Graphic detail and realism in computer games continue to be refined at a pace. We have recently seen both AMD and Nvidia launch new generation graphics processors and there are other players which could pull something out of the bag, such as ARM, Intel and Imagination, but how close are we to enjoying photoreal 3D games? According to Epic Games co-founder Time Sweeney we are almost there for environments but once you put humans into the game, for example, rendering becomes a “much harder problem”.
In an interview with Gamespot last week Sweeney gave his thoughts on VR and photo-real graphics, among other things. During the course of the interview Sweeney suggested we need multiples of the current typical GPU power available to enjoy photo-realistic gaming. While a top of the range modern graphics card such as the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 can provide about 9TFLOPs of processing power, Sweeney suggested that about 40TFLOPs would be sufficient for photo-real 3D gaming with human characters involved. As mentioned in the intro, it is the human character in motion which will be the greatest challenge to rendering already complicated photo-real scenes. Today’s tech and algorithms are good enough to do the rendering it seems - but we are still waiting for the brute force rendering power to make such an experience available to end users.
Looking to the future, Sweeney sees “dynamic human responses in games”, as a much tougher nut to crack. If it is to look like you are interacting with the environment and other game characters, it’s important that character response is realistic to avoid the ‘uncanny’ valley. “As you're interacting with a real human, their eyes are constantly moving with you, the eye contact is super important. You're picking up the emotions on their faces, and they're dynamically responding to you,” envisioned Sweeney.
Touching upon the advanced game AI system in the Unreal Engine, Sweeney admitted such ‘AI’ isn’t approaching anything like a human mind. Such higher level AI is currently being researched by the likes of Google and Facebook and remains a pipedream for gaming companies.