Remedy: Quantum Break Will Endeavour To Cross The 'Dreaded Uncanny Valley'

Ah, the uncanny valley — making "realistic" characters in video games resemble creepy robots wearing human skin. Not long ago, NVIDIA had an impressive go at traversing this precarious divide and now Remedy, with its (currently) Xbox One-exclusive title Quantum Break, feels like it might have cracked this difficult nut.

In a 33-minute interview with Polygon's Brian Crecente, creative director Sam Lake goes into a bit of detail about the "opportunities" the latest consoles are providing developers, one of which is the chance to finally get computerised humans looking like, well, human. Given the photo-realistic art direction Remedy's taken with Quantum Break, getting people moving and talking just right is understandably important when portraying any sort of serious narrative:

Today we stop talking about next-gen and start talking about current-gen. Obviously, as it always is, it keeps on evolving and getting better and better as we go forward ... I'm really, really excited by the things we see at Remedy daily on screen ... but the opportunities with what we have for Quantum Break is not like story-telling technology ... just the character stuff, just the fact that it really feels that we now have digital doubles of the actors. They're real-time, in-game and all the small nuances [are] happening.

Especially with Quantum Break, with the live-action component, in many ways it feels we have managed to cross that dreaded uncanny valley. Now we have an experience where we have side-by-side the game with digital doubles of the actors and those same actors then in [the] live-action show and together that makes one experience that feels seamless and cool.

Of course, there's a bit more to a compelling story than just the actors, but Lake's got solid credentials with Max Payne and Alan Wake under his belt (oh, and Death Rally, as Lake joking includes during the interview).

Sam Lake on Alan Wake 2, Quantum Break and innovation in narrative [Polygon]


    How can the uncanny valley exists within videogames? The entire purpose of the uncanny valley is that it's so real that any tiny detail that's not real makes you throw up. I'm playing a videogame. Not once will I ever think that I'm remote controlling a real person in a real setting.

      I'd rather dev's not focus on Uncanny Valley so much as making worlds more living and breathing and immersive.

      It's about animations, particularly those in cutscenes. Devs are constantly trying to improve the immersion of games, trying to trick you into thinking you are doing exactly what you said, the uncanny valley's just another hurdle they're trying to overcome.

      I think with this game the uncanny valley will be more obvious since large portions of the game will be live action.

      Last edited 24/11/13 5:02 pm

      That's not -quite- how it works.

      Uncanny Valley, when the term is used correctly, refers to a line graph that plots how similar an artificial character (originally robots, though CG characters follow a similar pattern) is to a human, against how appealing that character is. The line runs steadily upward until it crosses a certain level of realism and then plunges down as it hits that point where the artificial character becomes too realistic to be endearing like a cartoon character, but not realistic enough to be seen as a living, breathing person. This is the "uncanny valley". From there the line gradually rises again as the creepy, corpse like elements are replaced with more realistic ones up until you have a character that is not distinguishable from a real human.

      So in this instance, they don't need to have perfect humans, they just need to push past the elements that creep people out.

      Last edited 24/11/13 6:00 pm

    I saw the interview and I thought "Wow, those are some pretty impressive graphics." Then I saw that it was video.

    Am really eager for Quantum Break after watching this vid. The difference in the way Remedy is filming the Live-Action is that they are making sure everything, sets & costumes etc, match up perfectly with what is in-game. Something that was experimented with in Alan Wake 8-part live action prequel. It's still on Live if you didn't see it at the time. Also I can say that Remedy really does know how to make Live-Action at and above the level of quality seen in the Stephen King serials seen in the 90's - in Widescreen HD ta boot.

    Last edited 24/11/13 6:44 pm

    I think people are getting the term "uncanny Valley" confused, Vsauce sums it up quite well in this video

    Hmmm ever since Enslaved programmers have been getting the faces on characters pretty darn close I'd say.

    So glad they don't model Max Payne on this dude anymore...

    All I see is pre-wife-and-child-murder Max Payne.

      Now see him pre- and post!

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