Mark Cerny on photorealism and how PS4 can enable greater emotional expression


PS4 CGI won’t be indistinguishable from reality, but the leap in tech will enable developers to truly explore the possibilities of emotional expression in games, says Mark Cerny.

PlayStation 4s lead system architect told us at last week’s Develop In Brighton 2013 conference that he believes PS4 can kickstart a new golden age of game diversity, before moving on to the subject of new technology enabling greater emotional expression in games.

“We are at the point in the PlayStation 4 generation where we will forget sometimes that we’re looking at CGI rather than captured video,” Cerny said.

But if CGI is reaching the point where it is indistinguishable from video, why not just use video, we asked. “I don’t think it will be indistinguishable,” said Cerny. “I just think that at times we’ll be able to forget, and it will depend on lighting and depend on the scene. But there will be moments when you forget. I don’t think we’ll be consistently able to be at that point so if you used video, you really would be drawing attention to the fact that the actors really don’t exist in the game’s world.”

Cerny was speaking to us as part of a wider discussion about the game industry’s preoccupation with photorealism, in which he also recalled his time in the late nineties at Crystal Dynamics at the height of the FMV era.

“We [at Crystal Dynamics] weren’t as far ahead as EA was,” he said. “EA did Road Rash with full-blown shoots in exactly the era of the game with professional actors, stunt people and the like. They were really feeling that was the future. As an industry, we have gotten to that story-driven place that we thought we were going to get to. It just took 15 years longer than we thought it would.”

When asked why he thinks it took games so long to reach that point, Cerny replied: “If you look at games and you look at film, in film no matter how much cheap your production is, you have access to emotion because you have access to the human face. But in games that’s the most expensive thing – the human body is the most expensive thing you can try to put in your game – at least a human who looks like a human.”

“So it takes tens of millions of dollars to do what film can do on many levels for just a few hundred thousand dollars. It took a while for the technology to get to the point where we could really put something compelling in there on the narrative side.”

You can read why PlayStation 4s lead system architect also believes that PS4 can help kickstart a new golden age for games through the link.