David Cage has unveiled a stunning new five-minute prototype video showcasing a brand new 3D engine, running on PlayStation 3, that makes use of full performance capture.
The five-minute film is called Kara. She's a female android brought to life on an assembly line, and as her body is put together piece by piece she's asked to speak in English, German and French and sing in Japanese. After expressing emotion she's marked as defective and being to be disassembled, but before being permanently shut down she begs for her life. Her beating blue robotic heart tells how nervous she is, and the man assembling Kara allows her to continue off the manufacturing line.
Shown at GDC 2012, the demo was a video captured directly off a PlayStation 3 running in real-time. "It's not CG, it's not pre-rendered, it's really the game," says Cage.
The video is "food for thought" says Cage, who says Kara is a short film about what it means to be human. Cage says he believes "there is a space for adult games" in the world, and that there is a new market outside of existing casual (like Angry Birds) and hardcore (like Call of Duty) spaces.
Kara was shot with a new engine developed by Quantic Dream, and Cage says the studio's objective with the new engine is to clone living actors, handle significant volumes of motion capture assets, and deliver high quality at the lowest cost.
Kara shows 50% of the features in the new PlayStation 3 engine. The film was shot a year ago with version 1 of the engine. Quantic Dream is now on version 3 of the unnamed engine.
The new engine features a "direct-to-engine" pipeline that allows the team to work with the motion capture data with minimal editing, and boasts retargeting, complex shaders, FX, dynamic wounds, and facial hair.
70 actresses read the script before Quantic Dream settled on the actress for Kara, and the studio expanded its motion capture studio to 65 cameras, as opposed to Heavy Rain's 28. The studio has a sound-proof stage and actors have 90 markers on the body and 90 markers on the face.
French developer Quantic Dream works with proprietary technology to create its own game engines. Cage originally unveiled the tech that would go on to make Heavy Rain in 2006, in a demo titled The Casting.
Unlike Kara's full performance capture, The Casting and Heavy Rain (VideoGamer.com's Game of the Year 2010, by the way) used split performance motion capturing, which Cage states has a "reasonable cost", and it's when audio and facial animations and body animations are not recorded at the same time. "It's still a bit artificial because you don't get the instant, you get two performances that you put together that you try to recreate artificially, but you don't get the original performance."