EQ2 ugliness, nothing to share with the "Uncanny Valley"

Mostly a “rant” thread branching from the other one.

As I and others commented, EQ2 houses both some of the best and the worst art you’ll ever see. Too often this ugliness is justified with the “Uncanny Valley” theory. My opinion is that, instead, that theory has NOTHING to share with the ugliness in this and other games.

That theory came from the observation of high quality CG and robots and was “ported” inappropriately even to games. But we definitely aren’t there yet. And if these games look awful it’s just because the artists are rushing their work without giving it any thought or polish (which is typical of mmorpgs).

In EQ2 lots of art and animations are placeholders. They would be subpar for even a low-cost console product. They are aproximate and obviously rushed out. They shows no care for the detail.

If WoW is successful it’s also because the developers landed on the mmorpg genre after a lot of experience with single-player games, where that approximation wouldn’t be tolerated (which is also why I’d like to see more competent companies joining, instead of mmorpg companies coming out of the blue). This is something that even other companies should learn, because SOE is not alone.

Now TELL ME how you can you even think to the “Uncanny Valley” when the art is way more approximate and unrealistic even compared to WoW.

The next example is an Ogre and the model is not too bad (if it wasn’t for the hair). But again it show a similar lack of polish. Look for example at the black seams on the chest. And tell me how the texture of the chest piece made out to a released product. Come on. All these screenshots are taken with the game set at high quality.

This one shows the lack of polish in the animations. It reminds me closely SWG where the bad clipping was a rule instead of an exception. Here the hands of the girl sink right in the hips. The model has also other problems that don’t show on the screenshot.

This one speaks for itself. Come on, look at that shoulder. It is just plain bad. Also consider that the animation should be about this guy drinking from a jug… with his hair. The animator didn’t even care to move the jug closer to the mouth and the arm goes right above the head. It’s another obvious example of the approximation and complete lack of care with the animations.

This shows what I say about 3d. You can make a shit model look decent with a great texture but you’ll always ruin a great model with a shit texture. To have a black seam down the middle of that ogre is really lazy on the part of the artists and the only way I’d excuse it is if someone higher up said “We need it right now just throw it in the game”.

HRose, what graphics settings are you using btw? Those shots look a lot uglier than what I remember from my month of EQ2 play.

This is another one showing the lack of polish in the animations. The troll is supposed to mix something in the bowl and the spoon goes right through it. I guess it was again too hard to center the spoon on the bowl.

And finally a troll. The model behind wouldn’t be too bad but the hair are just plain wrong. They don’t even seem to belong to the image. This is the best that the newest graphic engines can deliver?

My opinion is rather simple. Some of the art in EQ2 is really awful. I took these screenshots in about five minutes, it’s really not hard to find examples like these. Pretty much everywhere you can see something that just looks plain wrong.

This has surely nothing to do with the “Uncanny Valley”. These aren’t problems related to the use of an advanced graphic engine. These are the result of rushed out work, simply put.

It’s not a problem of “style”. It’s not about going “gritty and realistic” instead of “cartoony”. This is just a problem of care in what is being added to the game. Blizzard’s artists are clearly much more talented and/or have much more time available to polish what they do. Paying attention to every element instead of just throwing in all they find laying around without any common sense or discretion.

Then people may ask themselves: is this “beauty” worth of an engine that runs badly even on a supercomputer? Or maybe we could enjoy more a game that is much more fluid and accessible?

I can say that it is way harder for me to pass a few hours in a game that begins to stutter badly as there are more than three models on screen compared to one that is smooth as silk even with 60+ characters on screen with full detail, animations and all kinds of sparkling effects. It’s like night and day and the use of the technology like the shader effects in WoW is much more well thought, balanced and subtle. Instead of throwing in every effect possible and rely completely on them to make the game look interesting.

Isn’t the smoothness and fluidity also gameplay on its own? I know I like to play WoW even for long sessions also thanks to a graphic engine that is always fluid in all situations. It plays better and it’s definitely less “tiring” than a game that stutters all the time, is incostant and has a low responsivity.

I believe this point is underestimated in WoW’s success. If that game was able to draw so many players in the genre it’s also because they come from console games. They just wouldn’t tolerate all the quirks and problems of the average mmorpg client.

This genre has been awful till today: it offered the worst graphic, the worst engines, the worst interfaces, the worst design and HUGE accessiblity barriers. Playing one made you directly a legit “catass”. The “catass” was a requirement for the whole genre.

It’s not surprising that a company like Blizzard that was able to come in with a very good, responsive engine, accessible for most of the players, good game design, quality art, a well planned UI and very low accessibility barriers overall, was able to rack up so many players.

Before WoW the mmorpgs were just subpar under every aspect and mmorpg players had to tolerate really bad, bugged and unpolished products for a very simple reason: there wasn’t anything else available.

The rules are different now.

My graphics looked a ton better than that when I was playing EQ2. Did you have it on like the lowest level settings or something?

No, the models are at the maximum setting available, the animations sliders are to the max.

The textures are at “high”. There’s only “maximum” above that and is recommended for a video card with 512Mb of ram.

Your game looks better because you just aren’t a good observer. Go to the same places and the same NPCs and you’ll see that your game looks exactly like that, if not worst.

Now that you’ve added a few more pictures to your first post I’ve got another comment. In the one with the ogre drinking you’ll find that a few games have this issue due to the amount of vertices on shoulders. You can see some cases of it in Half Life 2 where a bit of their vest will “point” near their shoulder. You don’t notice it as much because you’re blowing people away most of the time, but it’s there. Of course not many artists (myself included) tend to try put more detail on other areas (faces, hands etc) and tend to forget about animations where the character will place their arms above their heads…

Actually, if you look at Half life 2 again the characters sometimes have their hands in their ‘pockets’ -which involves them putting their hands into themselves (I’m not sure if that’s what the girl above is meant to be doing or not). Again, a lot of these issues just look like rushed artists, which is a pity because it only makes them look bad.

Christ, man, change down; find your neutral space. Your nose seems awfully bent out of shape. Who cares if you don’t like the art in EQII? Are the offices at SONY full of people wringing their hands because HRose is displeased?

Your game looks better because you just aren’t a good observer.

Hello, Department of Arrogance? I’d like to lodge a complaint please. >.<

I think you are missing the point, and as much as it pains me to say this, HRose has a pretty solid agument here is actually right (or mostly right).

This isn’t subjective. Its not about weather you like WoW styles or EQ2 styles. It is about the simple quailty of art… The pictures are proof. I am sure you really wanted to be anal about it, you could task HRose to come up with two dozen more illustrations.

He didn’t just find the few isolated cases in EQ2, he just gave a few examples of the general case. That is very shoddy artwork. There is no excuse. Sony rushed it and it shows badly.

I think they stopped carring long ago about art quility, long before even EQ2. I remember seeing shit like this in EQ. Just zone from the nexsus to that hallway that leads to dawn shroud peaks. You zone from a small hall, to a giant cavern that’s scale is off by at least an order of maginitude. It was odd since the Vashir looked so good, yet in the same expansion they added a bunch of crap art to go with it.

Yeah, that’s the kind of bad modelling, texturing, and animation that is done by absolute amateurs with no supervision of experience 3d artists.

If that kind of bungled art were in a standalone 3d game, it would be panned to the end of the earth. IMO, the game I’ve played most recently with the worst 3d art has been Gothic 2 – but it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of EQ2.

No, I don’t think you’re right. The first picture you post is far more realistic than WoW in terms of modelling. Far more human-like. There’s a profile including cheekbones, nose, eye sockets, ears, etc… WoW has only a few of these (essentially an ovoid face with ears, a blocky protuberance for a nose, etc…)

Where EQ has gone for polygons and reasonably flat textures, WoW has gone for reasonably flat geometry and very polished textures. Given the limitations of current machines, I’ll agree the WoW model works, but they give up a lot of things the EQ model has (musculature, definition of the model both above and below the waist… compare hands and the whole “gripping mitt” motif of WoW to EQ2).

Frankly, I think this is a great example of the “uncanny valley”. You look at EQ2 and think “wow, that looks nothing like a humanoid” when, objectively, it has far more silhouette features of a humanoid than WoW does.

Of all your pictures, the only one which I think is really ugly is the one with the vertex deformation problem on the shoulder. The only “black seam” I see on the ogre picture is the ridgeline of his pectorals which, as it turns out (for a fairly buff ogre) is supposed to be there!

Look at the human model in the background of the ogre with the shoulder issue. He looks great, and far (far!) more "realistic) than any of the humans in WoW.

Don’t get me wrong, WoW does a fantastic job at portraying life with significantly lower poly models, and I generally like the look of WoW better. However, they’re doing completely different things, and much of EQ2 looks quite good to me. I can steadfastly affirm that for the 6 months I played I didn’t notice the egregious shoulder type errors nearly as much as I saw things that looked far more “realistic” to me and appreciated them as such.

(On a side note, I think the troll’s hair looks perfectly fine - they’re clearly going for a stringy/ratty/gross look and, well, they’ve succeeded.)

This just in: HRose is using a DX7 video card ;)

Seriously, I dunno why you guys would see better stuff than he does.

Just FYI, you seem to be confusing ‘realistic’ with ‘good quality’. 3D need not be realistic to be of bad quality. HRose isn’t arguing realism. What he’s saying is that if you put a face in WoW side by side with a face in EQ2, WoW looks objectively better; it’s not about realism or proportions. WoW’s art doesn’t look broken and crappy. Sure, it doesn’t look realistic. But it’s not supposed to.

I still stand with the Uncanny Valley theory. Bad animation – man, does the entire industry need better per-poly collision routines and/or better classically-trained animators – on a great model simply enhances the “realdoll with specular highlights” feeling we get.

Read some classical animation texts. Animators figured out the whole “uncanny valley” stuff a long time ago.

It really IS subjective. That’s what your last two sentences just said.

The WoW face looks better TO HIM. Just because it looks better to him doesn’t mean that the rest of us are no longer able to make our own decisions.

No one uses per-poly collision to stop clipping. To do so would be A) wasteful, B) Slow, and C) An absurd waste of resources.

You won’t ever get that until every computer has a built in hardware collision detection processor.

I just spent 30 minutes running around in game trying to reproduce HRose’s results, and I didn’t see anything that looked similar, but regardless…

WoW does not look objectively better. Look up the word. It simply doesn’t. Subjectively, sure. Objectively, where you might like WoW better because it’s more cohesive, someone might like EQ2 better because it’s more realistic. Nothing in WoW looks as good as the Kerrans in EQ2. Nothing. Nothing in WoW looks as grotesque as the troll picture linked above which is fine by me, because to me the trolls ought to be grotesque.

I see where people don’t like the above. But really, claiming that somehow objective aesthetics exist? Bullshit.

Later tonight when I have more time I’ll try to take some character shots of characters I’m seeing in game. I’ll gladly cede the point that the variance in EQ2 is larger than in WoW. But people who look at what HRose posted and feel propped up in their objectivity of “what the game looks like all the time” are kidding themselves because he’s chosen to show you the worst of the worst (of the worst, sir!).

No one uses per-poly collision to stop clipping. To do so would be A) wasteful, B) Slow, and C) An absurd waste of resources.

The same things were said about, oh, 16x anisiotrophic filtering at one time, I imagine.

It’ll happen one day. I wonder what takes more effort and code footprint: unique rigging for every model (instead of generic biped rigging & animation) or per-poly clipping code.

Skinning is typically done by the video card anyway. The only thing the CPU understands is the position of the bones. Per-polygon collision on deformable geometry is pretty far off from what I understand – although I do remember reading that the Doom 3 engine used per-poly collision. No idea how that works or if they’re even talking about deformable objects at all.

A far more effective way to avoid all this is by using a collision method similar to the Source engine – attaching rigid collision bodies to the bones and then using a kinematic animation system to detect intersections between bodies. Half-Life 2 has done the best job so far of this.

Now, per-poly collision on static objects is easy and every 3D game I can think of in the last 10 years uses it.

For what it’s worth, I think “Uncanny Valley” is subjective and almost useless as a concept. At best, it’s a general cipher for a range of things we find repellent, mostly characteristics which resemble the dead and diseased.

“People are repelled by things that look almost, but not quite like people” is an adequate explanation for the phenomenon, but I think “Oh my god it looks like a fucking corpse” is a better one. Yes, it’s more specific, but that’s the point. For other specifics, other forms of disgust: “Shiny, oddly pale, glossy skin looks like an infectious fever.”

Now, that’s not that I don’t think the uncanny valley doesn’t exist. Only there wherever it crops up, I often tend to see something more pressing. When I encounter a bug-eyed cartoon gnome rendered in horribly realistic 3d, my first reaction is not that it takes the cartoonishness into the realm of realism, repelling me through with its uncanny near-convincingness. My first reaction is to flee from the giant deformed accutane baby that’s trying to start a conversation with me.

What we’re seeing with the shots here is just scrappy workmanship. Uncanny valley, maybe. But whenever someone uses that phrase, there’s a better one hiding in the shadows. Or in the vertices.