Square: There “Will Always be a Problem” With the Uncanny Valley

July 10, 2012Written by Alex Osborn

Square Enix is responsible for some of the most impressive visuals this industry has ever seen, but according to their worldwide technology director Julien Merceron, they’ll never be able to get out of the uncanny valley.

In an interview with GI International, Merceron explained that it’s not all about great graphics. In order to achieve a true sense of realism, there needs to be a perfect balance between the visuals and the animation that goes along with it.

Focusing on graphics only would be a huge mistake. You start to have super great graphics, characters look really good and you end up in the uncanny valley, but you don’t have animation at the same quality level.

Same thing with behavior and AI; it animates well and looks good, but it is making stupid decisions. It simply won’t be immersive. So focusing on graphics only is a big mistake. People will need to focus on animation, and I believe our Philosophy demo is highlighting that, but also on the AI and physics too.

In the end, Merceron explains that ramping up the overall aesthetic of the experience ends up being a game of cat and mouse, where improving one aspect requires balancing of the others. Because of this major challenge, he believes that this will always be an issue for game developers.

The quality of the facial and body animations and the acting won’t be good enough. So that is why as you evolve, you have to upgrade your physics, rendering and animations. It will always be a problem. As you push something, you have to recalibrate and rebalance these out. You can’t have these stunning graphics while characters are acting funny on the screen.

Do you agree with Merceron? Will developers be battling with the uncanny valley until the end of time? It will be interesting to see how close we manage to get when the next wave of hardware rolls over the next few years.