Epic's Sweeney: Games will be 'photo-realistic' within 10 years

As far back as I can remember, journalists and forum dwellers have been heralding the arrival of photo-realistic games. We're still not there yet, of course. But now, someone who actually knows what he's talking about has made the same prediction—and he may just be right.

That someone is Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games and the brains behind the Unreal Engine. As Eurogamer reports, Sweeney made the following statement at yesterday's Develop conference:

"It's continuing to improve at Moore's Law rate," he said. "Things are going to get really interesting. We'll be able to render environments that are absolutely photo-realistic within the next 10 years, like indistinguishable from reality level of graphics."

That prediction applies only to graphics, by the way. Sweeney says achieving total realism in other aspects, like "human intelligence, animation, speech and lip-syncing," will require "ongoing research for probably the rest of our lives." In the case of AI in particular, that's no doubt a fair assessment.

I also agree with Sweeney's other prediction, despite the fact that I've been rolling my eyes at claims about photo-realism for years. The next breed of console games already looks stunningly realistic—The Division comes to mind, and Epic's own Infiltrator demo isn't too shabby, either. Some environments are easier to simulate than others, but it's easy to imagine a not-too-distant future where the line between 3D graphics and movie-quality visuals is, for the most part, blurred beyond distinction.

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