EverQuest II Adding Vaguely Terrifying Voice/Facial Tech

And by 'vaguely,' I definitely mean 'completely'.

OK, so I actually sort of love the idea behind EverQuest II‘s latest bit of technical wizardry, but well, when I say “wizardry,” I mean less Gandalf and more the really clumsy kid from Harry Potter – millennia before he became improbably talented. Basically, though, EverQuest II will – via mic and webcam – soon be able to read your vocal and facial cues and translate them 1:1 into Norrath. Conceptually, that’s great! So long, demons of anonymity. Meet one of mankind’s most primal, utterly essential roots of communication. But, uh, can we maybe try this again in ten years or so? And without the frog person?

So then, that was nice and unsettling. I heard Satan tried to play that ogre voice clip backward one time, and his resulting realization that it was too much even for him caused Jack Thompson to be born. At any rate, grafting this sort of nuance-necessitating tech onto a nearly eight-year-old MMO probably isn’t the best idea.

And while it is – to be perfectly honest – incredibly fun to chuckle at, I’d really like to see something like this succeed one day. Call me old-fashioned, but I think people are truly wretched at communicating without vocal intonations, facial expressions, and body language. Most forms of online chat basically barrel clumsily right through those things, leading to all sorts of unnecessary rage and jerkiness. I love text. I love writing. So, as someone who’s been called an idiot on the Internet more than my fair share of times, I’ll you from firsthand experience: words are really, really hard.

But yeah, I’m reeeeally not feeling the frog people. Let’s never speak of that again.


  1. caddyB says:

    Entertaining! They should add this to world of warcraft so we can have more realistic experiences in Goldshire inn.

  2. HermitUK says:

    It could be worse; at least the faces move.

    Unlike Harry Potter Kinect: link to youtube.com

    Edit: Also, maybe the frog wasn’t the best race to demo this with. Be interesting to see how it maps to a more standard human face.

    • daraujo says:

      Fuck, that was terrifying.

    • RaveTurned says:

      Well, it’s Beta tech at the moment. I wonder if they picked the frog race specifically because it’s already fairly non-human, so any strange face behaviour wouldn’t look too jarring.

    • misterT0AST says:

      Her face smeared all over that polygon makes her look a bit like Grim Fandango.

    • Davee says:

      That was absolutely hideously scary.

  3. MuscleHorse says:

    I was sort of expecting Valve to do something like this when HL2 was first revealed and there was all the fuss over the (still not bested) facial animation. It’s a pity they haven’t. I’m sure they’d do better than some awful frog man.

    • sophof says:

      Try ‘Enslaved: odyssey to the West’. Besides that the game is actually pretty ok, the facial animations are the best I’ve ever seen. I haven’t played the noir detective game though, but enslaved doesn’t have those horrible textures at least.

      • pilouuuu says:

        I watched a video online and I thought HL2 is still better. And it’s not on the PC!!! I’ll give you five seconds to go away before I get really upset…

        EDIT: OK, I watched a better video:
        link to youtu.be

        It’s not that bad. I still like L.A. Noire technology the best. I’m not so upset with you anymore. But naming a console toy game… Really? What were you thinking?

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          NOLF2 has the best lip syncing animation

          • pilouuuu says:

            I remember really liking NOLF 2 graphics overall as it did many things really well. But my memory could be playing tricks on me. But I’m yet to see a better facial animation than L.A. Noire. It’s a shame the technology still haven’t been used for more games.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I still have a soft spot for the slightly rubbish single-jawbone era of Half-Life 1, and the we-have-the-five-basic-phoneme-positions-and-we’re-sticking-to-them of Deus Ex 1.

            Also the Lucasarts adventure head bob, where there are about five–six frames of talking animation and one of them has the head thrown back a pixel.

  4. rustybroomhandle says:

    ooo eee aaa eee aaa ooo

  5. Sam Crisp says:

    I enjoyed that man’s enthusiasm for his technology.

    • Skabooga says:

      True that, the energy with which he presented caused me to stick around for the whole video. Which I’m glad for, because that frog face was fascinating.

    • Quarex says:

      Agreed 100%–that is someone who is very good at his job (of getting people interested in what he is trying to sell you). I genuinely believe he is excited! I am such a sucker! But hey, it works!

  6. Xardas Kane says:

    This has got to be the absolute stupidest feature in a MMO in the history of gaming. The only use of it I can think of is creeping people out with those weird demonic voices.

    On a side note, thanks Mr Grayson for telling us how Jack Thompson came to be. I’ve always thought ogres and Satan played a key role in his inception.

    • Grygus says:

      For me, the absolute stupidest feature in the history of MMO gaming is the combination of repair bills and daily quests. Let’s introduce having a job to our games!

    • j3w3l says:

      nope has to be adding a gear grind to pvp.. whoever did that i hate you with every fiber of my being

  7. Tei says:

    The problem with this is that people often try to get and edge in mmorpg games, is the base of the game for most people, so one of the way to win a edge is play zoomed out to see the battlefield and all monsters and dangers. Nobody zoom down enough to notice faces. Cool tech, anyway, and I hope is really added to everquest, … maybe machinima people will be able to do something with it, plus is the type of stuff that excite the imagination of 5 years old wen think about playing “adults mmo” in the future, so is probably something that will make so more young people start mmos.

    • Grygus says:

      I don’t see that as a problem at all; like the video says at the start, this is for role-playing. A lot of people do not role-play at all in MMOs, and the ones that do aren’t trying to do it during raids. This is for standing around in town pretending to be a frog or whatever.

      The machinima aspect did not occur to me… that will probably be the primary application, now that you mention it.

    • bigdeadbug says:

      The situations when you zoom out (eg raiding) won’t be the situations when the facial tech will be used. If only because the look of mild boredom/concentration on everyone’s face would get tiring. It’l be great for RP or general social situations though, essentially those times when you can afford to zoom in and stand around looking at people.

    • FakeAssName says:

      the thing is: I personally don’t want to see the facial expressions a player makes while beating off to someone else’s character.

  8. Grygus says:

    The lip flaps with speech might be the best part; if my character can vaguely look like it’s saying whatever I’m saying in voice chat, that’s pretty slick.

  9. misterT0AST says:

    I have absolutely no idea how this could be of any use whatsoever in any game, let alone an MMORPG, but come on, it was freaking awesome!

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s for the “M” and “R” parts of “MMORPG”. Nice bit of social interaction work. I wonder if the hardest part is actually trying to get everything shunted down the pipes fast enough at MMO scale and syncing what might be two separate stream technologies for the voice and face data.

      When they get this rolled out, the ERP crowd are going to have a field day. *eyebrow waggle*

  10. nemolom says:

    Interesting, but I don’t think it will be of any real use in today’s combat focused social games. However, I am hoping to see games “mature”, that is – explore the potential more of social gaming and social worlds as non-violent arenas for interaction between people. I say that because I think you need to slow down the pace for people to bother looking at other people’s avtars as they talk. And slowness in games is possible: Exploration isn’t dead (Minecraft, Skyrim), building isn’t dead (Minecraft, Sims), socializing isn’t dead (Second Life is dated, but not dead). I also think slowness is a key component to making stories in games actually work. And I mean slow as in slow, not boring :)

    • LionsPhil says:

      Second Life with being able to rig animation bones to this would be a horrifying sight indeed.

      (And custom DSP routines.)

  11. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    That gentlemans face reminds me of Sander Cohen from Bioshock. It must be those handsome eyebrows.

    Also, why frogs, whyyyy!

    • Torgen says:

      Yeah, as soon as the video started, I said to myself “They’ve slicked his hair back flat to his skull, shaved his eyebrows and penciled in some very large dark ones so the camera can find them.”

      I guess they’re testing this on EQII since, if it bombs, it won’t cost too many subs.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Heh, yeah.

        But while computer vision is a tricksy beast, I don’t think they’re asking an unreasonable amount of it here…under fairly normal gaming conditions they can probably assume a static background, know that there’s precisely one face in the scene, and don’t have to distinguish it from any others: it’s almost entirely a shape-tracking exercise. For once, I don’t think the CV is the hard part of this.

  12. JD Ogre says:

    “We’re going to be able to see you…” NO THANKS. Never, never, never, NEVER.

  13. golem09 says:

    Need this for Day Z

    For the full horror experience.

  14. Cryo says:

    Well obviously it still needs improvements but the idea is really cool. So tired of dead-faced game characters.

  15. sinister agent says:

    Don’t encourage this. Money put towards facial recognition technology will primarily be used for creepy as fuck public surveillance. Let’s not encourage the games industry to pursue it as well. The police already get more than enough opportunities to spy on us.

    • LionsPhil says:

      This isn’t face recognition in the difficulty-and-biometrics sense, though. Unless they start showing it picking your right login by who’s sat at the PC, this is tracking shapes, and just about on the high edge of university CV coursework level (albeit with a ton more work beyond that on making it deployable and networked).

  16. sidhellfire says:

    I love it! Just as much as I love directional voice chat and lip syncing in Arma2.

    • LionsPhil says:

      >Directional voice chat
      …your voice projects in the direction you’re looking? Cool.

      • Phantoon says:

        I dunno that it actually does that, but that sounds really cool in either case.

  17. thecat17 says:

    My vision is frogmented.

  18. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    The sad part is, that actually looked kinda cool on the understated parts of the speech. Like the last “soon”, actually looks really good on the frog. They just have it dialed up to WAAAAY TOO EXPRESSIVE. Take a look at Krogan lip syncing and you can see they never got those huge Krogan mouths to spread open like it’s trying to swallow its own head. Less is more, guys!

  19. kud13 says:

    I imagine this would be neat in a “social”-based MMO, like what “the SecretWorld” is intending to be.

    or The World of Darkness, if CCP can make it as player-driven as EVE.

  20. Hug_dealer says:

    its definately a cool feature. Belongs in a game that is first person though, that way you are close to other characters and can see this kind of detail.

    great for the roleplayers, and in general increasing the the believability of the world, when your friend runs out in front yelling charge, and his mouth moves.

    • zaphod42 says:

      You can play everquest 2 in first person. In everquest 1, first person was pretty much the only practical way to play most of the time. Its plays more like oblivion and skyrim than world of warcraft.

  21. zaphod42 says:

    I’ve been waiting years for someone to attempt this. I’m blown away that EVERQUEST 2 of all people is the first to market with it! I would have assumed something more social like second life would be the first.

    I’m going to start playing Everquest 2 now. Its free to play, so shit, why not? I absolutely love the idea of actually ROLEPLAYING in an MMORPG.

  22. Yargh says:

    Am I the only one who can imagine how this will be used subversively by the usual suspects?

    I’m picturing MMO avatars wandering around permanent expressing an orgasm or horrific pain…

  23. Secundus says:

    if mega64 did a parody of this it would be completely indistinguishable from the original

  24. 0over0 says:

    I thought it was pretty cool, but I don’t normally have a camera or mic connected to my computer, and so it really doesn’t bother me.
    Someone above mentioned machinima, and that would be pretty awesome. Also, I can imagine the potential for cyb0ring would be useful, as well. Oh, and probably RPers, but how many of them are in mmos anyway anymore?

  25. Ahtaps says:

    I was wondering what people were so terrified of when I started watching it, then the talking frog started and then I wasn’t so much curious as horrified. That’s like those terrifying glitches where a 3D model suddenly warps and twists into some impossible shape and we see realms of non-euclidean geometry.

    This reminds me though, whatever happened to that Kinect chat Microsoft was working on where your avatar would mimic you via the Kinect? Hopefully it’s going better than this.

  26. kaffis says:

    That’s pretty cool technology. My guess, Nathan, with regards to the 8-year-old game is that this is sort of a pet project of this guy on the EQ2 team, who got the go-ahead to work on it in EQ2 as a test-bed to work out the technology for inclusion on, say, Everquest Next in the future. (That’s still a thing, right?)

  27. The Random One says:

    OK, Peter Molyneux is hiding behind him, isn’t he? David Cage perhaps? Or… it’s an unholy hybrid of the two, right?