Square Enix might be pushing the limits of gaming technology with its new Luminous engine, demoed via Agni’s Philosophy, but the company says that it’s unlikely that characters will ever look photorealistic, mainly because of the uncanny valley effect.
Julien Merceron, who is the worldwide technology director working at Square Enix, tells Games Industry that, “Focusing on graphics only would be a huge mistake. You start to have super great graphics, characters look really good and you end up in the uncanny valley, but you don’t have animation at the same quality level.”
He adds, “Same thing with behavior and AI; it animates well and looks good, but it is making stupid decisions. It simply won’t be immersive. So focusing on graphics only is a big mistake. People will need to focus on animation, and I believe our Philosophy demo is highlighting that, but also on the AI and physics too.”
Square Enix has frequently pushed the quality of the character graphics up only to see how animation tech was unable to keep up and lead to unrealistic behavior.
If graphic engines fail to balance animation and quality, more problems might crop up, even as the PC and home consoles tend to offer even more processing power.
Julien Merceron believes that the best solution would be to try and create games that immerse the player in an universe via other means, with deep environments, characters that are able to express emotion and complex stories.
Agni’s Philosophy showed the possibly of the Luminous engine
at E3 2012, but Square Enix has not said whether it will create a full game based on the tech demo or the character is only designed to unveil advances of graphics power.
Square Enix has plans to deliver more content for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and to re-launch FF XIV.