Extra Credits: The Uncanny Valley

This week, we explain the theory behind the Uncanny Valley, and how best to avoid tumbling into it.

Recent Comments:

  • If you design your visuals to be aesthetically complete, then if you do it well, the result will always look good, and the game will always be engaging, no matter how old it is. By contrast, if you aim for a "realistic" look, the result will very much reflect the level of technology at that time, and the game will eventually look dated.

    In other words, a self-contained, stylized visual style is something that you can master and bring to perfection, and it allows you to create a timeless masterpiece. On the other hand, striving for photo-realism will only ever get you a less-than-perfect approximation which will eventually look old.

    That's why I prefer muppets and practical effects to CG in movies.

  • Hmm... I had considered what would happen if some director or designer wanted to use the uncanny valley to their advantage. This parallels to the "uncanny" concept from the Symbolism episode.

    Sure, the uncanny valley applies primarily to things that just seem unnatural when they're meant to be human, but considering all the directions horror can go, I won't be surprised it somebody wants to go that route.

  • Hmm... I had considered what would happen if some director or designer wanted to use the uncanny valley to their advantage. This parallels to the "uncanny" concept from the Symbolism episode.

    Sure, the uncanny valley applies primarily to things that just seem unnatural when they're meant to be human, but considering all the directions horror can go, I won't be surprised it somebody wants to go that route.

    I believe the Extra Curricular Podcast crew talked about that in their last podcast. (Culture and Games) Not the idea of basing a game around the uncanny but just using the uncanny valley to their advantage.

  • Not sure if I agree that Kratos and FF characters are "highly stylized". Sure, they look different because Kratos is completely bleached, or because FF characters wear highly elaborate costumes, but ever seen someone cosplay a FF character? You can't tell me that the characters in the games look stylistically different, rather than just lack graphical fidelity compared to real life.

    Sure, it's in a fantasy setting, but those faces are about as real as they get. Kratos was a pretty bad example too.

    Kratos is arguable, but as a 3D animator working for Pixar Dan can probably spot subtle stylization in seemingly realistic 3D animated models far better than the rest of us (perhaps he could go into detail about this? I'd find it very interesting and constructive as I am really into animation as a medium). But then... Final Fantasy? Come on, The Spirits Within was the only one that aimed for a more realistic style; the picture the video used was a perfect example of a detailed yet still blatantly stylized character model.

    I won't go into detail pointing out which aspects of FF's characters are stylized, because there's no point. Instead, I'll just ask you to compare these:
    http://nd01.jxs.cz/660/528/1c9eca32dd_14199023_o2.jpg
    http://www.swotti.com/tmp/swotti/cacheZ ... ithin5.jpg

    to these:
    http://www.videogamegirlsdb.com/Images/ ... _AC_15.jpg
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ONCMji--8ig/T ... 0/tifa.jpg

    Just seeing them back to back should be enough to make this obvious.

    The slightly bigger eyes that Tifa has does make her look cuter, but another big difference is the hair. I remember when I watched Spirit Within when it first came out, the way the characters' hair move looks really fake, that's what breaks the immersion for me in that movie.

    Other than that, the other aspects of the characters can pass for real actors. In Advent Children, the hair on most characters move in a realistic way, it looks like each strand has it's own individual physics, it looks great.

  • I know this is not about videogame Uncanny Valley but I was watching nova today and found this video about social robots just wanted to show it seeing as the Uncanny Valley started with robots.

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