Tech demos of new 3D graphics technology can often be rather dull – endless loops of microscopically-accurate supercars and uglier-than-ever orcs – but occasionally they're used for more artistic purposes. One such example is a new short film (above) created by Heavy Rain-developer Quantic Studio for the launch of the Sony PlayStation 4, which provides funny riffs on the inherently ludicrous fantasy game trailers, greenscreen productions and prissy actors.
The Dark Sorcerer also shows the depth of characterisation possible with the PS4's graphics and demonstrates the possibilities for a much wider of interactions between characters and environments that the traditional X pushes/hits/kicks Y then runs/jumps/falls over. The film was rendered in real-time at full HD 1080p using the PS4's graphics engine – and here it does show why it's a grade above the PS3's capabilities.
The point of such technology isn't to wow us with its representation of reality – but to make us forget that what we're looking at isn't real and engage with the story, characters and art direction of the scene. Not that we're tricked into believing its actually real, it's just that we stop noticing the artifice and caring about it. Here, The Dark Sorcerer largely succeeds – though there are ocassional obvious movements or expressions that jar you into noticing the 'CG-ness' of the human model of actor David Gant. Ironically, the goblin character feels more realistic precisely because it isn't.
It's the little touches that offers the most intruiging possibilities for more realistic interactiom between characters, and between them and the world around them: such as the water clinging to Gant's face after the goblin throws a cup over him, and the wealth of secondary objects moving in the background. These allow more scope for subtlety and variation in the kind of stories gamemakers want to tell.
The Dark Sorcerer is the latest in a tradition of CG demos that explore what's possible from 3D technology from a storytelling standpoint, a tradition that stretches back through the history of computer-based animation from as Pixar's 1986 film Luxo Jr to Chris Landreth's 1998 Bingo (below), which was created at software film Alias|Wavefront to showcase its new animation software, Maya.
Update: First para corrected as Quantic is the developer of Heavy Rain, not LA Noire.