Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) once again hosted its annual Star Citizen presentation during gamescom this week. This year, the studio presented a live demo covering the game's upcoming Alpha 3.0 build, as well as some new features slated for later releases.
One of these new features has been built using Faceware Technologies' LiveSDK, which CIG has named Face Over Internet Protocol (or FOIP). Seen in detail in the announcement video above, FOIP can track a player's facial expressions and mouth movements via a camera to mimic them on their in-game avatar. Essentially, in addition to regular voice communications, adding FOIP to the mix could lead to a much more immersive experience when interacting with other players in-game. Beyond that, it can even track head movements that will translate to moving the camera in-game, similar to using a TrackIR set up.
The full two and a half hour presentation is seen below, and as it was a live demo, there were plenty of buggy moments and even a crash that led to a complete restart of the playthrough. The FOIP's live usage demonstration begins at the 25:20 mark.
According to Cloud Imperium Games' director Chris Roberts, this is the first implementation of real-time facial movement tracking in a game, calling it a "revolutionary step in gaming", and adding:
"For the first time we’ll be able to deliver the full range of human emotion, not just voice. Our players’ facial expressions will be translated onto their avatars’ face. Combine that with a player’s voice correctly positioned in the virtual world, and you have the most lifelike player-to-player communication ever.”
While a regular webcam may be used to make use of the FOIP feature, poor lighting conditions and low frame rates found in standard webcams may lead to issues in tracking, warned the developer. To remedy this, Faceware will be launching a facial motion sensor that is specially designed for the technology and should present a more refined experience.
The Star Citizen Alpha 3.0 release currently does not have a definite launch date, with the developer pointedly saying the alpha will ship when it is ready. As mentioned above, the Face Over Internet Protocol will not ship with Alpha 3.0, instead, the feature is planned for release with the game's Alpha 3.1 build.
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