Hyper-Realistic Faces In SYNCED: Off-Planet Could Spell The End Of The Uncanny Valley In Video Games

While Tencent Games might be better known for its slew of mobile games, there is actually a studio under Tencent that has been quietly churning out high-quality online shooter games such as Far Cry, Rainbow Six Siege, and Tencent’s own MMORPG Moonlight Blade. We’re talking about NExT, who recently showcased their next big “AAA” game SYNCED: Off-Planet during Gamescom 2019

The game is set in a futuristic sci-fi world where humans are able to upload their consciousness, memories, and DNA online. These can then be transferred into a new body. Sort of like Ghost in the Shell. Unfortunately, this technology got corrupted and so human bodies installed with this programming started turning into aggressive, mindless zombies. Now it is up to the players to take down the zombies and save humanity. 

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While the gameplay of this third-person shooter has not been impressing players who have tried the demo at Gamescom, it was still getting a lot of attention and for one sole reason, how realistic the faces in the game looked like. 

According to the studio, SYNCED uses a face rendering tech called Project Siren which uses technology such as real-time rendering, facial expression capture, motion capture, high-fidelity 3D scanning and the likes to produce life-like digital human models. 

With the use of Project Siren, SYNCED has managed to achieve extremely life-like facial animation that seems to be even better than other AAA games such as Sony’s Uncharted 4 from 2016, which reportedly used 500 bones in the models to make the characters more expressive. Just so you know, real human faces only have 14 bones. 

Tencent has been experimenting with life-like, hyper-realistic facial animations for a while now. In 2017, a group of companies including Tencent showcased a VR Programme called MEETMIKE which allowed co-founder of FXGuide Mike Seymour to interview industry veterans as a digital human in real-time, while members of the audience could watch in using their VR headsets. 

The same group will then go on to develop Project Siren in 2018. 

It is certainly impressive how NExT Studio is able to properly toe the line between real and unreal, creating faces that might be able to avoid the uncanny valley so many video game characters fall into.