Creating Lifelike Avatars: The Next Frontier for VR Gaming
Having huge worlds to explore in VR is great, but wouldn’t they be better with someone to share them with?
Anyone who’s played a virtual reality (VR) videogame will tell you about the wholly immersive nature of the medium; how the technology can take interactive experiences far beyond that of a traditional 2D monitor. But in the same breath, they would often acknowledge that there’s still some distance yet to travel before VR fulfils its potential. One of the promises that needs to be delivered on is realistic AI interaction, and one company specifically targeting this area is EVR Studio.
The Korean developer has recently launched two experiences for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift: ProjectM: Dream and ProjectM: Daydream. The former is a simple technical demonstration showcasing the amazing graphical fidelity of EVR Studio’s character models in a series of surreal situations, the latter a teaser for a fuller videogame experience. Though while ProjectM: Daydream adds a swathe of additional considerations – background detail, interactivity (albeit limited) and more – the detail in the character models does not noticeably suffer.
The skin tones, animation and facial detail in both ProjectM titles are unlike anything yet seen in VR. The considerations required to deliver high-end VR (90 frames per second, stereoscopic 3D) demand a great deal of processing power that on a traditional videogame could be used purely for graphical detail and effects, and thus many VR titles are left with middling visual quality or low detail texturing. EVR Studio has somehow managed to sidestep this in their character models without compromising on the environmental detail.
That being said, the amount of interactivity in either experience is limited. ProjectM: Dream is merely a technical demonstration without any interactivity at all, while ProjectM: Daydream has the player select objects in the environment to activate them or give responses to the AI character from a menu; it’s almost a fantasy relationship experience akin to Summer Lesson, though far from as obnoxious in its overt sexualisation of women. However, EVR Studio keenly acknowledges this, and is offering these two samples as a teaser of more to come:
“These are not VR games, but are more of a VR experience that demonstrates our efforts in creating what no other developer has yet attempted – we are pushing the limits to creating high quality virtual characters, rendered in real-time, that players can emotionally connect with,” stated Jae Hwan Kim, CEO of EVR Studio, in an e-mail to VRFocus.
ProjectM: Dream and ProjectM: Daydream are about presenting characters opposed to a videogame experience as such. It’s about the believability of the virtual actors; and in that sense both titles are a great success. Exactly what will come next from EVR Studio remains to be seen; if the company continues down the road of virtual girlfriend simulations it’s likely to put many potential players off, and that would truly be a shame as the developer has paved the way for some potentially groundbreaking AI depiction and interactivity.