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T O P I C
Technology Versus Creative Effort?
October 25th 2002, 02:54 CEST by Mank

As the power of gaming platforms increase, so does the complexity and detail of the 3D environments contained in the games themselves. The public continues to demand more and more in terms of visuals and realistic environments, and publishers and developers alike are looking for ways to cut costs, and at the same time still be able to deliver a viable and profitable gaming experience.

As technology improves, so does the ability of game developers to increase their respective workflow. But recently, a certain unnamed game publisher has realized that the area of content creation would need to be addressed more closely as the costs and development times of content for highly detailed scenarios will soon become problematic.

Enter REALVIZ. It's new product in development, called REALVIZ: ImageModelerô, allows for pictures taken with a simple handheld digital camera to be used in the generation of actual 3D models and environments/textures. The case study in the link above touts some pretty impressive numbers, where "an estimated average of a 75% reduction in the time required to create the assets" was achieved. The finished product of this case study is shown in a small Quicktime clip which you can find HERE. Granted, its just a single camera angle, but with only one person and 16 hours of work invested, it's quite amazing.

If you look at the customer reference list that this company has posted you will find such names as Nintendo, Electronic Arts, and NamCo listed right along side some of the biggest names in the film industry. It would appear that some big names are already jumping on the wagon of cutting costs, and it appears that new technology such as this will play more of a role in the months and years ahead where game development is concerned.

If a developer is given the choice between using a program such as this and making an exact replica model of something(complete with textures) from just a few pictures, or having its modellor spend numerous hours on a poly by poly build in 3DS or Lightwave, wouldn't simple economics dictate that the quickest method would be used if the finished products were on par with each other?

I know we have a few developers who post here, and I would like to ask you along with the other readers of the Crap if technology and creativity might not be at odds with each other where certain tasks are concerned, and whether or not tools such as this would be widely accepted or scorned by the majority of developers?
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#1 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 02:59:40
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Most of the professionals I know tend to hate "quick fixes" for artists. It tends to make producers think that they can get passable content for less man hours - effectively less cost. Plus, putting "Motion Capture" in your feature list is some kind of bonus, or something. Projects like "The Mark of Kri" drive home the fact that it doesn't really matter what technique you use - if you are a bad animator, you will make bad animation. They, luckily, had great animators who worked the disney style ultraviolent animation from scratch. Infact, a lot of these techniques (though I'm not sure about the one specifically mentioned here) tend to take just as long to tweak into game-usable form as working from-scratch does.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#2 by tarn
2002-10-25 03:07:34
I like games.
#3 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 03:10:23
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
My father's an architect, and in charge of the world's highest fidelity model of London in its entirety. Sent off this to see what he thinks.

His model is based off OS map data, as well as inhouse studies. His models tend to be lower fidelity, but obviously of a vast scale (all of central london as well as the majority of the rest of the city).

I can't tell if I'm impressed by RealViz or not, out of my natural fear of quick fixes, or simply because they haven't explained the process involved. Does everything magically turn into a model, textures and all? How much re-working due to errors is there? And what's with the incredibly obtuse environment map on all the windows?

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#4 by Warren Marshall
2002-10-25 03:13:42
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Motion capture is excellent, but it's not nearly the shortcut people think it is.  We use motion capture in our games now (we built a capture studio for it last year), and while the resulting data looks great it still needs a skilled artist to massage it into useable form.  It's a different set of skills than a straight animator would use, but they're skills just the same.  And it still takes time.

Same deal with this REALVIZ deal.  I'm sure it will allow you to get stuff roughly created in a short period of time.  Getting it into a game in a useable form will still require a level designer (or whoever) to sit down for hours on end tweaking and touching it up.

"You can't kill a man when he's got no hope."
#5 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 03:15:36
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Warren, would you prefer to make your levels from scratch, or use a "shortcut" like REALVIZ?

Honest question. No presumption involved.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#6 by Warren Marshall
2002-10-25 03:17:26
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Bezzy

I don't know.  I'd have to try REALVIZ and see exactly what it gives me for free.  But don't forget, REALVIZ relies on the environment existing in the first place.  So unless I'm doing a realistic setting, it's not going to be much use to me in terms of saving time.  Sure, an artist could maybe sculpt my potential fantasy level from clay or legos or something, but the time savings would vanish in that scenario.

"You can't kill a man when he's got no hope."
#7 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 03:19:49
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
I think I have a possibly unfounded fear: that a producer might force MoCap and REALVIZ style tools on projects that honestly aren't looking for realistic animation or environments. It's paranoid of me, but I'm sure it has happened before.

If, for example, you can never hope to have perfect fidelity in any models, animations or environments on your budget, you might choose to present "reality" in a slightly stylized fashion... that's when it's dangerous to think that these tools are useful. They don't adhere to an particular style except their own.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#8 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 03:21:27
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
... That said, an artist could take the time to fix the look of the REALVIZ raw data to look more stylized. If that all takes more time than doing it from scratch would, there's little point, right?

Makes sense Warren... just have to make sure you use the right solution for the right problem.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#9 by Your Friend
2002-10-25 03:22:51

Does everything magically turn into a model, textures and all?


Yes, Realviz and similar image-base modelling capture systems do grab the textures and all.  Problem is that the textures you find in real life tend to be pre-lit by real-world photons!  Doh.  They do make an effort to reduce this issue, but its still there, so you're going to wind up tweaking the textures.  You'll also wind up tweaking the geometry too.  So, Warren is right, like motion capture its a tool that can help but its not a magic bullet.  

Use of these image-based systems are also going to cause a bit of a "trade dress" mindfield.  Scanned in a Mr Coffee coffee maker for an in-game object?  Lawsuit from Mr Coffee comin' up!

And then you have the fact that not all games are based in our modern reality, so objects that depict what you want may not even really exist.  Sure, you can make real-world models and then scan them, but is that easier than rigging a model up in a 3D editor? Depends upon whether you're a physical sculptor or a 3D modeller..
#10 by Your Friend
2002-10-25 03:24:10
erm, minefield...
#11 by Foodbunny
2002-10-25 04:13:59
foodbunny@attbi.com http://www.foodbunny.com
We use motion capture in our games now (we built a capture studio for it last year), and while the resulting data looks great it still needs a skilled artist to massage it into useable form.


If you want proof of this, download Platonic Chain.  I've talked about it before, it's a series of short, 3 minute anime episodes that are done entirely in 3D with cell shading with motion capture for all the characters.  There are places where it works well, for instance there's a guy breakdancing in the background of one episode.  If you've ever watched Perfect Blue then you know that anime animators have NO CLUE how to animate dancing.

But the reason it works is that the actor is the same size as the model.  Their female models are the traditional anorexically thin waifs.  The women acting out their movements are regular size.  And they haven't modified the motion at all, it seems like.  So their movements are exaggerated, their arms don't hang right... it just really sticks out badly.

It won't have any impact on DNF.  Nothing really does.
#12 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 04:22:49
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Thanks FB. This may well be a good example for my third year project on how not to do NPR animation

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#13 by Stralutia
2002-10-25 04:29:23
stralutia@hotmail.com None
Interesting topic.  Since I have nothing to contribute, I'm just going to watch and wait for it to get hijacked into a topic that I can provide a semi-informed opinion about.  Enjoy kids, see you when we get to talking about grammar!

Okay, I'll admit it: I like 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.
#14 by Charles
2002-10-25 04:45:30
www.bluh.org
Like has already been said, tech like this is possibly useful for real life objects, but not so much if you want to do much else.  More of a curiosity than anything.  And the lighting as part of the textures is a nasty problem, and in any kind of dynamically lit realtime 3d environment, it'll cause more problems than it's worth.

On top of that, you have the fact that it's only a superficial build.  Outside, one side only.  Which is fine for some things ( I could see this tech REALLY taking off for racing games ), but for many others would be near useless.  It also only works for geometric shapes, which is a pretty low percentage of objects in a game, for the most part.  

Overall I don't see it having all that much use.

"There is a huge difference between disliking somebody - maybe even disliking them a lot - and actually shooting them, strangling them, dragging them through the fields and setting their house on fire. It was a difference which kept the vast majority of the population alive from day to day."
-Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.
#15 by zarathustra
2002-10-25 04:48:24
anti_kre8er@yahoo.com
I was just thinking about motion capture technology the other.

 I don't really have any opinions about it, but it will be interesting to see how this technology is used or what it will eventually develop into. I thought the demo movie looked nice.

 POSTING SOBER!!!
#16 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 04:56:34
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
It really shows.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#17 by ProStyle
2002-10-25 05:26:54
http://prostyle.deviantart.com
I beleive any tool can help any situation if it is used effectively and with the idea in mind that it is there to aid the project and not totally remove the human element from it. For example, when the ratcheting wrench with interchangeable sockets came along did that make mechanics more useless or misguided? No, it just allowed parts of their job to be done faster and less painfully, and isn't that what everyone wants? Of course it remains to be seen how this will be implemented but I think it could be interesting! What I would really like to see is something that can scan a clay model or some such and turn that into a similar data system to be interpreted into a video game; for example when I started doing level design for Half-Life when I was younger I couldn't stand to be in the confines of the grid system and I wanted dearly to be able to just build something in my world with my hands and have it "projected" in with all the dimensions retained and what not, so I could resize it and play with it till it was suitable.
#18 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 05:46:49
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
No doubt we need tools, but is something like REALVIZ not an unnecessary extrapolation (in some circumstances) of the basic tools already used?

If a process is refined to perfection, it's very hard for it to do things other than it was designed for. That's exactly why there's always this technology vs. creativity debate. Technology makes aspects of our lives easier by taking on mundane actions automatically but assumes that we want that action addressed in that particular way. Good technology addresses problems where the solution is basically obvious. Bad technology assumes its approach is "right". When it does that, it may help a common problem, but it lacks versatility.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I don't even disagree, but REALVIZ is not a tool I'd readily associate with a Wrench. It seems like a highly specialized tool (can't think of any) is a better analogy.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#19 by bishop
2002-10-25 05:55:57
http://www.darkintel.org/00FF00/
It seems like a highly specialized tool (can't think of any) is a better analogy.


You mean something like the KwickPick?
#20 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 05:57:30
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Assuming it's actually shit, and only works on a couple of lock types, YES.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#21 by bishop
2002-10-25 05:58:15
http://www.darkintel.org/00FF00/
If you leave the site you get an extra five dollars off of it if you buy it within 30 seconds.
#22 by ProStyle
2002-10-25 05:59:10
http://prostyle.deviantart.com
Yeah, but nuts and bolts are only one part of a car, even if there are ALOT of them ;)
Also
Good technology addresses problems where the solution is basically obvious. Bad technology assumes its approach is "right". When it does that, it may help a common problem, but it lacks versatility.
You don't have to use the presumptious bad stuff, at all. Good technology is also not the best possible, it's just something done better than what was there before. Beta... VHS... DVD... all were considered the BEST at their time and they all solve the same "obvious" problem, no? I don't think you can write things off so easily Bezzy.
#23 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 06:24:04
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Yeah, but those three examples were the best possible at the time! Well. I won't get into the whole Beta vs VHS thing.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#24 by Bailey
2002-10-25 07:25:11
This is Bezzy's topic, and his essence, his stink, if you will, is infusing every fiber of its being. That, and mass-posting.

This is the Jungian Porn-Goddess of the Internet!!!
Gaze upon her omnivalent genitalia!!!
#25 by bago
2002-10-25 07:36:23
manga_Rando@hotmail.com
well, there's always the old flash photography trick of getting even lighting on surfaces you are imaging...
But like I said when we had this thread before, tools will be developed to ease content creation, and they will wind up being a bit more generic.

iamelectro
#26 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 07:36:44
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
I'm Mr. Nutty, not Mank. This is not my thread. Anyone is free to post. BUT I WILL POST FASTER.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#27 by None-1a
2002-10-25 07:36:59
Bad technology assumes its approach is "right". When it does that, it may help a common problem, but it lacks versatility.]/quote]

What? Think of ImageModeler as more of an air wrench. An air wrench is very good at removing stubborn bolts or simply removing bolts much quicker then a ratchet or normal wrench, but in order to do that it gives up a lot of versatility do to it's size. So in the end a mechanic can't use it to get at hard to reach spots, but he'd be stupid not to use one to say remove a tire or bumper.

While ImageModeler isn't the be all end all of content creation tools it is a quick way to turn out rough geometry and textures for future editing and tweaking.
#28 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 07:40:51
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
That's what I'm intending to say. Specilist tools are good for what they're designed for, but are never a total replacement for the basic, wider application tools... unless, ofcourse, you're ONLY exploiting their specialization.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#29 by jafd
2002-10-25 08:40:09
You're too sexy for your preview button.

"The troll is doing an Olaf impersonation! Hit him with fruits and various meats."
#30 by Bezzy
2002-10-25 09:23:56
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
THanks!!!

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#31 by Petri Jarvilehto
2002-10-25 09:26:52
petri@remedy.fi http://www.remedy.fi
Digital cameras are the best way to make content creation faster.

We've looked into multiple "easy" ways of digitizing real world environments and none of them actually work. The limitations that they pose in content creation are still so big that it's a lot more effective to snap 200 photos, and then model the world based on that.

One of the key issues is that even if you could get 100% digitized environments, editing the digital material is usually not as flexible as when you build it from scratch... and how many real world locations can you think of which would immediately fit the gameplay without editing. Then, there's the lighting problem, which has already been mentioned, and that also means that all of the textures created by the digitizing software are unique and only fit that single location.

I'm sure that sometime in the future tools like this will become so efficient that we can actually use them. We've also been looking around for software that could be used to create the small in-game objects. No point in modeling a coke bottle or a coffee machine if you could just press "capture" button and get the mesh + textures automatically done), but so far we haven't foung any acceptable software+hardware combination that would even do that.
#32 by Wheelie
2002-10-25 11:40:19
This technology looks like it would benefit sports and racing games (My guess that the game in the case study was NFS2. Am I right?). Lighting isn't as big of an problem in fixed arenas. And all publishers likes to make money more then art, so it wouldn't surprise me if NFS3 or FIFA2004 had the RealWIZ logo on their box next year.

Need more money
#33 by E-ph0nk
2002-10-25 11:57:56
http://www.electrophonk.be
I'm not a modeller (except from the "hey i can make something in 3ds that could resemble a human if i worked a lot of extra hours on it") but i think that solutions like this only work for objects that you don't need to approach up close.  Like fe. the environment in a racing game etc.

*sigh*
#34 by Darkseid-D
2002-10-25 12:44:43
rogerboal@hotmail.com
No, Im spartacus


Ds

Never argue with an idiot, theyll drag you down onto their level, then beat you with experience.
#35 by lwf
2002-10-25 12:46:08
I am G-prime!

Like a valentine laced around an icepick
#36 by LPMiller
2002-10-25 14:17:50
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
can we go off topic now? Ok, Now?  How about now?

I believe I can fly......urk.
#37 by zarathustra
2002-10-25 14:30:11
anti_kre8er@yahoo.com
This is amusing

 Just scroll down a bit.
#38 by Matt Davis
2002-10-25 14:36:40
http://looroll.com
Nice to see you've kept up with events from many many months ago.

"But thanks to Matt's powers of insinuation, I haven't worn said pants (in the British sense) in over a month... and I've never felt more alive!" - Bailey
#39 by Wheelie
2002-10-25 14:43:35
STICK TO THE SUBJECT!!!

Need more money
#40 by Desiato
2002-10-25 15:06:33
desiato_hotblack@hotmail.com http://www.spew2.com/
Perhaps checking out a tool like ICARUS (Interactive Calibration and Reconstruction from Image Sequences) would help those that don't have the funds to buy commercial packages. It is interesting, you can allow the program to pick points on the video you shoot, or just go into basic primitive mode to block objects out. Just a neat tool.

The best part is seeing the short AVI clip that they used to assign tracking points and reconstruct one of the campus buildings. With the grid view turned on, it is like a meshing of VR and cinema.

From Infogrames Mod / Programming Forums:
(mod maker asking for recruits) -- It is the realization of Risk, the board game, for UT2003. I initially started development of this mod on Halflife's Engine, moved over because Epic supports mods so well.
Ed. - "It's the phone - Milton Bradley's lawyers want to have a word with you..."
#41 by Stralutia
2002-10-25 15:58:53
stralutia@hotmail.com None
I'm with LPMiller.  I want a conversation to which I can contribute.

Okay, I'll admit it: I like 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.
#42 by Stralutia
2002-10-25 16:02:04
stralutia@hotmail.com None
Anyone here like Kraft Dinner?  I think the amount of milk they say you need on the side of the box is far too much for a creamy cheese sauce texture.  If you put the 'required' amount of milk in, it turns into soup.  More butter, less milk is the perfect Kraft Dinner combination.

See, the people at Kraft are kind of like the complete opposite of game developers.  They overestimate the required ingredients for smooth cheese sauce, whereas game developers underestimate the system requirements for smooth play.

Okay, I'll admit it: I like 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.
#43 by Stralutia
2002-10-25 16:02:26
stralutia@hotmail.com None
And yes, I am aware that the Mac'n'Cheese people owe me nothing.

Okay, I'll admit it: I like 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.
#44 by Matt Davis
2002-10-25 16:07:27
http://looroll.com
I had my first ever Kraft dinner on my last evening in Canada, I don't know what all the fuss is abewt.

"But thanks to Matt's powers of insinuation, I haven't worn said pants (in the British sense) in over a month... and I've never felt more alive!" - Bailey
#45 by Stralutia
2002-10-25 16:08:35
stralutia@hotmail.com None
The person who prepared said Kraft Dinner did not know what he or she was doing then, in that case.

Okay, I'll admit it: I like 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.
#46 by Matt Davis
2002-10-25 16:09:12
http://looroll.com
Actually she made it pretty much the way you described.

"But thanks to Matt's powers of insinuation, I haven't worn said pants (in the British sense) in over a month... and I've never felt more alive!" - Bailey
#47 by Stralutia
2002-10-25 16:09:44
stralutia@hotmail.com None
Less milk, more butter?  Was it well cooked?  Don't tell me she used the microwave!

Okay, I'll admit it: I like 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.
#48 by Matt Davis
2002-10-25 16:13:06
http://looroll.com
There was nothing wrong with the dinner at all, it was just nothing to get excited about to be honest.

Toad in the hole, now theres a real dinner.

"But thanks to Matt's powers of insinuation, I haven't worn said pants (in the British sense) in over a month... and I've never felt more alive!" - Bailey
#49 by Stralutia
2002-10-25 16:15:10
stralutia@hotmail.com None
That's it!  She used the microwave didn't she!  Your silence speaks volumes I say!

Toad in the hole?  What is that, some sort of sexual euphemism?

Okay, I'll admit it: I like 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.
#50 by Matt Davis
2002-10-25 16:18:57
http://looroll.com
No she didn't use a microwave, it was made in a pan and given loving, but not too much attention.

Toad in the hole

"But thanks to Matt's powers of insinuation, I haven't worn said pants (in the British sense) in over a month... and I've never felt more alive!" - Bailey
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