The Last of Us: Part II has this system Naughty Dog is calling "motion matching". Basically, it's this advanced animation process that makes the game look incredibly smooth in motion, regardless of what your character is doing. If you've seen the latest gameplay footage, then you'll already know that the upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive looks incredible, especially in terms of animation, and this motion matching is apparently how the developer hits such a high bar.
"It's this technology for characters moving through a space like running, walking, jumping, and that kind of thing," co-director Anthony Newman told GameSpot. "In all our previous games there's been this really distinct state machine where we say, 'Play a run animation. Then play a turn left animation. Then play a turn right animation.' The way motion matching works is it takes this massive bucket of animation, just hundreds and hundreds of animations, and chops them into little tiny bits. When you define the path that a player or an enemy wants to take, rather than saying, 'Play this and then play that and then play that,' the system actually looks at the bucket of animations, finds the ones that matches the path that you're already taking, and blends them together frame-by-frame."
Already sounds impressive, doesn't it? The gist of it is that instead of pulling from select animations based on your actions, the game's taking loads of smaller motions and blending them into one fluid movement. This should allow for more complex on-the-spot animation that also looks more realistic. It's entirely possible that we're getting a glimpse of the future here.
"It's this totally new way of doing traversal. I think, as you play the game, you must have noticed just how fluid the player feels. With every foot plant, every turn, there's as little blending as possible. That's applied to our NPCs. That's applied to the horses. That's applied to the dogs. We even have these dogs and horses and mocap suits running around getting the data that we needed for this really intricate system," Newman continues.
Naughty Dog's been setting gold standards for animation in its games for some time now, and it's starting to seem like The Last of Us: Part II is going to take the studio's reputation to a whole new level next year. Fascinating stuff.