Gamescom 2017: Star Citizen demos ‘real-time, player-driven facial animation’

If you skipped out on the Star Citizen Gamescom presentation, you missed out on some pretty good stuff. You also missed out on an hour of awkward preshow and a loooong wait when one of the demo machines crashed mid-show, true, but there was plenty of good stuff too go around, headlined by Cloud Imperium’s collaboration with Faceware. Anybody remember SOEmote? Yeah, it’s that: “real-time, player-driven facial animation.”

“The new feature will track players’ facial expressions and movement, then reproduce them on their avatars in-game, allowing for the most immersive and realistic player-to-player communication. […] Using Faceware’s soon-to-be-released facial motion sensor, this new feature enables Cloud Imperium and any Star Citizen to detect hundreds of facial movements in a variety of lighting conditions. Those movements are then instantly streamed onto the character’s face, in-game, a critical element in creating believable digital faces. The feature can also be used with the computer’s built-in webcam, though the quality of facial detection may vary.”

Seen as a demo during the presentation, it looked pretty cool, if the crowd’s gasps and claps are any judge, though I found the moving-camera bit a tad nauseating to watch without my being at the controls myself. Will facial animation catch on this time? Guess we’ll see.

Source: Press release
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123 Comments on "Gamescom 2017: Star Citizen demos ‘real-time, player-driven facial animation’"

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Space Captain Zor

Just FYI, this feature has been planned for since as early as 2013. It was talked about in an episode of Wingman’s Hangar back in the day. Source.

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Toy Clown

I have a hard time understanding the negative comments I’ve read here. I think Star Citizen is doing amazing things with this MMO. To me, they’re creating that holodeck from Star Trek for the gamers. I see the future of gaming with the SC creation in that here’s a game that’s getting us off our butts, so to speak, and getting us animated while we play. I suspect that one day there will be full-sized simulators coming our way with motion sensors connected to our entire bodies. How neat it would be to actually have to run to get our characters to run! Talk about the full exercise regime!

I hope SC keeps bringing innovative features to the game. I enjoy seeing the creative minds at work here doing things I’ve never seen before. I’m happy to see them reaching for the stars (so to speak) in new gaming tech.

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Melissa McDonald

VR fulfils many of the things you speak of. I just hope their VR support is real and not merely “on the roadmap”.

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Adam Harrington

(DISCLAIMER: I can only skim come of the stuff you guys cover. So if I repeat, forgive.)

Too much baggage on it for VR and this. I mean someone below said the helmet would destroy the whole faceware.

Then people wouldn’t use it because the turning of the head. The entire thing hits too home if VR would make me have to do a workout I don’t need when I come walking in the door if I was having shoulder pain.

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Melissa McDonald

SOEmote became very popular for making machinima videos, I predict this will be very appealing for that purpose. Heck, I will probably try my hand at making one :)

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Melissa McDonald

So… they made Ser Davos?

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veldara
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veldara

There is a distinct lack of focus and the feature bloat that this game is experiencing is symptomatic of that problem. I find it worrisome that for veteran developers to fall prey to this rather surprising. It’s pretty much game development 101 at this point that the team should focus on the core gameplay and add on to it after release.

Skoryy
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Skoryy

I’m left wondering at what point did we pass fundraising for an actual game on our way to fleecing the whales with new shinies. Can someone drag Curt Schilling from whatever right-wing radio green room he’s camping this week and have him explain to Chris Roberts what happens when the economy goes splat and the funding dries up?

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Victor Morales

Oh you mean when a Governor sinks your video game company for political reasons… Stop already with the comparisons. Anyone with a brain knows this is a scam at this point. They have had soooo much money pumped into it and its still not out.

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Ket Viliano

If we are gunna talk 38 Studios, it would do well to remember that Wells Fargo handled the 78 million bond raise, and only disbursed 55 mm. Shilling was cleared, so he did not get the money, who did? That missing 23 mm has to be around somewhere.

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Melissa McDonald

Wells has been a disaster in 2017, that might be your answer.

Solaris
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Solaris

I’m not a whale in any sense but I’ll take all these shinies!

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Lethality

In a few years, when Star Citizen might launch, all online games will be expected to have this kind of tech. So, it’s a good move.

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Melissa McDonald

quite recently I was lamenting that SOEmote, similar tech in EverQuest 2, didn’t get an HD reboot in EQN. Looks like my prayers were sorta answered here, although the guys in the video stream made some weird faces lol.

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Adam Harrington

Great job, Davos Seaworth’s eyes have gone wacky-ass from not wearing eclipse glasses. Wonderful.

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Melissa McDonald

I should have read down before posting :)

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Adam Harrington

You know I’m just messing with ya about the topical right? :P

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Adam Harrington

Great minds. Mine was also topical though. ;)

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Adam Harrington

Topical as in, was in the news. And no I was not sending that last one so I could go “hey chick, looks like we got something in common so I am gonna be creepy…”.
I’m terrified to post anything because everyone might take it the wrong way.

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Adam Harrington

I kid I kid. :P

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kidwithknife

To be fair, it may be the case that this tech can be added pretty easily and isn’t taking away dev resources from the things that are holding the game’s release back. It’s not as if the bottleneck at Cloud Imperium is face rendering or something. Not a great PR moment though, and I can’t say I’d be terribly interested in this feature even if I were interested in SC.

April-Rain
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April-Rain

I’m just gob smacked at this, while it does look cool it really does send a bad impression when they can not get 3.0 out the door, they spend far too much time on eye candy with no end product in sight.

It gives the impression of a chaotic studio with no focus.

But I guess it will generate more interest and sales.

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chriskovo .

This is a waste of time they should be working on the core game not this crap that will not see the light of day.

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Joe Blobers

Quote chriskovo:” crap that will not see the light of day”

Already working in EQ2 since years and planned for 3.1…. On top of that this tech took 7 years of development to FaceWatch, not CIG. Some day try to play a car, plane or Arma3 type game with or without trackIR like feature… you will never came back to play those games without. Guaranteed.

Reader

We all still see it as unnecessary niche tech. IMHO you need a multi monitor setup to make face tracking worthwhile. Most people still lack that. This might be interesting stuff to some, but most people just want a complete core product.

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Melissa McDonald

Why do you need multi-monitor for that?

Solaris
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Solaris

Not all. Speak for yourself.

Reader

“Niche” “Most” “to some”.

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Ket Viliano

Multi monitor is a beast to set up. I currently use a 4k 27 inch main with a MSI 1080ti , with two 1080p 22 inch driven by a 970 on the flanks, and no game can run on all three. Most games just mess up the desktop real bad when they load.

The only working multi monitor gaming set up that I know of, requires 3 1080p monitors of exactly the same model, so they can use the same driver across all three monitors. 4k won’t really work, as that is way too much even for top end graph cards, and you can’t use different make/model monitors unless you shoehorn a generic driver onto all of them.

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Melissa McDonald

I know lots of people who have MM setups. They may use the same model for uniformity, but I’ve never known it to be that challenging. Even at work every single employee has 2 1080p monitors on their desktop, Nvidia at least makes it quite simple, it’s literally plug and play.

hurbster
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hurbster

I just want to play modern day Starlancer. Make the game please.

styopa
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styopa

Could these people be any more distracted by peripheral minutiae?

Yet, they still can’t get ALPHA 3 out the door.

No, no issues at all with priorities there.

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Shiro Madoushi

This game totally isn’t suffering from feature bloat.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

Technically, facial tracking via web cam was a feature they talked about back in 2013. I’m not sure if that counts as feature bloat, even thought I don’t think this should have been a priority feature.

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Ket Viliano

This is a good example of a cute feature, that should have hit the cutting room floor ages ago. They could add it in later, after launch, as part of an expansion.

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vertisce

Being as they have stated from day one that they want it to be as realistic and detailed as possible…no, it’s not. They are doing exactly what they promised.

styopa
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styopa

By that logic, if they stopped all development to ensure every tree leaf texture was authentic and represented a claddistically-valid species, you’d say “no, no problems at all!”

Jesus, rationalize much?

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Joe Blobers

Quote Styopa:”if they stopped all development to ensure every tree leaf texture was authentic ”

What if… but they don’t as sample of flaura, moons land and asteroid are fictional assets with a variable portion of PG. I found the Levsky station, Levsky asteroid and Vista pretty gorgeous.
Clearly they added more assets and heavily improved the lighting quality. The NPC’s were also nice to see and bring life.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

That’s no excuse at all.

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Roger Melly

I think this is the problem with Star Citizen’s development . While they still have not released the delayed alpha patch 3.0 they continually release news of peripheral features such as this .

It gives the impression of a serious lack of focus . What they should be doing is getting a basic polished product out there then build on that .

It’s good to be ambitious but those ambitions need to be grounded otherwise you get into a mess .

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Loopy

Problem is – if they release a relatively featureless “polished product”, people will complain about lack of features. And once they’re released, the community goes into the broken-record-mode of “this should’ve been at launch”, and it’s a lose-lose situation.

Ideally, they should’ve outlined the features that the game will ship with right off the bat, developed those features, ironed out the bugs, and released the game. Everything on top of that would be bonus. But now we’re in the feature-creep mode where anything can happen really..

N7 Spectre
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N7 Spectre

I’m pretty sure they do have an outline of features. Some backers are upset because some things being added were never on the original list. hopefully like you said they will focus enough to work on the features they originally promised before adding more.

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Geo Kavu

Finally.. Some good news. Way to go, what a great idea!

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

Meh, the only people that will use this are those playing out their Thunderbird fantasies and incels looking for orgasm faces on female characters.

Feature creepy.

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Joe Blobers

Quote cmdr_cotic:”playing out their Thunderbird fantasies and incels looking for orgasm faces on female characters”

We were missing your “to the point comment” but this one is probably one of your most sensible. Congrats you just describe a feature that many games will use in future jus because it add trackIR performance, Chat/Mumble in one webcam device that many people already have.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

Oh hey Mr Blobby, surprised to see you here after all the damage control you’ve been doing today.

Did you know that if you copy/paste the part I wrote, select it and then use B-QUOTE it makes a nice tidy quote for you, ie

My name is Mr Blobby and I am a zealot

Funnily enough you strike me as both a Thunderbird fantasist and an incel, have fun with facetime.

Yangers
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Yangers

*rolls around on the floor laughing*

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Yuri Geinish

[x] Only show news on games that actually exist

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Michael18

I’m rather meh about the face tracking.
1. will never be detailed enough to actually transport emotions.
2. the feature is the definition of the term uncanny valley.
3. seems limiting and uncomfortable, as I have to keep my head in the right position in front of the cam.
4. tracking of head movement could have potential, but seems impractical: if I turn my head to the left, my screen is still where it used to be so I have to turn my eyes to the far right to still see the screen. (for very small angles it might be useful, though).
5. a(nother) cam in my house!
6. yet another thing to send via network, compute, render in a game that still has one or two other performance challenges to face.

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Schmidt.Capela

1. will never be detailed enough to actually transport emotions.

You would be surprised…

CG movies have been using facial tracking to convey emotions for a long time. True, it’s usually tweaked manually afterwards, but still it allows reasonably accurate capture of emotion.

3. seems limiting and uncomfortable, as I have to keep my head in the right position in front of the cam.

Assuming the camera is aligned with your monitor, if you can see the image on your monitor then you are in the right position.

6. yet another thing to send via network, compute, render in a game that still has one or two other performance challenges to face.

Do you use VOIP? That alone requires a far higher bandwidth than this, particularly because it seems to be sending blend weights for existing shape keys rather than the position of control points.
Rendering is no issue. It doesn’t matter if the shape weights come from animations stored on your computer or are streamed across the Internet, the rendering performance should be exactly the same.
Computing could be an issue if you were already using all your CPU cores to the max, as it has to use image recognition to find your face in the image, get its position and orientation, use that to get the corrected control points, and then use those control points to figure out which mix of shape keys they correspond to. If your computer has at least one idle core while you are playing the game, though, then you get this “for free”, and given that games are quite bad at using all cores in a modern processor chances are good this will be the case.

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Joe Blobers

Quote Schmidt.Capela: “3. seems limiting and uncomfortable….”

As a owner of TrackIR I add the same doubt at TrackIR demo…. then I got it and won’t play anymore Arma3, Warthunder or any “simulation” without it.

It dramatically increases situational awareness, adding depth to the PC gaming experience. The added immersion and freedom puts you close enough to the virtual world. And this with a webcam, no need to buy the “special” device as long your webcam is not a 30$ one (to be tested just in case… it is free)

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vertisce

“1. will never be detailed enough to actually transport emotions.”

Your entire argument fell flat on it’s face right there and therefor was not worth reading further because they quite clearly succeeded in doing exactly what you said they would never be able to do in their demo.

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Paragon Lost

Nice, listed much better than I did below. Good post.

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primal

“3. seems limiting and uncomfortable, as I have to keep my head in the right position in front of the cam.”

to be honest dude your looking at the screen anyway right? you cant play your game with you looking to the left

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Brother Maynard

Indeed! There are many issues to solve with this and some of them will be probably too difficult to overcome.

The uncanny valley issue will only be made much worse with VR, when half your face is covered by the headset. The upper half of the points scanned by this system will be invisible to it.

The track IR-like thingy is as much a placeholder as the track IR itself has always been, while waiting for a proper VR set. Unless CIG want to ditch their VR plans altogether and this is now their replacement offer. In any case, track IR is inferior to a proper VR solution in almost every way, its only advantage being not having to wear a big heavy monstrosity on your face.

I’m also curious how they will implement the VoIP / FoIP feature in public zones. Either you will have neverending noise in your game (which will be particularly interesting in an international game) and lots of unnecessary network traffic just to deliver constant animation and sound updates for players you don’t care one bit about; or you will have only FoIP with sound switched off except for your party members (the network overload issue remains); or then it will only work for people in your party. My preference would definitely be for the third option, but lets see how much immersion CIG want here…

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sizer99

Well, there’s another ‘wonderful’ feature you’ll never see working completely right in a game where you’re mostly wearing helmets – and which completely excuses the game they promised being three years late with no end in sight.

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Brother Maynard

I would say the final game will have characters mostly without helmets (or perhaps 50/50) – any time you’re inside ships, space stations or down on planets. Only when doing EVA in space, FPS combat or running around on asteroids will the helmets see some action.

But yeah, it’s still not much of an excuse for developing this kind of a feature while the rest of the project advances at a glacial pace…

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BalsBigBrother

Don’t worry folks SC branded webcams coming soon only cost you another $500 but it will be totally worth it because milking money from you is important to us ……um because creating an immersive game is important to us.

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Joe Blobers

Quote:”only cost you another $500 ”

Don’t worry BalsBigBrother, your webcam can handle it as long it is not totally crap already. No need to buy anything, the feature comes with your 45$ starter package :)

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Melissa McDonald

SOEmote didn’t work well (nor do other webcam magic rendering features) on people with very dark skin, or with large eyeglasses. I do wonder how that’s going to work with this version.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

Don’t lie.

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Armsman

He’s not. They stated it would work with a standard webcam – and in fact the canned video they shot with Shaun Tracy was done with a webcam. They JUST received a couple of the prototype devices the day of the Live Public presentation and it was the first time those were used.

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Joe Blobers

My comment is true from A to Z. Trolling will bring you nowhere.

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Ket Viliano

Pretty sure this is a standard feature buried somewhere in Maya.
Facial expression tracking and matching has been around for something like ten years now, there are academic papers on how to do it, if you can find where to look them up.

They really need to constrain the scope and get something that they can call “done”.

styopa
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styopa

The reverse is true, not coincidentally.
As long as they keep adding features, the Joe Blobers of the world will dutifully insist the game is on track.

Well, that’s assuming he’s not already getting a paycheck for doing it.

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Joe Blobers

In fact the very opposite Styopa… As a Subscriber, I am paying them…. :)

Polyanna
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Polyanna

This right here is the Pets.com superbowl commercial moment of the crowdfunding bubble.

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Ket Viliano

I need for Schlag to respond with a Web Van logo on a spaceship.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

:)

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Ket Viliano

Thank you!

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wratts

The feature no one knew they didn’t want, until they were told they were getting it

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Joe Blobers

… And the feature you will use everyday as TrackIR like feature is a must have in “simulation” game. Thanks CR for not following publishers path…

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

this isn’t trackir. if you think this is anything like trackir you need to look up what that is.

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Joe Blobers

This is TrackIR like. I have one so I can compare…. Hovewer as per the demo, but it is not really clear, Zooming in and out is (would be) done with keyboard/mouse, rather than head movement.

So now please explain why it is not TrackIR as the video does show you and reproduce TrackIR features… + face expressions. So it is even better: included in basic starter game package if you have a capable webcam…

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wratts

I don’t care. It’s not like the finished game is ever releasing anyway

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Armsbend

Although this is neat from a tech standpoint – I remember this back when Tony Hawk was still a thing. It was a gimmick no one really cared about then…same deal now.

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Rhime

I think the “TrackIR” function will benefit the players more than the facial expressions.

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mistressbrazen

How much will the Faceware feature actually improve game play? That’s the question isn’t it? When you start talking about additional hardware a player needs to buy in addition to the game (or the $500 ship in the game), it should be something that improves the quality of the game play. While I think the Faceware technology is interesting, I don’t know how much this improves game play since we are usually on small screens. Seems a little gimmicky to me.

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Joe Blobers

Starter package is 45$ not 500. You do Not have to spend one extra cent. If you have a capable webcam, no need to buy anything extra. trackIR for free and facial expressions is a plus not making the experience worst.

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Totakeke

Literally SOEmote.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

;)

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Utakata

If that’s what he’s smokin’, can I have some? o.O

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Armsbend

Fun fact: laughing while eating goldfish crackers do in fact not make them come out of your nose like drinks. Wet bits may end up on your keyboard but no noseplay.

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thickenergy

I threw up french fries through my nose once. Careful with those crackers.

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Hirku

I almost pulled it off with fish sticks just now after seeing that.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

fishdicks?

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Paragon Lost

While I think the concept of Faceware is interesting, it is something that I’ll do without. I don’t like my camera on like that. I also feel that it puts additional burdens on the game that aren’t needed.

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Joe Blobers

Paragon did you notice the TrackIR functions? If there is one feature out of FaceWatch tech it is that one. That greatly improve immersion.

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Sally Bowls

1) Yeah, at some point I would hope there would be a feature freeze.

2) OTOH, my last laptop has Windows Hello and I assume the iPhone 8 will as well. I tell friends it is very immersive; just like in real life, if I look at something it is immediately turned on. Said friends laugh more than is polite at this.

3) We are a ways away from it, but games could adjust the difficulty of the content – or the success % of the lootboxes – based upon the person’s demeanor.

4) Tobii Eye Tracker has been out for a while. That has the potential to more useful than face cosmetics.

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Lethality

I don’t think anyone saw the FaceWare thing coming. But for me, it’s become and unexpected anchor in the expectations, hopes I have for Star Citizen.

I’ve seen comments from folks who think it’s a waste of money and that no one asked for it. I’ve seen posts saying this is stupid for anyone but role-players. I’ve seen people say they don’t like the voice spatialization so they’ll use Discord.

Folks – this is not a set of tools for role-players. This is a set of tools that will allow players to become more immersed in a virtual world than ever before.

I think it actually has the potential to change the way that players play a game like this, pulling them in as if just a bunch of friends are gathering to go on an adventure.

When’s the last time you felt like that in a game? When’s the last time you even allowed yourself to feel like that? If you allow yourself to go on a mission with friends rather than go “knock out a quest” I think it could completely change your outlook on a game.

It’s becoming more clear than ever what kind of world Chris wants to build, what kind of game he wants Star Citizen to be. It’s not necessarily the thing in your head, it’s actually the thing we’re seeing with the priorities they’re executing on.

And I personally couldn’t be happier about it!

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Oleg Chebeneev

Well said.

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Phubarrh

…only been around for 5 years.

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Lethality

Whoa! Where can I play that game!??

Oh. wait…

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Paragon Lost

It’s called EQ2, stop being dense.

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Phubarrh

Where players are pulled in as if just a bunch of friends are gathering to go on an adventure. It will completely change your outlook on a game!

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Paragon Lost

Uhm, but immersion is what role-players are into. You’re not understanding those concepts well in my opinion.

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Lethality

But this has the potential to reach beyond that. You’re not understanding that concept well in my opinion.

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Paragon Lost

No Lethality, “you” are the one who doesn’t understand. Let me spell it out for you since you apparently willfully missed the point.

Role-play = immersion.

It’s all about being immersed in your character, in the game world etc. You attempting to say that role-play and immersion are two different things and should be looked at differently totally are a part of the problem with mmorpg gaming anymore.

I’ve seen this mindset before and it totally boggles my mind that it’s a thing. It shows that you truly and others like you don’t truly get what role-play is, that you probably have no interest in it so therefore are dismissive of it as a concept.

You are doing a disservice basically to the genre in your pursuit of something that you feel is the “greater”. You wish to separate what should always be considered one or a part of a greater whole. I totally get your point about “immersion” for you the player, I just can’t stand how players do not see how role-play is all about immersion instead of something different. It’s seriously hurt the mmorpg genre.

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Lethality

My point is that this isn’t a feature created just for role-players.

It has the opportunity to transcend that, and pull more players into the game world.

That doesn’t have to mean they are role-playing their character though. Folks can enjoy immersion just on it’s own!

It could provide them with an experience they didn’t know they could even have, and who knows, perhaps that could be the gateway to role-play.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

and none of this does that.

it’s all very cool and neat. but none of this does that.

immersion is a shitty word used by gamers as an excuse to be shitty to other gamers for 20 years now. that’s all it is .

Skoryy
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Skoryy

Or for devs to be shitty to gamers by using ‘immersion’ as a cover for enforced downtime.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

kind of interesting thought you bring to mind here.

back in my original first time in a 3d mmo time in swg i used to kind of hate having to go to cantinas to heal death penalty damage

but in restrospect i wish we had that again in a way becuase it really did engender some kind of slack socializing beyond the usual global/trade chat bullshit.

that being said it’s a road we can’t go back down imo. and it’s all rose coloured nostalgia.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

So which stretch goal from 2012 promised this feature?

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agemyth 😩

Maybe its just me but I fidget and move around way too much in my chair for a camera to keep good track of my face. My glasses have also been a major problem with face recognition/tracking tech. This seems like a feature that exists because there are developers who for whatever reason cannot work on things that actually matter.

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

Yeah, I’m not a fan of the head tracking, but the face tracking part is nice.

miol
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miol

[insert botox joke here]

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Arktouros

Maybe I’m just old-fashionedly paranoid but I’ll never own a Webcam if I can avoid it.

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agemyth 😩

Do you own a cell phone? :P

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Arktouros

I only buy disposable cell phones that someone else purchased!

Naw of course I do, I’m old-fashioned paranoid, not insaneo level paranoid. The idea of putting a standalone camera in my house is disturbing to me.

miol
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miol

No, you’re not paranoid ;P

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Arktouros

I do that on my work computer too.

Only I use electrical tape so it matches the bezel :D

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zeko_rena

Have done the same haha

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Dirty Ape

Our space MMO game doesn’t have real physics, networking, AI, mining, or female avatars but we’re working hard on adding facial tracking which will definitely be important when you are piloting one of our $500 dollar ships while wearing a helmet.

Solaris
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Solaris

Female avatars have been in for quite some time. Have you had many dogfights against NPCs in SC? AI is there. Physics pretty damn close too. What are you going on about?

bereman99
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bereman99

It’s cool…

But…

Feels like a perfect example of feature creep to me.

hurbster
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hurbster

Don’t really need this in the game, imo. Just make it fly good. Only interested in the SP game anyway.

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drgreenhoe

This is a wast of money if you ask me. All I expect to ever see is shoulder flexing and butt cheek clenching.

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Phubarrh

Still waiting for the real-time bowel movement tracking…

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Utakata

/eww :(

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Greaterdivinity

I really hope this is primarily third party tech they could easily bolt-on with minimal work (seems like it requires specific hardware?). Because this kinda stuff, while cool, is absolutely the kind of stuff that should wait until after launch for them to spend a ton of time on, not dump tons of time into now while continuing to push the launch further and further back.

Reader
Joe Blobers

Greaterdivinity what you need is a webcam. No need to buy extra unless use Webcam is a pretty low quality. 720 P webcam will do it.

Reader
Russell Hunt

I don’t care about any of this. I just want to know if we’ll ever get the single player game, ever??? So stupid of me to back this game…waiting, waiting, waiting.

Reader
Tom R

It’s a great novelty, but I’m not too sure it was worth the resource investment for EQII – I don’t know the general gameplay and how social stuff will work here, but I honestly can’t see it being a feature that’s really worth while.

I already don’t trust my webcam, not too excited about my face motions being recorded too.

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