be forced to use emotions in their story because it will be one of the few avenues left for their efforts

So it's again newsworthy that Notch is flinging shit at other people? He basically repeaded something everyone already knows and followed up with "I had way more emotions playing Proteus than I ever did playing any 2K game.".

The Great JT:
Oncea again, Notch is correct. Photorealism does not mean something is good.

Also, Luck of the Fryrish is like, the best episode of Futurama. That's not to say the rest is bad, it's just that one episode shines very bright.

Personally, anything before Futurama went off the air for the first time (before the movies, though they were good also) were good.

OT: I still dont believe making something photo-realistic will make it more engaging for the Players, In fact, I think it will cause a even greater disconnect, depending on the game.

I can't believe people are defending Hartmann here. I must be missing something. Is he saying photo-realism is better for conveying emotion on the characters faces, or is he saying photo realism is better with creating all emotion in general?

I'm pretty sure either one is fallacious. For conveying face motion, simple animation and character design can be just as good or better. Look at the example given at the top of the article, Wind Waker Link. His design works well in the context of the game, it's simple, but his face is essentially one big canvas to express his emotion through his large eyes, eyebrows and mouth. It's simple and subtle, and works much better here than a large amount of detail.
Another example would be Wheatley. Not even a humanoid character, but the amount of work put into making him fully able to convey emotions and subtle human characteristics is astounding, and it pays off.

I think (read: hope) that what Hartmann meant to say is that photorealism will help realistic games; we need to finish getting past the uncanny valley. As it is, we HAVE to rely on exaggerated styles, because the option for photorealism isn't there, and anything that attempts it is likely to fall short.

Of course, if he means it the way it came across, then nevermind.

P.S. Thanks

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