2K calls for photorealism in games

Publisher's boss Christoph Hartmann says film industry has advantage over games in portraying emotions like sadness and love, games need cutting edge visuals to get there.

2K Games boss Christoph Hartmann--who heads up development on franchises like Duke Nukem, BioShock, and Borderlands--believes photorealistic visuals are needed to help propel the industry into new genres.

Current visuals in games are a handicap, Hartmann says.

Speaking to Games Industry International, Hartmann said the film industry holds an advantage over games, in that directors are more easily able to show emotions like sadness and love, while game developers struggle to portray these. Because of this, Hartmann says many developers instead focus on action and shooting before all else.

"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… it will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies," he said. "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."

Hartmann went on to explain that photorealism in games may represent an "endpoint" and that consoles capable of rendering such visuals could be the last systems ever needed.

"To dramatically change the industry to where we can insert a whole range of emotions, I feel it will only happen when we reach the point that games are photorealistic," he said. "Then we will have reached an endpoint and that might be the final console."

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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jonsono2
jonsono2

Why struggle to make games more like movies when movies already exist? Cinematic touches are nice (like in Mass Effect) but I would spend more time on gameplay then watch an npc's face become sad... and yikes it might make dialogue sequences longer and more boring.

Arsyad00
Arsyad00

i dun wan REAL in my game!!!

IMPACT_17
IMPACT_17

I can see it now, in 5 years we will be playing boring graphical simulations.

silverwolfj
silverwolfj

Beg all you pardon my ignorance, could someone explain me what is photorealism please

maitkarro
maitkarro

Final Console will be by Square Enix who bought Sony finally. That's a final fictitious fact.

Float1011
Float1011

To me, photorealistic graphics would just be the end of an one era and onto the next.

 

More realistic graphics that show emotion better would be a nice addition, but they wouldn't have a huge impact on the rest of the game. They're just a nice bonus. How you interact with environments, controls and how your character moves as well as all of the creative stuff and storylines are a much bigger part of the picture.

coliraby
coliraby

I whole-heartedly disagree. Many games have packed a lot of emotion into them with currect gen tech, and games from previous generations as well. Heavy Rain showed gamers the emotions Hartmann calls for. In fact my non-gamer roommate would sit and watch me play Heavy Rain as if it were a weekly TV drama. Final Fantasy VII on the psone delt an emotional blow to gamers by developing strong characters, and with the aid of a great musical score, no next gen graphics needed (or even voice acting for that matter).  Before video games people were treated to emotional stories through books, which were not photorealistic, they were just words. I don't think Hartmann is giving gamers, and developers enough credit. Apparently if we can't see a high def tear forming in the corner of Cloud's eye, then we don't feel the depth of his dispare.

m4a5
m4a5

I hate it when people say that GAMES should have the best graphics they can (especially when it sounds like that trumps gameplay). Gameplay should always be first.

 

Call it a simulation if graphics come first.

itchyflop
itchyflop

why isn't every game using the la noire face recognition adaptation, surely that ll give realism in games, after all that was the premise of la noire to try and spot the deceivers through the facial expressions.

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

The most emotional games I've played in a long time are indie games like Bastion . . .

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

On a side note, can the gaming community come together and call for this guy to leave the industry?

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

I think he should try playing some games from different genres, instead of trying to find a decent story in FPS's.

Lots of games show emotions very well and in doing so in creative ways sets them apart from films/movies. This muppet just proves how publishers are killing the game industry and stifling creativity.

Greyfeld
Greyfeld

I came here to call this person a dumbass, but decided to read the story before commenting, in case the title of the article was intentionally misleading, as so often happens in gaming faux-journalism.

 

This person is a dumbass.

Peazo
Peazo

Forgetting about gameplay coming first, cost of game development etc and purely from a technical point, the only way for photorealism to occur is if the industry stop cross platform development.  Game development has stagnated in many areas as you're developing to the standards of the weakest platform rather on working on an individual platforms strengths.

theKSMM
theKSMM

On the one hand, I can see his point.  Photorealism is only good if it helps to keep you immersed in the moment.  An explosion should send particles and debris flying in a way that seems natural. An angry person shouldn't look confused.  And the moment you find yourself staring at a poorly shaded polygon edge, you're out of the moment.

 

On the other hand, consoles of this generation were way too expensive when they came out, and I don't think anybody wants to repeat that mistake.  So I fully expect that we'll get some graphical improvements in the near future, but we'll still be a long way from Avatar.

nix253
nix253

so we've l.a. noire on this generation and that game has superb facial animation. and as for photo-realistism then i don't know think if there could come anything a 'lot' better than rage and crysis 2. the only thing in my opinion left for next-gen to achieve is have to games with great gamplay alongwith great story and great graphics. and since such great games having combo all these three have been so few on this gen itself that i doubt if they'll be more in numbers for the next. 

 

we should i think prepare ourselves to find more originality in indie-sector. the only thing left to expect from the main stream industry is surprise.

RatioScripta
RatioScripta

Photorealism? Have you even heard of Quantic Dream? If developers hounded less profits and put those resources toward their customer base, it would be totally achievable.

The_Last_Paladi
The_Last_Paladi

First of all the game industry is not competing with the film industry, two different genres.  Second of all....See games like Heavy Rain to prove your whole point invalid.  Games are more than capable of producing emotion even without the graphics, and with them, they can be just as great as movies, even though as I said they're not in competition of them anyways.

shantd
shantd

We already have Brokeback Mountain the game. It's called Mass Effect 3.

Akagen
Akagen

This is just an excuse in my opinion " We lack creativity and can't create deep meaningful characters with personality anymore so we are going to make them as shiny and pretty as possible so you forget about the most important stuff" Granted it can enhance characters, Devs and Publishers need to take a step back and realize graphics aren't a priority for what I would like to believe most gamers. Focus on great stories and gameplay, innovative mechanics and actually use your brain a bit to think outside the box instead of falling in line with everybody else thinking Graphics is everything. Claptrap is a perfect example that you don't need photorealism to enhance emotion, he didn't even have a face! Yet he displayed so much emotion and personality and made him the most memorable character for me in Borderlands.

ZippyDSMLee
ZippyDSMLee

A good game has a solid gameplay narrative and mechanics, story? visuals?Not so much......................   stop making crappy shiny games for noobs and morons.....

TheBlackEclipse
TheBlackEclipse

I can't believe how wrong this guy is. Did he even play a game on the SNES? There are games on the SNES that convey emotions 10x better than most movies today. Graphics aren't the only thing that convey emotions. Music, Story, Characterization, even Gameplay can be used to convey a wide range of emotions.

stan_boyd
stan_boyd

You know I have played some games that are pretty photorealistic like Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare yet didn't get any emotion from it, yet I play a game like Chrono Trigger on the DS and I get much more emotion from that.

10V3n0M01
10V3n0M01

I think in a way he has got a point. Photorealism is certainly a strong tool. I believe that he is painting to much of a narrow picture though. Photorealism is merely one part of being able to immerse a player using accurate emotional animation. This is where I disagree a little, I think that it is not the photorealism itself but rather the general quality of the visuals(regardless of the art style) and the quality of animation. Lets start with the new Tomb Raider's first trailer. The quality of the animation is superb as well as photorealistic. Now what about Mass Effect or Bioshock, both games have had really emotional scenes that totally worked. Going photorealistic is merely a push for new hardware, new engine development, etc. So I say again, it is not photorealism itself but the quality of the animation being done. The concept of GIGO, for all the IT guys out there :)

kohle36
kohle36

Photorealism is an aesthetic style, not a genre or guide to game design. As a tool it may or may not be able to express certain range of  emotions, but then again I've also seen 16-bit sprites with some good music do a much better job of expression than any modern attempts at realism. At the end of the day, new genres will be forged by creative game design, and tbh I'm already aesthetically oversaturated with the constant stream of 'gritty, realistic games' with all their superbly detailed greys and browns.

I'd think that the 2K bossman would understand this better than most seeing as borderlands stood out precisely because they said 'screw it' to realism halfway through development and just modeled the concept art instead.

Gater29
Gater29

Although I do think photorealistic graphics definitely have their place in the industry, I can't say that I agree that they are all that is needed. I think borderlands and the upcoming sequel are proof enough of that. Besides, the whole point of playing a game is to be immersed in it. Graphics can only do that so much. I can easily see some sort of virtual reality becoming prominent in the future. Look up ultimate battlefield 3 simulator on youtube for another good example.

kohle36
kohle36

So the endpoint in consoles is to turn them into...TV? Vaguely interactive TV?

Sorry there Cristoph, but photorealism isn't going to magically grant you a sense of creativity

Shredwolf
Shredwolf

These people has no business being in the game industry. It's shame that people like him are at the top in the game industry today.

mnoi
mnoi

While this would be partly true, photorealism is just so darn demanding, you can portray emotion other ways too.

sirkibble2
sirkibble2

I'm not sure it'll open up to new genres but it can expand genres in different ways. We already have Heavy Rain which is pushing a different genre forward and other games like Flower. 

 

If I actually looked down a list of games, I could probably find more examples but I don't think new genres will pop up once photorealistic graphics are achieved. Genres will be expanded, though.

dawnofhero
dawnofhero

As cool as 'photo-realistic' graphics would be, I don't think that they are the only solution to conveying 'emotion' in a game. Heck, when I first played Ocarina of Time on the N64, at the end when Zelda sends Link back in time 7 years, I nearly teared up because I experienced what Link went through - his sacrifices, his adventures... and then after he saves the day, he can't even hook up with the princess! That scene totally conveyed sadness and emotion in all it's polygon glory! It's how the story is portrayed and how close you get to the characters, not how 'realistic' they look.

pizzamuncher
pizzamuncher

There is so much wrong with this statement. Innovation does not mean looking slightly better. You can innovate with ancient graphics and make fantastic games that still look good(Minecraft and VVVVVV, for example). Emotion can be felt regardless of realism. This line of thinking is exactly what killed so many developers this gen, and caused so much less variety to be put on the market. 

Ultra_Taco
Ultra_Taco

That would be pretty cool, but I don't think it's necessary.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

honestly, the gaming industry doesn't need photo realistic until they can bring the development costs down, be more efficient with development cycles and keep the selling point of video games under $65. I think the industry now is suffering because of these 3 things. The games are getting fewer and fewer in variety, having 3 or 4 sequels on the same game engine, shorter single player campaigns, games that need to sell 4-5 million copies just to break even. 

 

as much as i want a real big jump in graphics, the industry needs to solve these issues because gamers are feeling the strain of this generations graphical improvements creatively and financially. photo realistic games can wait

elancion
elancion

its funny how many  2d animated films capture those emotions (joy , sadness, etc.) so effectively and succcessfully and yet these guys can't. sounds more like lack  of skill/ depending way too much on the  tech vs artistry. now i see why they still have people around who don't consider this to be an artform. kinda ticks me off. 

Halloll
Halloll

I felt emotions of sadness and love just fine playing Ico. also "Because of this, Hartmann says many developers instead focus on action and shooting before all else."

no they go for action because a large percentage of gamers are easy to sell DLC to online gaming brats

Daemoroth
Daemoroth

You don't need photo-realistic graphics, what you need is utterly and completely natural animation. Look at animated movies, they're not photo-realistic, yet their characters are way more believable than the best gaming has offered up.

 

How To Train Your Dragon/Tangled showed plenty of emotion from both man and beast, and none of them were photo-realistic. They just acted in a natural, recognisable way.

 

Until a game can provide the animations necessary to naturally show emotions, to have characters interact with the world (Like shaking/holding hands, run hands through their hair and interact with their own and others' bodies like hands on head, etc. - bad examples but you know what I mean) without clipping and without reminding us that shortcuts were taken to get it rendered smoothly, it won't matter how good it looks, it won't be convincing.

 

PS - I know a lot of older games managed to create a lot of emotion in you with very bad (Compared to today) graphics (For me, System Shock stands out), but I think the article is focused on the portrayal of emotions between characters (Something that's always cringe-worthy). I mean, how can the devs behind BioShock say that you need photo-realistic graphics to convey general emotion.

Nigh_1
Nigh_1

Personally I play games to escape reality and delve into a world where anything is possible where I can be anyone or anything. That is what games offer me: an escape from reality. And I know I am not alone in this. If games start to look like reality then their meaning will be lost.

 

I also agree with many previous comments: games do not need to be photo-realistic to be able to convey emotions properly or even efficiently. I remember playing Homeworld, the mission where you come back to your home star system only to find your world burning from orbital bombardment. I did not need the scene to be photo-realistic to feel sad or angry. In my opinion music is a much better choice when someone wishes to convey emotions.

 

Regards, Nigh

crusaderprophet
crusaderprophet

@jonsono2 he is talking about interactive cinematic gameplay that is photo-realistic at the same time, mass effect was no where near to photo realistic or cinematic, Uncharted and TLOU or Beyond: Two Souls are the kind of games which are closer to photo realistic cinematic interactive gameplay and narrative

IMPACT_17
IMPACT_17

 @silverwolfj Looking extremely realistic, i.e. a screenshot being indistinguishable from a photo.

maitkarro
maitkarro

Actually they will make one them selves.

Virtual_Erkan
Virtual_Erkan

@m4a5 It's like CS 1.6 where the graphics are horrible but nearly millions of people still play that game.

VDonSF
VDonSF

 @JimmeyBurrows The article title is really misleading.  I don't think Mr. Hartmann is saying anything wrong in fact.  He's saying it's harder to portray emotion in gaming than in film.  That's absolutely true.  He's not "calling for photo realism".  He's saying it would be easier to put that emotion into a game were we to have it.  There's nothing wrong with that statement.  The "endpoint" statement is simply stating that, were we to have photo realism, what else would we need in a console?  It might be an endpoint only because we'd have everything we could ever want techwise.  I don't necessarily agree with that since Bill Gates once said we would never ever ever ever need anything above 64MB of RAM for any reason and clearly he was wrong, but I do think that having what we have now, plus photo realism might be all we need in a console for a VERY long time.

sircyrus
sircyrus

 @shantd

Lmao, that's exactly what I thought of when I read that part. That and Anders.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

 @elancion different media. 2d movies aren't interactive and don't render in real time

BestJinjo
BestJinjo

 @Nigh_1 I've heard what you are saying since Pong and Pac-Man. Since then games got more immersive and better looking. Maybe they didn't more fun (Tetris and Super Mario Bros. are still a lot of fun). However, every time someone talks about moving graphics forward, people cry that we don't need it. Then next generation of consoles come out and everyone realizes how bad their current games looked. Look at PS1 and PS2 games today. Awful graphics. Sure some may be fun. I tried playing Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time on N64 the other day. I LOVED that game but I'd love it way more if they upgraded it with 2013 graphics. Some amazing games are not fun to play anymore because they have aged very poorly.Imagine Half-Life 1 with Crysis 3 / Metro Last Light graphics. Sign me up!! You can have amazing graphics and game immersion and good gameplay. Stagnating graphics is not solving anything but hampering creativity for many of these developers. They all can't be wrong if they are consistently repeating the same message. 

elancion
elancion

 @jsmoke03 you miss the point. the artist/designers are the ones who convey or bring out the emotion during the events of the game etc. 

 

true 2d movies aren't interactive, but 2d games are.

 

sirkibble2
sirkibble2

 @BestJinjo I think it comes to down to focus. What are devs focusing on? Graphics or Gameplay? 

 

You're right that they can amalgamate the two together but to say photorealism is necessary to take it to the next level might be a stretch. Even for a game developer. 

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

 @elancion i didnt miss the point...im pointing out that difference in media is why emotions arent easily portrayed. theres cutscenes for that emotional stuff...

 

and your last comment. what does that mean? there are 2d games, but like i said they render in real time.