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E3 2012: Sony Online Entertainment Unveils New Tech that Puts Players in 'EverQuest II'

Everquest II Screen Grab - H 2012

New facial and voice capture technology from Image Metrics will allow massively multiplayer online gamers to become their in-game avatars.

The online world and real world continue to blend. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) will debut brand new facial and voice capture technology, dubbed SOEmote, at E3 2012 that will change the way massively multiplayer online (MMO) gamers interact in EverQuest II.

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SOEmote uses the player’s webcam to capture facial animations and voice, and animate their in-game avatar in real time. If the player blinks, their in-gamer character blinks. If he or she speaks, their voice is changed to sound like the character’s voice. Since some players prefer to play as another sex in games, their male voice will be translated into a female in-game voice.

“This is the first time this technology has been applied to a real-time networked game,” said Dave Georgeson, director of development of SOE’s EverQuest franchise. “Additionally, we integrated Vivox’s Voice Font technology into the game so that players can change their transmitted voices. Most players use VOIP now (instead of text chatting) but not everyone is cut out to have the voice of a big fat troll or a sexy high elf princess. Voices are powerful tools for presenting character. Being able to change your voice lets you play your character in many new ways.”

SOE hopes this new technology boosts users for its EverQuest II game, which Georgeson said has more people playing it today than at any time in the last five years of its life span. Some of the game world was opened to a free-to-play model last December, although subscriptions are also available for the MMO.

The technology came about after SOE met with Image Metrics at E3 last year. Image Metrics has been developing real-time, player-driven animation systems for Hollywood for years. SOE is the first game company to utilize this technology.

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“We’re barely scratching the surface,” said Georgeson. “The next step is to track hands, or allow players to create full-body animations via a webcam interface so they can play those animations back in the game at the touch of a button. It’s really going to be phenomenal what you see in the next year or so.”

Georgeson said the goal is to eventually incorporate this into all SOE games, but it will initially launch in EverQuest II