Avatars, humans and why we’re building a game (pt. 2)

Sebastian Reinholz
Jul 24, 2019 · 6 min read

In this two-part series, we’re diving into the background story of why we’re building Chain Clash and how avatars play a role in it. In past posts, we’ve talked a lot about what avatars are and how they’re important for the game, but have mostly focused on one specific kind — the androids. In this series, we specifically want to shed some light on the human avatars.

Part 1 covered the look back at what led to us building a game, as well as why we came up with human avatars. In this episode, we’ll talk about what human avatars are, how they’re created and why that’s big for us!

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Digital likenesses in gaming

With modern scanning and 3D animation technology, it is nowadays possible to create photorealistic digital versions of humans. To create those so-called “digital likenesses”, people first run through sophisticated scanning procedures. The resulting photo material is then turned into three-dimensional models, which can be fully animated to move and behave as a real human would.

Digital likenesses can be utilized for a multitude of applications and industries. Some more common examples include:

  • Movies. In the film industry, they are already used to perform stunts, to finish a film in the case of emergency, or even create younger/older versions of the actors. If you’ve watched Paul Walker in Fast and Furious 7, or the young Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator: Genisys, you’ve seen a digital likeness in action.
  • Marketing/consumer. Digital likenesses can be used to create virtual assistants, photorealistic influencers and much more. Although this is still a relatively new trend, there are already a couple of virtual influencers, for example, like Miquela, that have gained quite some popularity.
  • Gaming. In gaming, digital likenesses enable developers to create more realistic and immersive experiences by including “actual” humans. A prime example is Keanu Reeve’s appearance in the upcoming game “Cyberpunk 2077”.

Human characters in games have existed ever since the first days of video gaming itself. Although we all know, that NPCs are not always the smartest, it’s not only their behavior that drives our perception of realism.

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Wolfenstein then and now. Can barely tell a difference, right?

Computer graphics have come a long way and nowadays enable game developers to incorporate realistic human characters in-game. However, artificially creating human appearances, and making them seem realistic, is not an easy job. So, why not use real humans in the first place?

Our LA-based team, at DNABlock, has developed a proprietary process and software to create ultra-realistic digital likenesses from real people. In the character engine, we can then animate the digital likenesses on-demand and let them move, talk and do whatever expressions we want them to. Chain Clash is only one of the applications for this technology. Bringing digital likenesses as avatars to blockchain and embedding them in a game is a great way to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology. With Chain Clash, we can put the focus on the digital likenesses, and avatars in general, while creating an interactive game experience around it.

How human avatars are created

Bringing real people as avatars into our game involves a couple of steps:

  • Creation. In the first step, we “scan” people. The person is placed inside a dome that has more than 150 high-end cameras attached to it. Next, we take images from every angle, including various postures and facial expressions.
  • Processing. Once we have all the image material, it’ll need to be processed and composed to a character model. The character model includes a mesh, which represents the surface of the character, and a skeleton, which is used for the movements. Transforming the images to a character model involves a combination of AI and visual effects to compose the images and add realistic animations.
  • Enhancing. After composing the character and teaching it how to move, there are still some enhancements necessary, to achieve the highest level of realism. In this step, we enhance the avatar with detailed animations, like facial expressions. Once the details have been refined, the avatar is ready to be deployed.

At the end of this process, we have a realistic digital likeness that can be animated in any way we want. One important aspect of creating a realistic human avatar is its movements. However, creating human-like, natural movements artificially is incredibly hard. If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably encountered some strange, inhuman movements of in-game characters at some point. This can drastically impact the realism of the gaming experience.

For our in-game animations, like fighting, we use motion capture technology. This method allows the recording of human motion sequences in a way that they can be abstracted and applied to any character model. Using motion captures for our avatars enables us to create realistic movements and animations in the game and make our avatars not seem like soulless robots.

Human avatars in Chain Clash

As introduced in our game intro post, Chain Clash will feature a variety of different avatars which are classified in different rarity tiers (common to mythic). Humans will be very scarce and generally belong to one of the top tiers, meaning there will only be a handful of each edition.

Whereas the rarity determines how many of the respective avatar edition exists compared to all avatars, it doesn’t say anything about its other characteristics. In the game, different avatars can have different special features, which are mostly determined by the species they belong to. In the beginning, there will be two species — androids and humans. There are a couple of aspects in which they generally differ from each other.

  • Better genetics. All avatars have genetics, which determines how much effort is needed to alter their attributes. However, human genetics will be above average.
  • More impact on clan competition. Every avatar can contribute to their clan’s standing by clashing and participating in challenges. Human avatars’ actions can have a bigger impact, for example by utilizing special boosts, that are exclusive to humans.
  • Special fight moves. By default, all android avatars will have the same fight moves. Although androids may be equipped with other fight moves in the future as well, human avatars will have exclusive ones.

Because of their recognizability, as well as their power, the human avatars will be the stars of each clan’s avatar line-up. For players not owning one themselves, it may, therefore, be a valid strategy to support their clan’s human avatars to strengthen the clan’s standing (more on what supporting means will come in a future post).

Adding realistic human avatars is one aspect of how we want to make Chain Clash a special game. Although we haven’t talked about who the people for our human avatars are, in our eyes, having realistic digital likenesses to train and battle is pretty cool by itself already.

With some of the features we have in the pipeline, we’re also planning to create more and more ways for players to impact and customize their avatars. Especially for humans, this means that players will have the chance to get truly unique ones. If you want to learn more about our game and the future updates we’ve planned, stay tuned on our blog. To always get the latest news and talk to us, join Discord!

On a side note: the Chain Clash private beta starts in August. Signup via the website or our Discord to participate!

Follow us (@chainclash) to never miss any Chain Clash news again!

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Chain Clash

Chain Clash — battle of the crypto clans

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