Too Much Blood
Brett Todd on The Firing Line:
Graphic technology meets child-molesting Nazis
A troll in the PC action games newsgroup garnered some attention last week by posting a gory screenshot purportedly taken from Doom IV. Seeing as the programmers at id are still down in the salt mines slaving away on Doom III, and that the release date of that game has just been pushed into 2004, the attribution isn’t very likely. Also, the dead guy on the wrong end of the gun doesn’t fit in with the pantheon of Doom zombies and demons, who usually don’t wear nice and summery pastel suits.
Fake or not, the screenshot is indicative of where we’re heading with graphics cards. Souped-up numbers like the Radeon 9800 Pro and GeForce FX 5900 Ultra are already stretching the seams. It won’t be long before the average gaming PC is able to handle photo-realism. Look at Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within for a good example of what we’ll be seeing on our monitors within the next few years. We’re already very close to that standard now, when you consider the jawbreaker-dropping quality of the Dawn tech demo
that Nvidia has developed to show off the capabilities of the GeForce FX line. Animation and skin shading make the pixie star of the demo look remarkably like a human being, although the wings and elfin ears sort of give the game away. It’s so close to watching a film that you can almost hear a projector whirring in the background.
And it’s pretty damn troubling. Watching a Tinker Bell ripoff flit about in a magic forest is all fine and good, especially if you’re into leather chaps and fashion shows, but what happens when the technology used to create her is turned to a more NC-17 topic? Dump the diaphanous wings and come-hither gaze for a BFG and a hundred-yard stare and you’ve got one hyper-realistic shooter. Imagine turning firearms against an in-game villain with all of the characteristics of another human being, right down to the subtle color shading of skin. Imagine seeing the blood gush, the realistic look of pain in eyes about to go blind forever. Imagine the goriest movie ever made, without any editing and without any way to really separate yourself from the action.
Such a game would be little more than a murder simulator. No matter how much the developers pushed the story, made your killings justifiable by making the bad guys child-molesting Nazi drug pushers or something, in the end you’d still be murdering human beings. There’s a big difference between that and blazing away at models with as much resemblance to real people as an Itchy and Scratchy short has to real cats and mice. Instead of blasting away at cartoon antagonists, you’d be ripping apart human flesh with knife and gun.