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Why we are not using Euphoria

Add Comment! By David Rosen on November 11th, 2009

Whenever we post about physics or animation technology, people always ask why we don't use Euphoria. Instead of replying to all of these comments individually, I decided to just write this post where everyone can see it, and link to it in the future whenever it comes up again.

So what is Euphoria?

In 2006 a company called NaturalMotion released this video, claiming that they created the first animation system "based on a full simulation of a 3D character, including body, muscles and motor nervous system. This creates fully interactive animations that act and react differently every time."

Their claims were quite impressive, and the brand-name "Euphoria" was swept into the public eye by the media blitz for Grand Theft Auto 4 and The Force Unleashed.

That sounds great! So how do you license it?

You can't. When we asked them for further information, they responded with, "Euphoria is currently not available to the public, we only have deals with a very limited amount of publishers and quite frankly I assume it would be much too expensive for what you are doing, sorry."

Their website now states that Euphoria is not a software package, but more of an animation consulting service. They write, "Euphoria is not middleware. Instead, NaturalMotion has close co-development relationships with publishers and development teams to integrate Euphoria into their next-generation titles."

Euphoria, as the cohesive product that has been presented to the public, does not exist. However, if you have millions of dollars, you can hire NaturalMotion to integrate some physically-active animations into your game.

Would we even want Euphoria?

The animation in games that use Euphoria bears little resemblance to the slick, organic movement in their tech demo video. For example, here is a video of how fighting looks in an Indiana Jones game using Euphoria. Similarly, in The Force Unleashed game, the only physically-based behavior I could see is magnetic hands -- the stormtroopers' hands stick to anything they encounter. Penny Arcade even made a comic parodying their indiscriminate grasping. Here is the official Lucasarts video showing off this dubious 'feature':

On the other hand, Grand Theft Auto 4 does have some fun stumbling effects. Whenever you shoot someone with a gun, bump somebody with a car, or even walk into anyone, you seem to enable 'stumble' mode. In stumble mode, movement is applied via pushes off-balance, and the character stumbles around trying to regain balance. Once balance is regained, the character switches back to motion capture animation. If you go to a bar and drink too much, all of your movement is in stumble mode. Here is a video of the GTA4 'drunk' effects... don't watch too long if you get motion sick!

While the technology shown in games that use Euphoria is definitely a step up from limp ragdolls, it's certainly not the revolutionary sea-change that the press heralded it to be.

Can we make our own cool animation technology?

Yes! To me, animation technology is the most interesting part of game programming -- in fact, my old game Black Shades consisted almost entirely of animation tech (click here for a video)! For Overgrowth, at first I tried making all of the animation procedural, as you can see in this old video, but eventually I realized that it doesn't give us enough control. The precise movements and gestures we need can only be created using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. The final animation system will be a combination of keyframe, procedural, and physical animation. I've spent the last four years since Lugaru doing graphics and animation research, so I'm pretty confident it will work out!

To summarize, we're not using Euphoria because it's not publicly available, it's too expensive, it doesn't really exist as advertised, and we have the experience to create our own animation system that is better suited to our needs.