Star Citizen is an ambitious project as we all know - but one feature CIG intends bringing to the live game has the potential to alter player interactions fundamentally - and change what content creators can do. Face Over Internet Protocol.
Face Over Internet Protocol captures a player's facial expression via their webcam and streams it on their in-game character. That's it. That's what it does. You in front of your monitor is you also in game.
Does that sound unnerving? Well, we've tested it in Star Citizen and AltChar can now say it's immense fun. We mean, like stupidly good fun. Giggly moron fun.
It would be an understatement to say Star Citizen has never lacked for scope as a project. And when we heard that they intended to implement FOIP in the live game, we - like many others - were sceptical. After we'd looked up what the hell it was, of course.
Why would Cloud Imperium Games waste development resources on such a feature with so many other vital parts of their sprawling unreleased space game needing serious attention?
Well, we're going to concede that we didn't get it. The reason FOIP will be in Star Citizen is because it's cool. And the Star Citizen project doesn't follow the rules of a normal game project. They do things because they can. It might be crazy, but it's certainly different and in world of big publishers making bland reskins and games that play fundamentally the same as other games, this unorthodox approach is to be welcomed.
FOIP was developed by - specialists in motion capture. Their technology is already widely used in the videogame and movie industries. However, Star Citizen is the first time it has been used as middleware - actually running inside a game.
In the near future, Faceware will be be introducing their own in partnership with Star Citizen, specially optimised to get the best results from their technology. So you'll need to spend money right? Well no, FOIP currently works with a standard webcam. However, a specialised piece of kit could take the tech to a whole other level.
In our own testing of FOIP in Star Citizen, we really enjoyed ourselves using a $30 Logitech webcam. Standing in a clothes shop in the game's Port Olisar and belting out the words to the hymn Jerusalem as our character lip-synched along was most satisfying. One warning - FOIP can't handle glasses at the moment. It needs to see your eyes.
Do watch the video above to see how much fun the incorrigible Swede and YouTuber Robbaz has with it.
Here's the interesting thing for us - what will truly imaginative content creators do with this tech? You will be able to make your own in-game documentaries, you'll able to grin at the camera when a bullet just misses you; you won't need to put your own face in the corner of a livestream - you'll be on the bloody livestream.
Make no mistake - this is just the beginning of such tech being available to consumers. Is it just a Star Citizen novelty right now? Yes. But the tech will improve - and it will be adopted by other games. Star Citizen are ahead of the pack because they're willing to consider crazy stuff. But today's madman is tomorrow's visionary, right?