Video Game developers deal with several time-consuming processes to ultimately deliver the games we cherish or denounce. There’s always a pressing need to improve every facet of development to make things easier and faster. Well, Epic Games created something new to design lifelike human characters. Dubbed ‘MetaHuman,’ this advanced character creator is a cloud-streamed app that features several options for creating characters. It uses the Unreal Engine to make photorealistic humans.
At first glance, MetaHuman looks like an in-game character creation tool that’s common for Action RPG games. It’s leagues above, say, Fallout and Elder Scrolls. If there is one system it looks like, it would be Black Desert Online. The character creation tool in BDO is time-consuming if you decide to tweak everything humanly possible. Players have created amazing and sometimes hilariously horrifying characters in Black Desert, but MetaHuman goes further.
“MetaHuman Creator sets a new benchmark for both the believability of digital humans, and also for the ease of creating them. You can directly manipulate facial features, adjust skin complexion, and select from preset body types, hairstyles, clothing, and more. You can even edit your character’s teeth!” – Epic.
That sounds promising, but let’s look at how in-depth MetaHuman will go.
How does MetaHuman work?
Rather than an in-game system, this is clearly for developers. MetaHuman will lower character creation time from weeks or months down to less than an hour. The program draws from a growing library of variants of human appearance and motion. Users can create new characters and make physical adjustments. MetaHuman makes said adjustments by mixing elements from their extensive library. There are ranges of hairstyles, varied proportioned body types, sets of clothing, among other physical traits to choose.
Vladimir Mastilovic, Founder, General Manager of 3Lateral in a statement, said, “Up until now one of the most arduous tasks in 3D content creation has been constructing utterly convincing digital humans. Even the most experienced artists require significant amounts of time, effort, and equipment, just for one character.”
Fortunately, MetaHuman isn’t just for one character. People can create a whole host of characters with the program. Once developers are happy with the human they have made, they can download the asset via Quixel Bridge. The model is rigged and ready for animation and motion capture. Developers get the complete package, right down to the source data. The animations developers create for any MetaHuman may be used across multiple projects. So developers don’t necessarily have to ‘return to the drawing board’ for a new video game.
An Example of MetaHuman
In 2018, Epic Games released a proof-of-concept of the Unreal Engine combined with 3Lateral’s MetaHuman. Look at the video below:
They captured Andy Serkis performing Macbeth, and the appearance is uncanny. Of course, we can still tell it’s a video game, but the digital face is impressive. However, I’m not showing you the video to elicit shock and awe toward the graphics. I’ll share another video that carries over the assets from Andy Serkis’ performance:
Osiris Black, as 3Lateral calls it, is very expressive due to capturing Andy Serkis’ performance. The character may appear alien to our eyes, but there’s no mistaking the minute expressions. Osiris Black is ‘alive’ in the video, and that’s where MetaHuman can shine. Our eyes are likely never fully to accept a rendered human being, but creatures outside our imagining will benefit from MetaHuman.
The Unreal Engine and MetaHuman will power the future of video games
As a gamer, I’m excited about MetaHuman because it will speed up development. We will receive video games sooner and, hopefully, this makes development cheaper for the industry. I also hope that it translates over to an in-game character creation tool. The Unreal Engine could allow us to create even more immaculate avatars representing ourselves. Those are small potato thoughts, though.
The more I think about MetaHuman, the more I believe I’m not hype enough. So, who will appreciate this for the game-changer it is? Obviously, the developers, but let me be a little more specific about which developers. Of course, AAA teams will have a field day with this technology. I believe it’s indie devs who will get the most significant boost to their creativity. They will use MetaHuman to overcome technical limitations, telling their stories with more expressive characters. The time saved on coding alone will take some of the heat off of smaller development teams.
Outside the realm of video games, I can see Hollywood eyeing MetaHuman to help solve their CGI character problems eventually. It may take time, but it wasn’t too long ago that Disney started trying to recreate the youthful versions of their actors’ faces. The video game industry has more influence over filmmaking advances than people think. Are you a fan of The Mandalorian? They use a technology called ‘The Volume,’ which uses the Unreal Engine to build their 3D environments. They broadcast the settings they create on giant screens surrounding the set.
I’m always looking for the little ways the video game industry can evolve. As developers find more ways to simplify and enhance their creative techniques, gamers will continue to reap the benefits. Character creation is significant to me, to the point where my friends tease me because I can spend an hour or so making minor tweaks to my person. While I may not have MetaHuman in my hands, I’m excited for what the future holds. I’m no game developer, but I’m an eager gamer ready for a revolutionary technological advancement in gaming.
If you are a video game developer, whether you’re starting out or seasoned, you can try out the sample project here.
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