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Cloud Imperium Games: Star Citizen animated player faces in real time

Saturday, August 26th, 2017 | Gadgets

At the Gamescom 2017, Chris Roberts, Star Citizen's development manager, introduced a new feature for his space game: animating faces in real-time and, at the same time, the spatially correct transmission of speech. The player in front of the monitor and his old ego on a space station should make the same grimaces or mouth movements with the system.

Parallel to this, the language should also be transmitted, spatially correct. So if a player is in a hallway and someone else comes up to him and says something, it gradually gets louder. At a presentation, Golem.de could already see the transmission of facial movements and the language live. Both works impressively well.
The technology does not come from Cloud Imperium Games, the studio behind Star Citizen, but from a company called Faceware. It has been offering different solutions for years, with which game makers and filmmakers mainly animate faces. Customers include Rockstar Games, Ubisoft and Bethesda.
In the normal case, the studios use special markers for the acquisition of facial data. Recently, however, the basic technologies have improved so much that this is no longer necessary – but the faces have to be illuminated as bright as possible. Star Citizen is now apparently to integrate a version that works reliably even in normal light conditions.

Special camera for the perfect face
If you want to have your face as perfectly animated as possible in the game, you need to grab a special camera from Faceware, which is to appear soon. There is no information available at the moment. However, in normal cases, a normal webcam or the integrated monitor camera should suffice. However, the concrete result should then depend strongly on the viewing angle, the signal quality and the brightness in the room.
When the real-time animated space animated characters appear in Star Citizen is not yet clear. They are not part of version 3.0 of the game currently supported by millions of projectors. In talks with Golem.de at the Gamescom, Chris Roberts has said that the update will probably be available in four to six weeks after a series of delays. The team has been working on bugfixing since the time, new content or features are no longer added.

Roberts has also emphasized at Gamescom how important version 3.0 is for him. Finally, many of the most important elements of the game would be publicly available. Above all, one could now gradually speak of something like a really functioning game – albeit in a very early version. In a new presentation, elements such as the moons and graphics have made an excellent impression.
In a nutshell, Roberts also gave a look at the next major updates. He has presented a 200-meter-long space cruiser named Idris, who hung over a planetary landscape in the air and then opened his flaps. In it, a small space hunter, controlled by a human pilot, flew very slowly into the cruiser and landed cautiously in the huge deck.
The pilot has then opened the cockpit to his hunter, climbed out of the ship and then continued on foot on the Idris. Over a series of long aisles he finally reached the bridge, while the heavy cruiser on the planet set up.

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