We’ve been talking about the uncanny valley in video games for a long time, but this week Unreal Engine has added a new tool which is going to help a lot of video games get real close, real fast. Meet MetaHuman.
MetaHumans, and the MetaHuman Creator, is a new function for the Unreal Engine tool suite that’s does what it says on the box: create seemingly life-like human models. Now video games have been able to do really convincing human models before — The Last of Us 2 is probably the best example — but that’s often required specialist motion capture rigs, months of work and often an absurd amount of developer time.
MetaHuman Creator — which is being released later this year — obviously isn’t going to replace all of that, nor will it stop studios like Naughty Dog or Insomniac Games from the bespoke work they’re doing for their own engines. But for games using Unreal Engine, developers might really appreciate the power that’s just been released. According to Epic, instead of needing weeks or months, high quality MetaHumans can be created in around an hour.
“MetaHuman Creator is a cloud-streamed app that takes real-time digital human creation from weeks or even months to less than an hour — at an unprecedented standard of quality, fidelity, and realism,” Epic says. “When your character is finished, you can export and download it, rigged and ready to animate in Unreal Engine.”
And it’s not just the quality of the facial model or the way forehead lines curve and crack as someone speaks. The facial animation itself is pretty damn good. No Andomreda level memes here, folks: this stuff is real nice, and developers are going to have an absolute blast when they get to play with this stuff.
In the first video below, you’ll see a segment of some MetaHumans talking through some lines. It’s got a slightly unsettling quality to it, almost like you know you’re hearing a speech from an android.
Still, it’s hard not to appreciate the quality of the animation and motion. How many developers choose to run with that in their games is another matter — every game has its polygon budget and not every game might want so many resources dedicated towards character models.
But the technology is definitely cool. And if you want to see a better look at the actual character creation process, and some of the alternatives that can be knocked up, Epic’s second video is worth watching.
Very cool stuff.
Two of the MetaHumans have already been released for use in Unreal Engine 4.26.1, and you can grab those here. It also looks like Unreal has got some of its own tech when it comes to strand-based hair rendering as well, just looking at some of the models. If you’re an Unreal developer yourself, let us know what the models are like to play with in the comments below!