This Year's Craziest Conspiracy Theory, The Uncanny Valley, And, Oh Yeah, Metal Gear

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.

Joakim Mogren during the GTTV interview is potentially CG, made with Fox Engine #1 [NeoGAF]


Comments

    Um... There's another point you missed. Have a look at the tagline for the GameTrailers movie...
    "The evasive CEO of Moby Dick Studios causes a very ANIMATED Geoff Keighley to reveal The Phantom Pain is running on the FOX Engine!"
    Apart from the fact that Geoff couldn't look animated if he tried, isn't this a bit of a giveaway?

    Oh I get annoyed when people use the "Uncanny Valley" term, as they usually don't understand it.

    Another important note in his name, Joakim Mogren, Kojima has been working for a long time on Project Ogre. So it's basically Kojima mOGREn.

    This 'interview' was pretty much devoid of actual content apart from a couple of concept images shown on a tablet and the news that there would be a new trailer at GDC. I would believe it if it turns out that Joakim Mogren CG. Right now I'm not entirely convinced. But we'll see.

    it looked real to me, it cannot be CGI.NO, nononono

    WOW, well done. It is definitely CG. I watched through it when it first came on and the thought didn't cross my mind, but now it's clear as day. I remember thinking it was strange, but not that it wasn't even real.

    You can see a few tell tale signs when "Joakim" has the surprised reaction, especially around his collar. The black shirt on the left moves unrealistically and doesn't cast a shadow properly on his skin (which could happen if it's a CG head/neck on top of a real actors body and the tracking/compositing slipped) and also the bandage on the right of his neck flickers brighter for a second, which could be a gi/lighting rendering artefact. There's also a few too many possible polygon edges in the silhouette of his bandages at times.

    I'm convinced that it's fake, and I'm also very impressed.

    Last edited 18/03/13 10:29 pm

      I WAS ready to say 'Bullshit, its not cgi' but then I watched the video...

      There's something wrong... the reactions, the way he looks, the way he moves, it's very good, but its slightly 'off'. I can't put my finger on it, but somethings not quite 'right' about it.

      I'm calling cgi, some *BLOODY IMPRESSIVE* cgi.

        I'm convinced, and yet, it's good enough that I still would't be totally surprised if I was wrong.

        Looking through it, pausing constantly, there does seem to be a few subtle polygon edges on his silhouette, but it was this that convinced me that something was up:

        http://www.abload.de/img/joakimzgjxf.gif

        The part circled is a bit weird, the way the shirt pops a bit and doesn't cast the shadow I would expect, but that can happen. It's actually the other side of the neck that seems to flash slightly brighter for a second. It could be many things, but I've seen stuff like that a lot with global illumination computations, even in pre-rendered cgi, so I would expect to see some artefacts like this in real time lighting.

        Still, that could just be something else, like a glint off some jewellery, but that's the thing that got me.

        EDIT: Also, the difference in light colour between Keighley and "Joakim" - Goeff has a slightly yellowish light on him, his eye whites look yellow for example. But "Joakim" has perfectly white light on him (white eye whites), which you could expect if it was separate footage. This doesn't prove CG, but it infers at least that it's possible they were not in the same room at the same time. Again, not remotely conclusive, it could just be different cameras or different environmental bounce light, but added to the rest it helped sway me a bit.

        EDIT EDIT: Haha, before I'm like - "Definitely CG" and "Clear as day", and now I'm all "I could be wrong" :). I'll settle somewhere in the middle: I'm confident it's CG, but it's so well done that I wouldn't bet my house on it.

        Last edited 18/03/13 11:33 pm

        I'm not actually all that convinced from the video alone, although I haven't analysed it in depth. As a casual observer it looks like video of a person to me. I'm convinced other people may be right though by the fact that this is obviously Kojima behind it all. Think back to the day before MGS2 was actually released, still no one had even heard of Riden.

    it is definitely, definitely NOT CG.
    It's got nothing to do with the lighting or rendering - game engines and dedicated renders are able to re-produce the lighting and shading that is happening in the interview.
    It's all in the movement, there is no way any combo of animator/mocap that could produce his movement to that degree that perfectly, or capture those eyes.

    take this ad for example, which is as recent as this month, done at Framestore London and had dedicated staff working on for months;
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFw8NjZF-Qk
    The facial replacement in this ad is amazing, and up there as being some of the best CG being done by world leading Artists, but you can still tell it's cg in moments.
    This interview is full frame closeup, realtime ingame engine, digi-double being interviewed? no way.

    Has anyone made note of the fact that you don't see the interviewer and "Joakim" in the same shot. It's either one or the other.

      It's in the article and is the starting point for the whole theory: "The crux of the argument is that Joakim and Geoff Keighley never appeared in the same frame..."

        Not sure how I missed that, thanks for pointing it out.

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