Watch The Heretic, Unity's latest science fiction short film


The latest stunning Unity demo, one of the most used game engines in the world, is not an example of how developers can use new shadow effects or rendering tools. It is also a philosophical journey of a dark beauty that hides in a short animated film. "I am fascinated by technology and its impact on us as human beings; our psychology, our sense of self-identification and our deep-rooted sense of spirituality, "says Veselin Efremov, Creative Director of the Unity Demonstration Team. "I thought it would be fun to explore these existential and philosophical themes in the form of a simpler adventure story."

The new short film is calling L & # 39; heretic, and it lasts less than four minutes. In this picture, a man wearing a worn leather jacket, who would do very well to Ryan Gosling in a new Blade runner, makes his way down a dark corridor, with a strange mechanical substance that seems to follow each of his thoughts. Finally, after a series of discordant changes that strangely distort the world around it, it appears at the open mouth of a cave, with a dominant futuristic urban landscape dominating the skyline.

According to Efremov, the concept of the demo started with a goal that has long preoccupied animators and game designers: creating a virtual person who looks and feels real. "Creating realistic digital humans is a problem that has always preoccupied us, but we have stayed away from it," he says. "In previous demos, the stories always talked about characters that do not look human. It was an interesting challenge because they all deal a lot with the themes of humanity and what makes us human. However, in recent years, Unity's capabilities have improved so much that we thought L & # 39; heretic was the right time to wet our feet with this problem. "

Heretic unit

Ever since, Unity has been attacking these kinds of problems by creating beautiful demos. In fact, the company has an internal team entirely dedicated to construction projects such as L & # 39; heretic; they act somehow as an independent studio within Unity, charged with pushing the boundaries of what a small team can do with technology. As new features and capabilities add to the engine, the team tackles increasingly ambitious projects. Last years Book of the dead, for example, was a haunting exploration of interactive narration, using relatively new tools such as photogrammetry. But with the historically discouraging objective of realistic characters, Efremov and his team decide to return to a simpler cinematic. L & # 39; heretic.

For game designers and movie directors, the short film features many improved technologies that you can not fail to enjoy. elements such as 4D Capture and what Unity calls a "high-definition rendering pipeline", which essentially means high-quality shadows, reflections, and visual effects. But for all the others, this is a wonderful vision of a cyberpunk future. Part of the reason is the way the team approaches these demonstrations; it's not just a technical showcase, but a fully realized fiction, with everything you need to build the world and tell stories.

"To create a cinematic experience of 5 to 10 minutes, we need to know the world in great detail: its history and future, its characters, its political and economic situation, etc.," says Efremov. "As in our previous demos, we only see a glimpse of a much larger world." Much of this effort has been devoted to the design of the exposed futuristic technology, which offers a more tactile and tactile feel in many science fiction.

"One of the things I thought it would be fun to play with would be to explore a human-machine interface that is not based on sight, but on touch – a purely tactile experience," says Efremov. "We already have some with smartwatches and the braille alphabet for the blind. So we took this level to the next level with the hands-on device of our protagonist character. It was also interesting to explore a robotic technology that does not rely on a single chassis, but consists of semi-independent composite elements that can be assembled in different configurations, depending on the task at hand. "

Heretic unit

L & # 39; heretic gives an overview of the possibilities of a dedicated team using Unity, although you can not create a demo like this one at the moment. As an internal studio, Efremov and his team have access to features that are not yet ready for the mainstream version of the game engine. That said, what you see in the video above is not that far .

"Today, most technologies are available," says Silvia Rasheva, the producer of the demonstration team. "The project is based on Unity 2019.1, which will be available soon, and some of the enhancements are planned for Unity 2019.2." The team started working full time on L & # 39; heretic in September, the goal is to make it much easier for regular users to create a similar job. "Every project we undertake will try to solve new problems and we will not have a clear path to follow," she adds. "It's hard to predict the time it would take to explore these unexplored territories, but the idea is that this should never take our users as long as it would have taken us."

It's not over yet. Efremov describes the cinematic presented today as the opening of a larger room. "The first part of the film, which we are showing now, only contains the configuration and presents our characters," he says, "as well as a hint that there is more than that, which will become apparent in the full movie. "

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