Mass Effect and the Uncanny Valley

Casey Hudson, project director on Mass Effect, told Wire magazine that designing aliens for the game was easy: it was the humans who'd given them the most trouble.

Hudson said BioWare had found it difficult to get Mass Effect's human characters to look like more than just sinister mannequins. To counter this effect, they worked on "the reflection of light on the eyes and suble eye movements."

To me, it sounds like the guys and gals at BioWare were experiencing what's known as The Uncanny Valley effect, described as such:

"The phenomenon can be explained by the notion that, if an entity is sufficiently non-humanlike, then the humanlike characteristics will tend to stand out and be noticed easily, generating empathy. On the other hand, if the entity is "almost human", then the non-human characteristics will be the ones that stand out, leading to a feeling of "strangeness" in the human viewer." The characters in Mass Effect, so close to being realistic, triggered the Uncanny Valley response.

Gamasutra recently covered the phenomenon of the Uncanny Valley in games - something which is becoming more and more prevalent as advances in graphics and character design technology allow faces to be rendered with a new degree of realism.

Anyone else think the design work on human characters in Mass Effect is the most realistic they've ever seen?

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digg this: | posted by Natasha, 6:04 PM |

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Natasha is a political science student, a gamer, a writer, an armchair philosopher, and a geek. Her first cRPG was Castle of the Winds.

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