Motion Matching: The cutting-edge technology powering The Last of Us 2

Wollan

Mostly Positive
Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,808
Norway but living in France
#1
I guess most of you have seen that utterly ridiculous The Last of Us part 2 E3 gameplay demo by now. Maybe some of you are arguing its authenticity which I can understand. The seamless animation looks practically like one continuous motion like if everything was recorded end-to-end in a giant motion capture studio.
Its a leap-frog in gameplay animation & interactivity that we haven't seen for many, many years and it's just brilliant. Personally I would argue it's the hardest frontier in game development to advance within and it's really thrilling to see what Naughty Dog has managed to achieve here.

Now, there is another thread already on ResetEra by chris 1515 discussing a frame-by-frame analysis from a senior animator peer within the industry which I highly recommend: link
gamerman also wrote up a summary of the same video analysis here.

Dan Lowe who did that frame-by-frame video analysis speculates that 'Motion Matching' is one of the core techniques powering The Last of Us part 2 [this has later been confirmed by Naughty Dog].

Another person who has pointed it out is Kristjan Zadziuk:
(I recommend clicking the above tweets for reading the complete thread, he also praises ResetEra's own SunhiLegend for his excellent gif work)
Now, Kristjan Zadziuk is actually a very notable person in this regard as he presented the break-through at GDC 2016 with the panel 'Motion Matching and The Road to Next-Gen Animation'. At the time he was still working at Ubisoft. Now, the theory behind Motion Matching has been around for a while but that was among the first public demonstrations of having it implemented in software (colleague Michael Buttner apparently also talked about this at Nucl.ai in 2015). It is worth noting that Simon Clavet, "the physics mastermind on Assassin’s Creed III", was the first person that began initial explorations into the technology following the completion of that game and he has held his own presentations including this very explanatory pdf.

You can see Zadziuk's complete presentation here:
The panel description for what Motion Matching is:
This presentation introduces Motion Matching, an innovative new approach for creating high quality, fluid and complex character movement. The team adopted a declarative animation philosophy, where instead of placing small animations in a big structure, they place small structured markup on top of long animations. This manual markup is necessary for logical information that can't be inferred automatically, like attack types and defense stances. For navigation, they don't have to manually organize transition animations like starts, stops, and turns. They just capture 5 or 10 minutes of a person running around and import it directly into the engine.
At runtime, they continuously find the frame in the mocap database that simultaneously matches the current pose and the desired future plan, and transition with a small blend time to this other place in the data. The resulting motion is almost indistinguishable from a raw mocap sequence, while being responsive enough for comfortable control.
Here's Naughty Dog confirming it directly in an interview with IGN. Excerpt:
Both Newman and Margenau also emphasized the new system that allows character movement to seem more realistic than ever: motion matching.

“It’s this crazy science fiction stuff where you take just hundreds and hundreds of animations of like walking forward and turning or whatever, and you put them in this huge bucket, and then based on what the player is trying to do or what an NPC is trying to do, it pulls from that bucket, sometimes two or three different animations, and blends them together to make this totally seamless thing,” Newman explained.

“The motion matching technique is used by other studios, but we've kind of taken it and put the Naughty Dog spin on it because responsiveness is always a huge thing for us,” Margenau added. “So we've taken it and kind of built on it and made this hybrid thing of the responsiveness and quickness of something like an Uncharted game, which is pre-existing and incorporating this very fluid, very realistic animation that still communicates those real stakes.”

“Previously all the transitions had to be done by hand, so if you slowed down or turned a corner or something, someone had to manually code ‘ok, I'm turning this corner.’ But now this system basically handles the whole thing,” Newman said.

"Honestly, when we flipped the switch on this, we all just gasped,” he continued. “I think, right now, because the whole demo looks so next gen, it's almost kind of lost in the general level of quality. But I think if you look at how Ellie moves and how the NPCs in this game move versus Last of Us 1, it’s wild.”
Ubisoft's For Honor (2017) was the first game to take this into use, also EA's UFC 3 (2018), and now we are seeing Naughty Dog jump in with both feet having completely re-written their animation system after releasing Uncharted 4 in 2016. Now with motion matching seemingly at its core and I'm sure many other hard-earned aspects as well. The Last of Us E3 2018 demo speaks for itself.


Gif credit to nib95 .
 
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Strafer

The Flagpole is Wider
Member
Oct 25, 2017
16,312
Sweden
#3
Cool stuff.

I love how everytime Naughty Dog releases a new game people starts to question it's authenticity.
 

v_iHuGi

Banned
Member
Oct 28, 2017
5,175
#4
Naughty Dog is ahead of everyone else by light years, it's their own league this game looks ridiculous I can't believe how good it looks my God.
 

DukeBlue

Banned
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Nov 6, 2017
1,502
#5
Naughty Dog is ahead of everyone else by light years, it's their own league this game looks ridiculous I can't believe how good it looks my God.
Agreed. Hopefully we will be able to say the same thing about the gameplay, but I won't hold my breath.
 

v_iHuGi

Banned
Member
Oct 28, 2017
5,175
#6
Agreed. Hopefully we will be able to say the same thing about the gameplay, but I won't hold my breath.
Gameplay is great on TLOU, never heard anyone complaining apart from forum bubbles 2/3 guys which probably didn't played anyway.

I doubt it'll be a God of War though.
 

Bruceleeroy

Banned
Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,419
Orange County
#9
It truly boggles my mind that this is even something that is possible right now. It just seems like the computational power needed to be cycling through all your stored motion captured animations to pair with the ending of one current animation and at the same time adding variables such as weapon type, character proximity to walls or objects that would obstruct and then on top of that displaying facial animation to match... I mean that just doesn't seem possible. How do you even begin to program something like that.

I'm still waiting for a 4k video but I was not impressed with the quality of the faces. Everything else though was ace.
Download gamersyde version and watch it on your tv. Faces look absolutely incredible.
http://gamersyde.com/download_the_l...8_gameplay_reveal_no_watermark_-42349_en.html
 
Oct 26, 2017
5,171
#15
I'm still waiting for a 4k video but I was not impressed with the quality of the faces. Everything else though was ace.
The faces stood out as one of the most impressive things from the gameplay

You could feel the pain the enemy in the enemies' expressions

It is freaking incredible
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,318
#16
What demo were you watching? The youtube video has a 4k option. Use it and watch the demo again. Faces are the best we've seen so far.
I think it was the youtube live stream which was just 1080p.

The motion and expressiveness of the faces were ace but they looked very fake to me when static. Maybe it's cuz I just watched an entire playthrough of Detroit.

Will seek out the 4K video after work.
 
Oct 28, 2017
926
#17
Cool stuff.

I love how everytime Naughty Dog releases a new game people starts to question it's authenticity.
its actually annoying when they document some of their tech vs companies who basically share shit or nothing.

Bruce I think you underestimate the jobs of machines. If you got in to networking you would be amazed at duplex based technology or queueing technology. They are amazing when you wield the tech and pair them with smart concepts.

Animation is fascinating to me cause it's benefits are huge to gaming next to physics or lighting I don't seek much out of games these days. Pairing all 3 of these will be quite the challenge but we are getting very good with tricks and mirrors like these vs brute force implementation which by processing demands alone will be hard for humans to conquer.

The fact we are doing this with cpus that aren't much better than last gen makes me shit grin.
 

tomofthepops

Banned
Member
Oct 27, 2017
925
#20
Gameplay is great on TLOU, never heard anyone complaining apart from forum bubbles 2/3 guys which probably didn't played anyway.

I doubt it'll be a God of War though.
I really like the gameplay but I've seen numerous members of the games press say they don't like it (and uncharted)
 
May 17, 2018
2,036
#21
I thought the faces looked better in the gameplay than the kiss scene. In fact, when I saw the beginning of the trailer, I thought it didn´t look as good as the last video we´d seen. Odd.
 
#22
Gameplay is great on TLOU, never heard anyone complaining apart from forum bubbles 2/3 guys which probably didn't played anyway.

I doubt it'll be a God of War though.
Gameplays not bad. It's more than serviceable. Compared to other western games I consider it clearly above average. (Talking about the first of course, in case you meant to have a 2 after tlou)

But there is a long journey between being not bad, and great.


I will admit the animation is fantastic looking. But there always seems to be that caveat that the smoother and more natural looking the animation, the mushier it feels in your hand.
 

v_iHuGi

Banned
Member
Oct 28, 2017
5,175
#23
Gameplays not bad. It's more than serviceable. Compared to other western games I consider it clearly above average. (Talking about the first of course, in case you meant to have a 2 after tlou)

But there is a long journey between being not bad, and great.


I will admit the animation is fantastic looking. But there always seems to be that caveat that the smoother and more natural looking the animation, the mushier it feels in your hand.
As I said it's not God of War which absolutely destroys anything in gameplay but it's good for what it is.

Not everyone can make insane gameplay like Santa Monica.
 

gamerman

Banned
Member
Oct 27, 2017
145
#27
Thanks Wollan. This is absolutely fascinating stuff. After watching the GDC presentation, it is clear that that Naughty Dog is in fact using this cutting edge animation system in LOUS2. It's one thing to create a tech demo, but to actually use the technology in a shippable product is mind-blowing.

I still can't get over the fact that you are able to match the player's and AI's movement with the correct pose in your motion database by keeping track of their movement. Unlike state machines, this allows the movement to mimic real life with no pops between the different state transitions. It really looks like one continuous stream of motion from start to end.

Of course, you need a lot of motion capture data so that you can match the motion capture footage with the entity's movement. I can only imagine the amount of animation coverage data they are using for Last Of Us 2. I love how you can even add physics on top of it so that if characters collide with an object you can reference the appropriate data. This was seen in the Last Of Us 2 footage when Ellie smashed up against the side of the car.

Even more amazing is how much this improves the combat and the game. This is not just the same game with prettier graphics and a deeper story. It's a next-gen breakthrough.
 
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Oct 27, 2017
231
#33
Wow, no 'Smoke and Mirrors' joke as of yet.

The demo was really impressive. Naughty Dog has been excellent at pushing tech in both graphics and especially animation.
 
Jun 10, 2018
115
#35
Ahh this is what I really love, learning about how games work and what tech they develop. Whoever developes this for UnrealEngine 4 is definitely gonna get his stuff robbed by epic lol.
 

Venom

Banned
Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,636
Manchester, UK
#36
Cool stuff.

I love how everytime Naughty Dog releases a new game people starts to question it's authenticity.
And then people get pissed when others call them Naughty Gods.

Naughty Dog are at the forefront of pushing tech boundaries on console. With each new entry into one of their franchises they push what's possible on a limited power machine in ways we thought were impossible back in 2013.

Animation, textures, character models, lighting techniques, story and storytelling motion capture etc. These are all things ND are pushing with each new entry and I don't think a lot of people give them the credit they deserve sometimes.
 
Oct 28, 2017
245
#39
Yeah this looked so good in motion, love seeing the progress animation has been making these past few years

IIRC Guerrilla Games talked about wanting to implement this kind of animation tech post Horizon, I wonder if Death Stranding is making use of it
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,527
Toronto, ON
#41
Hi Kris

(On a serious note, if you're interested at all in games animation, give Kris a follow and check out the GDC talk he did about how he and the team animated Sam in Splinter Cell Blacklist.)
 

Derrick01

Banned
Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,292
#44
I find it hilarious to watch people decry TLOU2 as fake.
Skepticism is good and all but we shouldn't just scream fake immediately either. I know people cite the downgrades with the first game but if I recall it was mostly on the enemy AI side of things. In terms of animation it was probably the best in the industry when it released so I don't see much changing when this finally releases. ND confirming that there's a dedicated dodge button this time reassures my thoughts on that matter, as if it was just AI handling the dodging then maybe I could see how parts of that demo could have been a bit much to believe.