I’ve always been a big fan of Ubisoft games - I remember when Splinter Cell was released for the Xbox - I spent every waking minute of my spare time playing it. I loved the graphics, shading, storyline, stealth gameplay (quite frustrating at times) - everything. In fact, I love the whole Splinter Cell series. Best yet, this series is developed almost entirely at the Ubisoft Toronto studio right now.
Ubisoft is located in a dingy area of Toronto, within an old factory building that doesn’t look impressive on the outside. However, the inside of the building is spectacular, including their latest addition: the very large mocap studio.
Mocap uses a series of cameras to track the movement of key points on suits worn by human actors - this 3D data is then used to generate animated versions of the actors. Head masks with a front-facing camera capture facial movement and add to the realism. Here is a picture of some of the actors before their performance - the flash on my camera reflects off of parts of their suit, and you’ll notice the front-facing camera on the headset worn by the actor on the right:
The actors gave a stellar performance, which was rendered in realtime on the large screen in front of us as shown in the pictures below:
And, after a bit of retouching, the end result looks like:
Very cool indeed! But what does this mean for video games in general? Well, the studio director from Ubisoft put it beautifully - with technology like this, video game storytelling is much easier, and allows game studios to focus on performance-driven storytelling (where new and interesting experiences in the studio can be used to refine the game during development). In other words, richer content and more focus on the story rather than on the constraints of producing it. I need to get the next Splinter Cell when it’s released.