How many times have you read on a game box or skimmed an interview and saw these words come out of a game studio's mouth: "we're going for absolute realism in our game"? You might wander into a store and pick up a copy, only to pop it into your console or PC and be utterly disappointed by another unrealistic FPS or RPG that completely misses the mark. Should we just abandon all hope that video games will ever look as good as the movies do? Not necessarily. Meet Guy Williams. You may remember him as the visual effects supervisor (read: FX boss) on a little project called The Avengers.
Whether you liked it or not as a movie, it's hard to argue against the simple fact that The Avengers looked awesome. That was partly thanks to Guy and his awesome team at WETA in New Zealand. Specifically, they worked on the Stuttgart fight between Loki and Captain America, the fight between Loki and Thor atop Stark Tower and the part where Thor gets dropped out of a goddamn flying aircraft carrier faster than you can say "Loki fought a lot of folk in that film, didn't he?".
If you've never even heard of WETA, frankly, you need to have a long, hard bath with yourself. It's a visual effects studio that produces some of the best special effects on Earth. Guy has worked with them since 1999 and has worked on all of the Lord of the Rings films and he's currently working on that one we can't really talk about. *AHEM*COUGH..The Hobbit...*SPLUTTER*COUGH*. Pardon me.
Seeing as how Guy is an authority on making fake things look amazing in the real world, I thought I'd ask him about vide games. Why aren't they as good-looking as movies right now, considering all the tech available to designers? Well, according to Guy, video games and movies, while both art, are completely different in the way they tell a story. They both endeavour to piece together a narrative that you can become emotionally invested in, but they use different methods to get that investment. For example, video games are interactive whereas film is passive. With that divergence in mind, do video games really need to be hyper-realistic?
Guy explains that game studios will always strive to be as realistic in their final products as films are, and one day, they will make something indistinguishable from reality.
With that in mind, I asked Guy, can video games ever replace CGI? Could a visual effects artist in future pick up a controller and pose the action and scene the way they want, just with the flick of a thumbstick?
That's been a question since the beginning [of video games]. The game and film industry are very close relatives. The software is [almost] the same between the industries, except one industry (games) renders in real time, and one takes ages (film).
Games are amazing and the graphics are moving forward in leaps and bounds, and so are those in film. The problem is that it's a moving goalpost. Will they ever catch it? At some point, I can imagine games will [replace CGI]...but it's the distant future.
That's a definite maybe, then.
Guy calls out the Valve Source Engine as one of the stand-outs in the realism in video games arena. He hopes to see more stuff like that in future, because that will inspire more kids to join the noble profession of visual artistry.
Don't lose hope, gamers. One day our interactive stories will be as realistic as the movies.