Sony has posted The Dark Sorcerer: a 12-minute real-time PlayStation 4 tech demo created by Quantic Dream, and unveiled during its keynote at E3.
The demo takes the character from Quantic Dream’s previous facial animation demo, and drops him into a new and strange realm: animated comedy.
Comedy: the final frontier for real-time graphics?
In a lengthy post on the PlayStation blog, Quantic Dream founder David Cage explains that he felt the studio’s previous demos had proven its ability to convey emotion in real time.
“We had to test another limit, something radically different,” he says. “We had to try comedy.”
“Making people feel fear is actually fairly simple. Moving people by telling a sad story is more difficult, but if you have a moving story and you tell it the right way, you can manage to move your listeners.”
“The problem with comedy is that you need a good story, pacing and talented actors in order to get even a smile from your audience.”
It’s all an act, ma
The set-up Quantic Dream eventually arrived at – videogame characters turn out to be actors on a greenscreen set, and break the fourth wall in increasingly bizarre ways – is fairly conventional.
But Cage has a point: having to stage a demo without deep shadows, fog, smoke or other dramatic cloaking devices leaves the graphics very exposed.
And they hold up pretty well, all things considered. The facial animation looks a bit stiff in close-up at times, but the wide shots look great, and there are moments of some considerable subtlety.
The stats behind the subtlety
According to Cage, the set consists of around a million polygons, and the characters a little less than a million each. Each character uses 350MB of textures and 40 separate shaders.
Volumetric lighting, physically based shading, full HDR, colour grading and physical lenses – watch for some nice chromatic aberration effects – are also present and correct.
But if you don’t want to focus on the numbers, you can just savour the prospect of “the first black goblin in the history of Heroic Fantasy” trading gags with David Gant’s increasingly exasperated Scottish necromancer.
Nice stuff. The twist at the end is neatly handled, too.