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Leaving Behind the Ragdoll
May 1, 2008 9:22 AM   Subscribe

The Euphoria Engine allows for more realistic motion of game characters, and will be featured in a new Star Wars game due out this summer, and a football game, to be released sometime later this year.
posted by Dave Faris (42 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pretty cool. I wonder when games start running into the Uncanny Valley problem.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:28 AM on May 1, 2008


It'll also be used in a new Indiana Jones game, too.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:28 AM on May 1, 2008


LOLSPHERICALBUTTS

I saw this video on YT a couple months ago but couldn't tell if it was physics or animation. Kind of both? I mean, despite what the video says about it being "all dynamic", there's no physical law that requires a person to look around and see who poked it. That part has to be animated in some sense.
posted by DU at 9:29 AM on May 1, 2008


It's also being used in this fairly obscure game sequel.
posted by ymgve at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2008


I doubt video gamers will be very sensitive to the 'uncanny valley' problem.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


A beam of such magnitude shouldn't collapse under the weight of one storm trooper... unless perhaps it's a tractor beam!
posted by furtive at 9:33 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's in GTA IV? So I guess that bit in the Star Wars video about it being exclusive to Lucas Arts games is just a load of hooey?
posted by Dave Faris at 9:37 AM on May 1, 2008


Alls I know is that the Michelin man just got his ass kicked!
posted by adamms222 at 9:43 AM on May 1, 2008


Yep, definitely in GTA IV. I say this because the sheer variety of things that happen when people fall over, get hit by cars, trip, punch or otherwise interact with the environment as I play is mind-blowing. It is different every single time.

Plus it was confirmed by Rockstar last june.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:52 AM on May 1, 2008


If you like this sort of thing, check out Crack and Splat.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2008


I wonder when games start running into the Uncanny Valley problem.

I think it's going to be renamed the "Bioware Valley."

exhibit A.

exhibit 2

oh, spoilers and stuff.
posted by shmegegge at 9:56 AM on May 1, 2008


It looks pretty great in GTA, but there's still the problem of lousy physics for non-human objects. I mean, when you walk into a table or chair, it shouldn't flip over as if in a hurricane.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:56 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I love the detached tone of the guy's voice as he hurls panicked stormtroopers to their deaths.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:06 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to experience the uncanny valley with real humans? Because that's sort of how I reacted to the acting in the SW prequels.
posted by brain_drain at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


It looks pretty great in GTA, but there's still the problem of lousy physics for non-human objects. I mean, when you walk into a table or chair, it shouldn't flip over as if in a hurricane.

I think it's a conscious choice on the part of the developers. You don't just bump into a chair -- you flip that shit over.

It was like in Oblivion, whenever I walked into a shop, I always tried to provide an audio backdrop for my kids, who were watching me play:

Shopkeeper: Yes, sir, how may I help you today.

Me: Ah, kind sir, if you could be so good as to show me some of your alchemical wares I'd (gesture)...*crash* *tinkle*

Shopkeeper: (examines his demolished display table in horror)

Me: Oh, sorry about that. Here, let me get that for y...*crash* *bang*

Shopkeeper: (starts to weep)

Me: Oh, well, it seems I have to be somewhere far away from the town guard right now. I'll be back again, don't worry! *crash* *sound of thousands of plates simultaneously breaking*
posted by thanotopsis at 10:11 AM on May 1, 2008


The football one is good but could still use some refinement. I don't think it show quite enough of the nonlinearities in human motion - sometimes we pull back more or sometimes less. And when you get hit in football and land on your head your neck bends a bit... and then snaps. Same with legs. That's the money shot - when you see the guy's leg go from bad strain to wrong-way knees. Give me some of that in a football game. Those football players were the slightly-too-canny-valley. Not enough injuries.
posted by GuyZero at 10:26 AM on May 1, 2008


"the characters have a sense of self preservation"

Great, Skynet will be able to do 48fps.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:27 AM on May 1, 2008


The body motions in GTA IV are awesome, by the way. I keep jumping off from high places just to see myself flail and land with a sickening thud, wet meat crushed and collapsed.
posted by Nelson at 10:30 AM on May 1, 2008


GuyZero: I would be absolutely shocked by their ineptitude if they don't use the system to, besides animate everything, figure out when injuries happen. Which will, I'm sure, be half of the fun for some people... it is called Backbreaker.
posted by blacklite at 10:41 AM on May 1, 2008


Related: http://www.reuters.com/news/video?videoId=81490
posted by JeremiahBritt at 10:45 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Give me some of that in a football game. Those football players were the slightly-too-canny-valley. Not enough injuries.

A year or so ago my friends and I used to play a lot of one of the FIFA soccer games on the Nintendo 64. Our house rules were generally no substitutions allowed so that a major strategy was trying to injure all the other team's players without getting too many red cards.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:11 AM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


It’s funny how much you miss decent physics when you go back and play older games – all the glued down, indestructible scenery items seem really fakey, and the inertialess interaction with any crates/barrels/blocks that the game allows you to move about feel really wrong. I imagine I’ll start to feel the same way about NPCs that just stand and deliver their scripted lines.
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on May 1, 2008


Either that beam's made out of balsa wood, or those are some fat stormtroopers.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:58 AM on May 1, 2008


It's in GTA IV? So I guess that bit in the Star Wars video about it being exclusive to Lucas Arts games is just a load of hooey?

I think the guy in the video was being unclear. Notice the way the wood beams in the video splinter realistically--that's not animated. What LucasArts is doing exclusively is using Euphoria in conjunction with a physics engine which models the molecular properties of materials called Digital Molecular Matter (D.M.M.). Put more simply, they're using Euphoria as their AI engine for human bodies while using D.M.M. as their AI for enviornmental objects and having both of them work together. It's detailed in this fantastic Vanity Fair piece from earlier this year.

I've been thinking about the Euphoria engine a lot in these last few days. I remember first reading about it on MeFi years ago (can anyone find that thread?). I was blown away when I saw the tech demo linked in the thread. I mean, I remember being fascinated with ragdoll physics when I first encountered it in Hitman eight years ago--I must have spent hours killing people just so I could drag their limp bodies around and drop them into open manholes--so naturally I've been eagerly waiting for Euphoria to be used in a game. Coupled with the fact that I've been a huge fan of the GTA series since GTA II, you can imagine that I've been shit-my-pants excited to see Euphoria in action.

I haven't been disappointed. One of the first things I did in the game was dive out of a speeding car. Watching Niko tumble, I realized that every single time I dive out of a car he's going to tumble differently. That simple realization was one of the biggest "Holy Shit!" moments I've ever experienced in my two decades of gaming. But there's something else I noticed too--for the first time ever, I felt slightly disturbed in killing a civilians in a GTA game. In every other GTA game the violence has been so cartoonish that I've never even thought to have a problem with running up to some random pedestrian and beating him to death. But in GTA IV, when you kill someone they don't go ragdoll, they go limp. It was a bit jarring the first time it happened.

I never thought I'd say this (a statement which might be more a testament to my lack of foresight more than anythinge else) but I'm starting to see the possibility of a future game being so violent as to cross the lines of morality. GTA IV is still way too far on this side of the uncanny valley for me to really take issue with it--after that initial moment of hesitation, I'm having no problems going back to my civilian-slaughtering GTA ways--but what happens when games do cross the uncanny valley? Will our attitudes towards game violence change? Do game designers have a moral imperative to avoid crossing it?

We are right at the cusp of an incredible moment in gaming history. I'm guessing that, at most, within two console generations the technology will have progressed enough to render moot the "games can not be art" argument even in the eyes of the naysayers. Fuck whatever Ebert says.
posted by joedan at 12:01 PM on May 1, 2008 [14 favorites]


yeah, if I had budget I'd be working in this field too. I was talking to some EA guys on a bus at an industry event about how their sports games are far, far from what is computationally possible and desirable. . .
posted by tachikaze at 12:05 PM on May 1, 2008


after that initial moment of hesitation, I'm having no problems going back to my civilian-slaughtering GTA ways--but what happens when games do cross the uncanny valley? Will our attitudes towards game violence change? Do game designers have a moral imperative to avoid crossing it?

One possible answer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:06 PM on May 1, 2008


Fuck dude, you're right. I've never thought about that movie as showing something that's actually possible. I just went and blew my mind again. That, or the all night team deathmatches are starting to get to me.
posted by joedan at 12:15 PM on May 1, 2008


Also, you can play around with a free version of Natural Motion's Endorphin, a scaled-down version of Euphoria, available for download here.
posted by joedan at 12:40 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pretty cool stuff, but reminds me of the classic joke about Demos.
posted by blenderfish at 1:11 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The obligatory Penny Arcade comic.

I too wonder about games becoming too graphically realistic. I'm ok with violence in games now, but there's definitely a point when it could become realistic enough to be deeply disturbing.
posted by deafmute at 1:51 PM on May 1, 2008


Finding the implication that if you find the violence disturbing it’s immoral, and the further implication that properly distanced or abstracted violence is somehow more moral, a bit weird.
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on May 1, 2008


You're right Artw, it is a bit weird. However, that doesn't make it untrue. Think about kids playing cops and robbers, making their thumbs and index fingers into guns and "shooting" each other. Sure, I may have spent last night beating virtual hookers with a baseball bat with my buddies, but hey, at least we're not burning cats.

That's not so say that we'd be burning cats if there were no GTA. I may be kinda crazy, but I'm not that kind of crazy.
posted by joedan at 2:23 PM on May 1, 2008


That's extremely cool.
posted by flatluigi at 5:19 PM on May 1, 2008


Forget the good graphics and game engines. The only thing a good football game needs is Bo Jackson.
posted by clearly at 5:26 PM on May 1, 2008


Bo Jackson
posted by thecaddy at 8:02 PM on May 1, 2008


That part has to be animated in some sense.

That doesn't have to be true, I think. Conceivably, this could be another parameter among the set of parameters that define a figure's behavior. It might be a boolean "look inquiringly at source of disturbance." A breadth of options that wide seems ridiculous, but I imagine that behaviors could be created for an individual project, with the idea being that most of the intense physics framework is already in place to implement them.
posted by invitapriore at 10:19 PM on May 1, 2008


...as an addendum, I guess I basically agree with you, but maybe 'animation' is the wrong word?
posted by invitapriore at 10:23 PM on May 1, 2008


final addendum: all of the above directed at DU.
posted by invitapriore at 10:23 PM on May 1, 2008


I think Indy should shoot those sadistic assholes in the face.
posted by darkripper at 6:24 AM on May 2, 2008


invitapriore has it right. With euphoria you create behaviors, which you can still animate yourself, but you do so by programming them into the AI, not hard coding them. So for instance you could program the AI to point the head at any fast moving object (as reported by the game's physics engine.) Going further down that line, the physics engine could predict a collision before it happens, alert the euphoria engine of this, and then trigger a reaction. That reaction could be anything from blocking his head with his hands, diving out of the way, or just looking at the camera with a worried look.

The idea here is that instead of keyframing the location of joints, you code the behavior so that the engine can blend between different behaviors and trigger them in realistic ways.

I'm sure everyone here has seen the BigDog videos of the four-legged robot that can place its feet to avoid falling. Euphoria characters have similar programming: If you nudge a character in GTA4, the way he places his feet will be totally dynamic. There isn't a hand-animated "stumble" move, you collide with the character, setting him off balance, and he puts his feet where they should be. If you push him so hard that his feet can't keep up, he falls (and knows he is falling, to trigger the "try to stop my fall" behavior, which will govern how he places his hands to brace himself.)
posted by hellphish at 12:00 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are you in the gamer programming biz, hellphish, or just an educated consumer?
posted by Dave Faris at 2:30 PM on May 2, 2008


not a GTA fan, but this engine is wicked.
posted by owhydididoit at 5:17 PM on May 2, 2008


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