In an interview with CVG, Quantic Dream founder and Heavy Rain creator David Cage criticized the MotionScan face capture technology used in L.A. Noire. “What to say about L.A Noire? I think it’s an interesting solution to a problem for now. But it’s also an interesting dead end.”
MotionScan is a technique developed by Depth Analysis for Team Bondi, the team responsible for L.A. Noire. It scans actors’ faces from 32 angles as they act out their lines, allowing for an accurate in-game portrayal. The effect is so convincing that it’s the backbone of L.A. Noire’s investigative gameplay. Players will interrogate suspects and use their body language and facial cues to get to the truth.
But Cage considers the tech a stopgap solution. “I think L.A Noire looks good–honestly, it does–but I don’t think they’ll go much further than where they are,” he said. “With the technology we use, we can improve; there is a lot of room for improvement and we hope to show very soon where we are now. We’ve made significant progress since Heavy Rain and will continue to make progress until we reach the stage of Avatar. That is probably three, four, five years from now.”
The argument is that Team Bondi’s technique has some roadblocks. “They can’t have real time lighting,” Cage said. “Their technique means they can’t have lighting the way I think we should do it. Basically, they take pictures; they take scans several times per frame. They also have limitations on the shaders they use, they can’t re-target the eyes because their eyes are captured.”
Bold words from Cage, especially considering he says their evolution is several years away. Heavy Rain looks pretty good, but the face animation on L.A. Noire is a mile ahead of what Cage’s game offered. It seems a bit presumptuous to call MotionScan a dead end so early.