Characters, Environments and Some Musings

Written by Alexandra Serralta on July 12, 2018

I believe that Augmented Reality (AR) has the capability of breaking the glass screen barrier between us, the audience, and virtual characters. In animated movies or video games, we are either interacting with or simply viewing the character from behind a screen. I am excited to see what content creators will come up with once this long-established glass wall is torn down.

For those of you who have been reading my posts, you may know that I am working with testing exactly these sorts of interactions between audiences and characters. Unfortunately, since I am down in Miami for the week, I won’t be able to show you pictures of where I have progressed, but I can talk about some interesting things that I have been thinking about.

What gives virtual characters the feigned appearance of life?

Awareness of surroundings, explicable reactions to events or objects in the character’s space, and social bonds with those around them are examples of things that make characters believable. Technically, these are all employed in animated movies or linear video game cutscenes, but that’s exactly it, they are linear which means the character will always perform in the same scripted way every time.

It becomes quite complicated when you give a virtual character the freedom to do things on their own in an unscripted way. For example, we know not to walk straight through a chair on the way to the exit, and instead to walk around it. An unscripted character does not know such a thing and will gladly walk straight through the chair whether it makes sense in our world or not.  Path planning algorithms would need to be implemented, which adds an extra layer of complexity.

Reactions to objects or relationship building becomes more complicated when behavior becomes procedural. If it were a linear reaction, we’d just know how the character would react every single time. However, since it is no longer linear in this case the writer (or programmer) must define the bounds of acceptable behavior. This means considering the different possible scenarios a character may face in the future.

Fig 1-3: Ayara reacts to other character in scene by watching it as it moves around.

Anyway, there’s my tidbit of things I think about on the daily, haha. Look forward to some cool updates in the next two weeks!

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