[Peter Suderman] Look, I'm sure the Euphoria physics engine in the new Star Wars video game, The Force Unleashed, is pretty awesome. But I wonder if the reporter who sat through a couple of gameplay demos for this Vanity Fair article is really all that familiar with the gaming world, because there have been games that use rag-doll effects, A.I., and simulations of various physical properties for quite a while now. Admittedly, I haven't seen the demo he has, but this passage strikes me as having the potential for serious overkill:

 

By the time the demonstration was over, I was left with the unmistakable sense that LucasArts was on the cutting edge of a huge leap forward for the video-game industrya technological breakthrough, nearly as revolutionary as the introduction of sound in film, that could finally give gaming the kind of immersive realism that would enable it to join movies and television as a form of mainstream entertainment.

 

At the very least, it's true that game companies have been showing very limited demos that make it appear as if they've stumbled upon the Holy Grail of gamingcompletely seamless and lifelike physical interaction with the world at largefor quite a while. Look at this 2006 demo for Assassin's Creed in which the host brags about the world design as well as the way that characters react organically within the game, not simply relying on preprogrammed animations. Or check out this 2003 demo of Half-Life 2, in which the announcer boasts of being able to "build environments" that the game company "couldn't even dream of" just a few years previous. Later, he brags about the A.I. and shows off the interactivity the game allows with the physical environment. Sound familiar?

 

The point is that game companies have been hyping their code like this for years without any one technology (other than the advent of 3D) really proving transformational.  Like politicians talking up their policy plans, game companies tend to make a lot of big promises but often fail to deliver on the revolutions they assure us are in store.  Things work much better on paper--or in demo mode--than they do out in the field. And while this write-up clarifying how Euphoria is supposed to work does make it seem like a neat piece of tech, I remain skeptical that this is anything close to "nearly as revolutionary as the introduction of sound in film."

Update: It's also sort of odd to suggest that video games are not yet a form of "mainstream entertainment."  It's an $18 billion industry that's growing far faster than the movie or music business.  Sony has sold more than 120 million Playstation 2 consoles. It's not exactly a niche market.

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