I was hoping this article, "2004 GameTech Report: Creating Believable Characters", was going to be about story and or character behavior and A.I. having just played Half Life 2 in which most of the characters are unbelieable because of bad writing and bad acting. But, it turns out that's not what it's about
The article is about ways to dynamically generate motion. The links on the page will show you some examples, one of the most impressive in the last year has been the tech used in Endorphin. Basically they use some A.I. to give the character a goal and through physics and muscle simulation the character animates. You can set how fat, heavy, thin, lanky, the character is. You can set how strong their muscles are etc and they will act. It's pretty amazing stuff. It's a great way to create motions that would be impossible to create from motion capture. It's also possibly a great way to save time for regular motions.
But.............this is not the future of games IMO. While if it saves money and time it might open a few doors (e.g., before you couldn't put 8 main characters in your game because you only had time and budget to animate 1 character. Now with tech like this you can do all 8 in the same amount of time), will it really change any games?
Think about it. Imagine you had this tech that generated motion for you. Now, imagine you took that tech and you put it in Mario 64 or Jak & Daxter. What could you now do that you couldn't do before with those characters? Mario already runs, walks, crawls, hops, jumps, sneaks, slides on butt, slides on stomach, climbs stairs, climbs ladders, climbs poles, walks on ropes, hangs from ropes, hovers with a jetpack, rides a skateboard, hangs from ledges, climbs up ledges, etc etc. He already does all this stuff without this tech.
People talk about it making the feet not slide for example. While as an artist and an animator that bugs me, as a gamer I couldn't care less. Is my game going to be 1% more fun because the feet don't slide? I think not.
My point is, in the end, all this tech provides is better or cheaper animation but it doesn't appear to provide any new game play and that is the issue. If it doesn't provide new game play it's NOT the future of gaming.