The next generation is around the corner. And with it, video gamers will get wrinkles, hair follicles, and pores like they've never seen before. Before we know it, the Uncanny Valley will become the new normal.
But, as some are wondering online, is it already here? And did we just watch a digital game developer give an interview on television?
Late last week, Moby Dick Studios boss "Joakim Mogren" appeared on GTTV to show off some Phantom Pain images. As previously noted, this looks to be a big publicity stunt for Metal Gear "Joakim" is an anagram of "Kojima", the last name of Metal Gear's creator, Hideo Kojima. What's more, Joakim was pushing the Fox Engine, a new game development engine spearheaded by Kojima at Konami.
All this comes as Konami released a new screenshot of how a modified version of the Fox Engine will be used on the PlayStation 4 for Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2014. Edge has a full report on how the Fox Engine will be used in the forthcoming PES, but below, you can see how the Fox Engine compares to real life. The right is a real photo, while the left was rendered in the Fox Engine.
This is no conspriacy theory. This is the software Konami is using to bring bigger pores to your favourite soccer players!
The conspiracy theory is that Joakim Mogren is actually a CG creation. Over on 4chan's video game board, /v/, and popular web forum NeoGAF, some believe that the Joakim that appeared on GTTV was a computer creation. Many think the notion that Joakim is CG is completely silly.
The crux of the argument is that Joakim and Geoff Keighley never appeared in the same frame and that Joakim was a "floating head". What's more, this would explain the bandages, which could be used to mask certain things that are hard to render, such as hair and ears. As NeoGAF member MormaPope noted, the point of light in Joakim's pupils look static, Joakim's eyelids don't drop, and the shadows of lights around the bandages on the right side are inconsistent with his head movement. Though, what about those wisps of hair sticking out of Mogren's bandages?
Online, some have jumped down the "Joakim is CG" rabbit hole, while others have dubbed the notion as the work of internet forums with overactive imaginations. "Definitely not CGI," wrote NeoGAF user Mutombo. "Look at his eyes. The eyes are alive. No CGI will ever be able to create eyes with a soul." A poll on GiantBomb seemed to agree. Others quipped that Geoff Keighley was CG or that Joakim Mogren was actually Cliff Bleszinski wrapped in bandages (image via NeoGAF member Raging Spaniard). On Twitter, the account purporting to be Joakim's account proclaimed, "Alright, I'll come clean. I'm actually a CGI animation of @therealcliffyb. You got me."
A meme image of Mogren, that shows his bandaged face and the words "Its CG" has popped up.
The entire Joakim-is-CG conspiracy theory is gummed up by Geoff Keighley and GTTV producer Rohan Rivas tweeting out photos they apparently took of Mogren during the interview (here and here). And with most conspiracy theories, the they-are-also-in-on-it theories are popping up, too.
There are a couple reasons why I'll even entertain this. One of those is that Hideo Kojima is a giant tease. He loves dragging stuff out and stringing people along. Even if this isn't a ruse and Joakim Mogren is a real person, I'm sure Kojima would be vastly entertained by the whole thing. He'd probably be tickled by folks like Vio on NeoGAF spotting "polygon edges" in the bandages.
The other thing that sticks out is Kojima's push for the Fox Engine. Until now, the vast majority of it has been things like trumpeting how realistic faces can be rendered by the Fox Engine or showing how it can realistically reproduce clothing and fabrics. Heck, last spring, Konami challenged people to tell the difference between real photos and the Fox Engine. Last December, Kojima showed how realistically the Fox Engine could render an elaborate meal. A CG Joakim Mogren would check all those boxes.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, it's really hard to impress with a new game engine. I mean, have you seen what Square Enix is working on? Holy smoke! Or what Unreal Engine 4 looks like? Jaw-dropping stuff. This is the Fox Engine's competition (well, less so Square Enix's Luminous Engine, because that is currently an in-house engine).
So if the Fox Engine wants to lure game developers away from Unreal Engine 4, it better do something that grabs them by the throat. Something like creating a CG game developer and fooling folks into thinking he's real. Because if Konami doesn't, pretty screenshots and a pedestrian Game Developer Conference's panel ain't going to cut it.
Kotaku is following up with Konami, GTTV, and Joakim Mogren and will update this post should any of them comment.
Back in 2008, Kotaku featured the "Emily" tech demo, which showed off Image Metrics' truly impressive rendering. If you missed it, have a look. If anything, because the Uncanny Valley is now bonafide science.