Valve applauds LA Noire facial animation

Valve applauds LA Noire facial animation

By Rob Crossley

May 10th 2011 at 12:21PM

But the studio is unsure if it could apply MotionScan tech to its own content

Valve, one of the pioneering games studios in the field of facial animation, has hailed the “incredible high-fidelity” of the tech used in LA Noire.

“It’s impressive technically, for sure,” said Jason Mitchell, a 3D graphics hardware developer at Valve.

“And I think it’s an important inflection point in the continuum of ever-increasing fidelity in game characters.”

Speaking in a newly published Develop feature, Mitchell added: “Since I haven’t played that game, I’m not incredibly familiar with that technology, but it’s super interesting, regardless.

“I’m sure it’s something people will be referring to for years to come on the history of interactive facial tech.”

The facial animation technology behind LA Noire is called MotionScan, and involves an actor surrounded by 32 high-resolution cameras. The actor will perform their lines and audio and video data is captured and transferred to a 3D model.

Develop’s investigation into the tech can be found here.

Mitchell was, however, unsure whether Valve could incorporate the tech into its own games. He said a key principal in Valve animation is that it is reactive to the player’s actions.

“There’s pros and cons to that LA Noire approach, and we’re keeping our eyes on that piece of tech, but it’s not clear how we would integrate it,” he said.

“The system is based on a playback of a performance, which can go against how we like to think about characters interacting with our players.

“We like our performances to be far more reactive to what the player does, and not to something pre-acted on a sound stage. It’s not completely obvious how [the MotionScan] tech would integrate into our work.”

Also speaking in part of Develop’s interview with a trio of Valve artists, senior artist Ted Backman elaborated on the importance of interactivity.

“I think we try to do our storytelling with a player still active in a scene,” he said.

“We have to put marks on a set and have look-at targets for all our characters.”

THE VALVE MANIFESTO

Valve’s comments are drawn from a new six-page feature in Develop magazine issue 116 (which arrives at games studios and on doormats from today).

The feature draws from interviews with ten key staff at the company. It is available online now, and throughout the rest of the week Develop will publish five separate Q&As with key studio staff.