Uncharted 4 Dev Flaunts New Milestone in Face Animation

Naughty Dog says new systems will allow characters to "emote more" than ever.


Uncharted 4: A Thief's End developer Naughty Dog has discussed the improvements made to its facial animation systems since Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us, saying that face models now animate with "between 300 and 500 bones."

In an interview with GamesTM , writer Josh Scherr contextualised the improvements by comparing them to previous Uncharted games and The Last of Us, which he said used "about 90 and 100 'bones' in their faces."

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"We've completely revamped our facial animation systems," he said. "Think about that, how detailed Joel and Elli's pained facial expressions were, how well the game captured the respective actors ... Now, the faces have anywhere between 300 and 500 bones."

"[This] lets us emote more, with all the 'bones' we can put onto [faces] - you pan round the camera to look at Nate's face when he's climbing and you see him grimacing and all this kind of stuff ... we're pushing detail on a macro and micro level that I think people are really going to respond to," added lead designer Ricky Cambier.

Unlike previous Naughty Dog titles, for which "some of the animations might have been sample at 10 or 15 frames per second to save memory," which code would then interpolate to run at 30 frames per second in-game, the new tech can "afford to record [animations] at 30 frames per second so that [they] look that much smoother."

Speaking about the visual fidelity of other PS4 exclusives, Cambier said Killzone: Shadow Fall was "pretty damn impressive looking for a launch title," while The Order: 1886 is "one of the best looking games [he's] seen on any system ever," but says developers are still in early days with Sony's latest console.

"If you look at the first Uncharted and how that looked versus how The Last of Us looked ... I have difficulty fathoming that we'll have that kind of graphical leap in the next several years. The reality is, we probably will as we learn the systems better, so it's all up from here, and that's exciting."

Naughty Dog has said it is targeting 60fps for Uncharted 4, but the studio won't push the PlayStation 4 game that far if it compromises the overall experience. According to director Bruce Straley, the Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - Gameplay Demo was locked at 30fps, though the game is now achieving a higher frame rate.

In March, Sony delayed the Uncharted 4 release date until Spring 2016. Take a look below for a gallery of up-close shots of Uncharted 4's characters.

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Avatar image for Chronologo

Smile pic is pure meme material

Avatar image for hehe101

Typical, love uncharted the movie

Avatar image for DieselCat18

Would have been nice to see an example of this revamped facial animation. I saw nothing in that video.

Avatar image for Terminator95

UN4 = 1080p / 60 fps / Blu-ray / 50inch OLED TV / Only on the PS4 not PC.

Avatar image for heartyoumeus

It is going to be nice to see some more gameplay instead of reading about graphics.

Avatar image for chippiez

Dat ped0 smile.

Avatar image for grt8ness2017

Some of the pictures are amazing. However some of them are weird and don't really look like the Nathan Drake that I used to know. I also was not all that impressed as to what they showed at last years E3 press conference. However I know that this is Naughty Dog and the final game will be amazing. My favorite was still Uncharted 2, I wonder if they will be able to top themselves.

Avatar image for ashleyg12

Hit bigtime on PS4. Still improving better then before looking forward to play Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.

Avatar image for BradBurns

The smile pic looks like he just farted and is waiting for everyone to notice by breathing it in.

Avatar image for onixevil

His eyes says he's addicted to drugs.

Avatar image for digitalheadbutt

He has Neeson nose now. I never saw Drake that way previously but it looks cool.I wish they had paid homage to Nolan North a bit since he is the voice but still, looks great.

Avatar image for onixevil

Master of 30 fps.

Avatar image for siemper

@onixevil: I dont even mind. Uncharted doesnt need a 60fps to be amazing

Avatar image for onixevil

I thought he had an Australian face but those bones changes the way I look into him.

Avatar image for BradBurns

@onixevil: He looks more Western "Atlantic coast" European to me. That face type is very common in Wales and in the Basque country.

Avatar image for xwulfd

I think that technology used in face capture in LA noire was very impressive

Avatar image for enuo9

Nathan Drake is staring into my soul.

Avatar image for Veemon_X

That looks awesome. This more than makes up for the locked in 30 fps rate.*
Not a bad thing, I've seen so many games that try to be 60 fps, but end up having dips here and there, which can be annoying. These guys know what they're doing.

Avatar image for ooneheroo

the smile pic is sooo paprika

Avatar image for chris_lmnefi

waiting 4 it

Avatar image for porjos

I've got nothing but love for Naughty Dog

Avatar image for higochumbo

That does look good.

This, The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption are the only games I regret to have missed out having ignored the last 2 console generations. As for the rest, well, meh.

Avatar image for xTheTrueSeekerx

Its not really the question of whether these things CAN be done or not these days. The technology to do it has been around for years now. The big question is, at what cost? We all know that this generation of consoles isn't exactly impressive, so what exactly is going to be sacrificed to make this happen? FPS? Gameplay? Length? I'm legitimately a little concerned

Avatar image for ExtremePhobia

@xTheTrueSeekerx: Very true. I suspect that this is what it will look like in pre-rendered cutscenes, but considering this is still relatively early on in the life cycle, I wouldn't be surprised to see it rendering this in real time by the end of the cycle, and by the next generation, this will simply be a matter of course... which is just freaky to think about.

Avatar image for BassMan

All that at an amazing next-gen 30fps! lol

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide

I'd rather they flaunt better gunplay, better melee, better enemy encounters (no more endless spawning shootin gallery bullet sponge scenarios please.)

I'd rather they flaunt the end of using QTE's and proper stealth, enemy AI, and friendly AI.

Why don't you flaunt the things that matter?

Avatar image for analyser

@Bread_or_Decide: If you've seen the gameplay video, you should have seen that they've improved the flow quite a bit, as well as they seem to have added improved stealth. I think they're on the right track.

Avatar image for coldice

More bone muscles in the characters' faces may seem insignificant but with the advent of VR displays and high resolution tv/monitors that allow for very close shots, this will definitely be important in the greater scheme of things and help immerse the gamer into the experience. When you look at ultra high resolution images of today's best visually looking games, even the witcher 3 which is a gaming masterpiece, you still can't see emotions in the characters' faces. Unless the sequence is pre-rendered, The characters will have the same facial expression whether they attack, get hurt, are happy etc... Btw that 8th picture in the slide above looks like a picture you would find in an art project, simply stunningly realistic...Gaming has come a loooong freakin way...

Avatar image for jareion

I never liked naughty dog's over the top realistic art style. The most thing I didnt like about the last of us was their too realistic face. It just makes it weird. I'd rather have my games look more like fantasy than reality.

Avatar image for nothingformoney

The smile looks... perverted

Avatar image for eva02langley

Witcher 3..?

Avatar image for Navardo95

@eva02langley: Get.....out.

Avatar image for Bellum_Sacrum

"We know the gameplay is outdated so here's some shiny graphics for you monkeys."

Avatar image for porjos

@Bellum_Sacrum: How do you know the gameplay is outdated if you've never played it?

Avatar image for videogames1345

@porjos@Bellum_Sacrum: exactly, I agree, and it looks like the gameplay is improved

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide

@Bellum_Sacrum: How about they add some weight and heft to weapon usage? I always feel like I'm running around shooting toy guns in those games.

Avatar image for itchyflop

@Bellum_Sacrum: you talk bum friend, this is a great series, and the graphics wernt always great!!!

Avatar image for StokeMeAClipper

I'm looking forward to this. Naughty Dog and Rockstar are the two companies that give me the confidence to get excited for a release.

Avatar image for just_mishaari

So this means I won't be looking at what's happening in the game I'll be focusing on his facial expressions ?

Admire the face people cause that's what games are all about.

Avatar image for Ripper_TV

Not a GOTY material sadly anymore. And UC1 to TLoU was not that big of leap generally (maybe in terms of facial animation).