Production Image of the Upcoming Mass Effect Title Revealed

Ken Thain, Bioware’s Cinematic Director, has tweeted a production image of the upcoming Mass Effect title. The tweet states that the team is getting their “motions on at TheCaptureLab in Vancouver. A very cool scene for the next #MassEffect.”

The image shows two actors in motion capture suits getting the animations ready for the game. An image of the game can be seen, though faintly, on the left side of the image. Though the image is not so great and does not reveal a whole lot about the title, it does seem to be a start for Bioware revealing some more content and information about the next Mass Effect.

Bioware’s latest Mass Effect title should be revealed at E3 in June, where the developer is expected to reveal some gameplay footage. Until then, producer Michael Gamble states in his tweet that the title is reaching another milestone soon.

“The ‘Mass Effect’ team is finishing another milestone soon? It’s almost like we are building a real game or something.”

While Gamble seems pleased with the end of the milestone, it still does not reveal what the milestone is exactly. Also, the producer has requested that a race selection should be added for the next iteration in the Mass Effect saga, since its universe was created to be so vast and features a variety of races.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7mX2_163cg

Thank you WCCF for providing us with this information

16 Hours of ‘Intimate’ Mo-Cap Captured for The Witcher 3

Anyone who has played the Witcher series will know that intimate sex scenes are an important part of the game’s story. The Witcher 3 is shaping up to be the biggest game in the series so far, which essentially means there will be more saucy scenes throughout. This explains a little of why CD Projekt Red needed 16 hours of sex scene motion capture data.

“We are establishing that your character was intimate with this woman recently in order to plant in your mind, that, at the very least, he must enjoy her company,” Senior Game Designer Damien Monhier said. “Through sex we have shown that this is a person who Geralt would be compelled to chase after if she went missing. We couldn’t just tell you to go find someone you don’t know or care about,” he said. “It wouldn’t work.”

No one is saying that the game has 16 hours of these scenes, but that it took that much data to get them right. It is interesting that they’re putting a lot of effort into the more mature content side of their game, to help establish a more meaningful relationship in-game; let’s hope it paid off.

Thank you PCGamer for providing us with this information.

 

Beyond: Two Souls PlayStation 3 Review

I’ve managed to keep my head buried in the sand when it comes to Beyond: Two Souls, having played and loved the developers last title “Heavy Rain” I figured I had a vague idea of what to expect from this game, but as far as the actual gameplay, story or much of anything beyond the initial launch trailer, I was going in blind and spoiler free.

Quantic Dream aren’t like many other developers, they’ve managed to stay afloat despite making some really odd games that have been both loved and hated by the gaming community, in fact it is often remarked that this game and their last game, Heavy Rain, aren’t even games, but more interactive stories and adventures (which is a game by any definition, some people are just stupid.)

One of the biggest tools at Quantic Dreams disposal is their motion capture unit, a system that uses 64 cameras to digitize the real world performances of the actors in the game. With Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe on board for the two big roles in the Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic aim to bring Hollywood performances to the world of gaming.

The game is based around the life of Jodie Holmes, a young girl who has a powerful and incredibly strange psychic connection with an entity named Aiden. While much of the game requires you to take control of Jodie, you have the ability to switch out to Aiden too, this allows you to use her abilities to move objects, scare people, see through walls and even listen in on conversations.

It’s a clever gameplay mechanic, although I use the term gameplay loosely as while many games give you controls to run around and “do stuff”, this isn’t really a game where you start in one place and work your way towards the end. The game is non linear, so the story jumps back and forth between modern-day life and Jodie’s childhood, meeting friends, working for the CIA and some rather well acted and captured human interactions that really do bring the story closer to being a movie than a game. Yet when there is gameplay mechanics to deal with, of which there are plenty of times, the game feels great, movement is fluid and there is definitely fun to be had in finding objects to interact with, even if they’re a little pre-set in order to progress the story of the game, rather than true exploration.

The game is dark, following Jodie being taken in by the CIA and her powers experimented with as she struggles with growing up in the care of paranormal doctor Nathan Dawkins (Willem Dafoe). Story elements can be played out in real-time with the use of quick time dialogue choices, giving you a choice that often boils down to positive, negative or neutral response. The story is the focus here and while it can be erratic, it is surprisingly pretty deep and interesting.

While the game is single player, you actually can play it co-op too. You can either play by yourself and control Jodie and Aiden, or you can share with another playing and control one each, albeit not at the same time (control switches to player 2 and vice versa). Even more interestingly is that you can play from your smart phone! Since the game uses gestures on the PS3 six-axis, or swipes from the right stick, or just a tap of a button, the controls transfer really well to mobile, although I do prefer using the official PlayStation controller.

The motion capture here is fantastic, literally some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game and while I’m still confident the developers haven’t gotten the mouth animations right for when people are talking, I still uphold that it is some of the best I’ve seen in a video game. The way people walk and interact with in-game objects being the most natural looking I’ve seen too, something that is backed up by (literally) the best graphics I’ve seen on a games console to date.

To say the graphics look good for a PS3 game would be selling it short, they look incredible even compared to high-end PC games and that really is saying something. This is in part to the game taking part in controlled locations, smaller sets so to speak, with less stuff to draw, there are more polygons left over for people and it’s a fantastic trade-off that looks incredible, especially when combined with the motion capture and the voice acting of industry pros likes Willem Dafoe.

The gameplay, the motion capture, the graphics are all just small parts of the overall experience that is Beyond: Two Souls, it’s not quite a movie, but it’s not a “game” either, it transcends most digital gaming media in that sense and just grips you with its story, but doesn’t reward you with much physical gameplay.

Regardless of how it is played, it feels like a good book that you just don’t want to put down. I’m not one for spoiling a stories ending, so I won’t be doing such a thing, the only thing I will remark about this game is that I enjoyed it so much that I wish it could be a little bit longer, even though it did take me 12 hours to complete. In terms of overall experience I am very impressed and despite the game feeling like it’s on rails, I haven’t been this blown away since the opening sequences of The Last of Us.

Pros

  • Gripping original story
  • Famous faces and voices really add to the cinematic experience
  • Incredible graphics
  • Smooth animation and motion capture

Cons

  • Some may not enjoy the less involving gameplay / controls.

“Those not familiar with the concept may find the experience lacking in more common gameplay elements, but those familiar with Quantic Dreams previous title Heavy Rain will no what to expect. It’s certainly Quantics best game to date and in terms of presentation and story it’s certainly an enjoyable experience and a welcome change of pace to the driving / shooting nature of most current AAA titles.”

Beyond: Two Souls PlayStation 3 Review

Thank you SCEE for providing us with this sample.

Markerless Motion Capture System OpenStage 2.3 Released

Organic Motion has just announced the availability of OpenStage 2.3, which claims to make it faster and easier than ever for animators to capture and manipulate motion data. Building on the efficiency of OpenStage 2 markerless motion capture technology, the new release enables new ways for animators to work with and customize the motion data. After all, real-world finished animation doesn’t end with motion capture, it is manipulated and brought to life by talented animators who go beyond the literal performance to find the best gesture, pose or exaggerated action in order to get across the right effect for the character and story.

Working in close collaboration with professional animation video game developer clients, Organic Motion developed OpenStage 2.3 to be the first and only motion capture solution that allows animators to import not only motion capture data, but also virtual cameras and matching reference videos into Autodesk MotionBuilder, Maya and 3D Studio MAX. With reference videos setup as image planes, the mocap skeleton can be easily viewed from multiple angles and lined up with the actor’s performance. This makes it quick and easy for directors to pick takes, and for animators to layer on custom animation, all in less time and with less effort than ever before.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/HucVdfMXo-k[/youtube]

Animation Director Brent George recently incorporated the new OpenStage capabilities into his workflow for in-game animation on a major AAA game title at Warner Brothers Games Montreal. In addition to improving overall animation quality, Brent also cited a significant increase in animation output. “I saw an increase in animation output by at least 3-4 times. A final animation that would typically take 3-4 days was taking only 1 day utilizing OpenStage 2.”

Games development costs are on the rise again with the introduction of next-gen consoles, anything that can speed up the process is a big way for studios to save money and cut down development time. Personally I can’t wait to see what the AAA game is from Warner Brothers that has been using this tech.

Thank you Organic Motion for providing us with this information.

Image coutesy of Organic Motion.

Markerless Motion Capture Software iPi Now On Steam

iPi Soft, LLC is the Moscow-based developer of iPi Motion Capture, a markerless motion capture software tool that is set to change to industry has just launched on Steam.

“Having the opportunity to make our iPi Motion Capture solution available to the 50 million members of the Valve ‘Steam Store’ is a great opportunity to show how powerful our markerless mocap solution can be to game developers,”  – Michael Nikonov of iPi

iPi Soft, LLC, developer of the iPi Motion Capture, announced that its acclaimed markerless motion capture is now available in the Valve Steam Store. The move provides the 50 million members of the Valve gaming community with an optimized and integrated version of the mocap solution that is currently in use at some of the entertainment industries top game developers, visual effect/animation studios and independent filmmakers.

Source Filmmaker (SFM) is the Steam Store’s own state-of-the-art movie making tool, built and used by Valve to make movies inside the Source game engine. Because SFM uses the same assets as the game, anything that exists in the game can be used in the movie, and vice versa. For iPi Soft Founder and Chief Technology Architect Michael Nikonov, having iPi Motion Capture become part of this hugely popular and respected gaming platform, represents a key stepping-stone in the technology company’s growth.

“As any serious gamer knows Valve and Steam Store are the pinnacle of gaming – whether it’s the games they’ve developed or the community surrounding gaming overall,” Nikonov says. “Having our product available to their 50 million members is both an honor and a great opportunity to show just how powerful our markerless mocap solution can be to game developers at all levels. We look forward to seeing how our product is used by the many creative professionals and amateurs who call Valve home.”

The Valve Steam Store is the world’s largest online gaming platform that guarantees instant access to more than over 2000 game titles (“Half-Life 2,” “Team Fortress,” “Counter-Strike,” “Left 4 Dead” and “Portal 2” among many others), and provides a direct pipeline that connects its 50 million active users to each other.

Details and pricing for iPi Motion Capture solution is available via the Steam Store here