Metahumans are Epic Games' latest step towards the Metaverse. Hi-fidelity and easy to create, these realistic looking 3D models will make the virtual worlds of the future more lifelike. However while these Metahumans may look more real, there are many more elements that need to be added for them to feel real.
Our focus at Charisma is on stories - the reason most interesting characters exist in the first place. A story is what drives characters forwards, gives them intrigue, creates tension and pace. A 3D world without a story is like Second Life in the early days, and these days worlds like Fortnite recognise this and are dedicated to building out narratives in these worlds.
So recently we connected Epic’s Metahumans to Charisma to give these characters a story. This post goes behind the curtain a bit to highlight what’s going on behind the scenes.
Firstly and most importantly, the characters are all being driven in real-time by Charisma. This means that we are telling the characters what to say, how to say it, we are procedurally animating their faces and bodies with dynamic text and speech, and this is all displayed in real time.
From our standpoint, this means that as I am playing the scene, I can make the character turn angry, sad, happy depending on what I say to them, and this will in turn change how they act and how they behave towards me.
Secondly, we are weaving personalised data into the scene dynamically based on what I’ve said. I say my stop is Grand Central Station, and magically the next station stop becomes Grand Central Station. [And yes, we check if the station is a valid station on New York’s number 4 line. You cannot get the train announcer to say that the next stop is The Moon, if you were wondering!]. The two characters ask me my name, and remember it. In a longer scene, we weave many more personal details into the story. The concept of memories has long been a key feature in Charisma, with memories that can fade over time, memories that are unreliable, and characters that can misremember what you’ve said.
By building the bridge between Charisma and Metahumans in Unreal Engine, we are able to power dynamic hyper-personalised interactive stories in which the player is cast as an active protagonist. Those players are immersed among richly-crafted characters, compelling stories, and soon in an active Metaverse that will change the way we think about entertainment, and indeed stories themselves.