EVE Online dropped it's technological bombshell on Tuesday of this week, and after making a couple of fairly serious posts I feel that this is something relatively light to write about - and thoroughly awesome. If you're reading this you may remember that when EVE was shiny and new, the characters you could design were pretty groundbreaking. Customisation of your virtual persona has always been a key part of building personal investment in online games where a consistent continuation of play is important. You need to have a strong sense of ownership and that distinct feeling that your character represents you in a significant way - that may be your sense of humour or your deep rooted need to be the badass you fail to be in reality (see my character above). EVE gave us a model we could shape and tweak like nothing that came before it. It was awesome.
That was almost a decade ago. Technology has moved on at an astounding rate and those old, once-awesome characters are looking... 'dated' is appropriate but does not seem strong enough. They simply were no longer 'good enough' and they once sat at the top of the tree on a branch marked 'the best'.
I for one can understand the need to rectify the situation.
They've done it. While some corners of the game's community still question the motives or the necessity for the change I am completely blown away by what has been delivered. The stills don't do this technology any justice. You can clearly see the detail in the screen capture above (which was rendered on my not-too awesome GeForce 9800 GT quite happily) but what you don't see is what happens when you start to shift and pose the model. Brows furrow in real time, the sides of mouths crease as you craft a smile and all on photo-realistic textures. Nothing rendered in real-time on a home users system has looked this real before. It simply astounds and amazes me to see animation and detail that I honestly wouldn't have previously expected on anything short of a Pixar movie.
Yet this is just the start. The future moves somewhat predictably beyond the portrait to environment-interactive avatars the likes of which we're used to - but clearly the expectation is high for delivery of an experience the likes of which will set a standard for the next decade of gaming.
I am really excited.