As mentioned in my previous entry, I’ve been playing the Electronic Arts Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008 game on my XBox 360 since the weekend. One feature of the game is “Game Face” which allows you to model your career golf character on your own face. Now face modelling in video games isn’t new, for instance 2K Games’ Oblivion had an extensive modelling editor which took the approach of using sliders to alter every part of a model head to match your own. The FaceGen engine used behind this has a demo downloadable app with which you can plug in a photo (or for best results a couple of photos) and it would create the 3D model for you. It was then just a simple case of copying the slider settings manually into Oblivion to create a pretty realistic likeness to yourself.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008 takes this much further though. The Game Face engine is part of the game code, and allows you to use one or two photos to create the 3D model directly. Naturally, I spent a good amount of time playing around with this before I even swung a club in anger in the game itself!
My first attempt was with my XBox 360 Vision Camera, a 640 x 480 web cam that plugs directly into the console. I took a head-on and side profile shot of myself, taking care to make sure that the lighting on my face was even (the 32″ reflector from my camera gear came in handy here!) The game then processes the photos to create the 3D model. It takes about ten minutes if you use a single photo, or up to about 20 minutes if you use two, the latter giving a more accurate render. EA keep you up to date on progress with an amusing set of status updates. So, here’s the result of the Vision cam render…
Overall, very good, and certainly better than you could hope to achieve using a traditional slider approach. It isn’t perfect though, so I broke out my Canon 400d and took some proper photos of myself:
(It was a bad hair day, and the morbid expression was suggested as being best for the rendering!)
In order to get the game to use these photos, you have to upload them to the EA website. Now this proved to be one of the most frustrating experiences on the web I’ve ever had. Firstly I had to register. Now I was already registered for the EA web site, and it knew about my XBox Live gamertag, but apparantly this wasn’t enough. Getting the correct registration involved constant back and forth between three different EA sites, and lots of patience and experimentation. Finally, though I got to the page where I could upload my photos… except it wouldn’t let me. Apparantly their servers were very busy and I should try later. Checking various forums it appears that they’ve pretty much been like this since the game was released three weeks or so ago. Finally a day later I managed to get them uploaded whilst the US were asleep. Once I got started it was pretty painless. The web app does a good job of helping you optimize the photos ready for the rending by zooming them to fit a profile overlay.
From that point it is back to the XBox to go through the Game Face process again, this time telling it to download the images from the EA server. This was painless, and the render process started. 20 minutes or so later, and I have one of those WTF moments when this appears on my HD TV:
Now that is pretty damn near photorealistic. The Nokia N80 camera phone photo from my TV screen doesn’t do it justice. Let’s put it this way, I got Lana to look at it and she freaked out when a bald, blinking me stared back at her from the TV!
The final stage was to “dress” myself with a hairstyle, beard, clothes, etc. etc. Of course, the proof is in the pudding, which in this case is how the avatar appears in-game. Here’s are some more (poor) camera phone shots:
All in all, Game Face is pretty awesome and it is quite a surreal experience to see yourself on the screen. I can only see more games taking this sort of approach to give added realism. Imagine how this technology could enhance an adventure or FPS game. Of course, the real-time 3D graphics in a golf game are much simpler and less dynamic than a typical FPS, but it is probably only a matter of time and processing power.