Epic Games acquires facial animation technology behind Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Hellblade II wallpaper 4
Hellblade II wallpaper 4 (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

What you need to know

  • Epic Games is the developer behind Fortnite.
  • Its Unreal Engine 4 powers a lot of games.
  • The company wants to increase its facial animation prowess.
  • Epic Games acquired Cubic Motion, the company that did facial animation of God of War and other titles.

It seems like acquisitions in the gaming industry are still going on. Today, Epic Games announced that it was purchasing Cubic Motion, the creator of the facial animations used in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and God of War. A report from GameSpot said the following.

Epic Games, owner of the Unreal Engine widely used across the games industry, has acquired the company behind the facial animation work deployed in games such as God of War and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Cubic Motion is the creator of facial animation technology that is used in conjunction with facial rigs used for animations to produce subtle facial expressions that can be used to convey expressions in a more natural way. It's the reason Epic Games wants to include it in its suite of tools available to Unreal Engine developers.

Epic Games' Kim Libreri said the following about the acquisition.

Facial animation that conveys the slightest nuance of human expression is essential to crossing the uncanny valley. We believe that holistically combining Epic's Unreal Engine with 3Lateral's facial rig creation and Cubic Motion's solving technology is the only way to answer this challenge, and ultimately, to reach the pinnacle of digital human artistry with Unreal Engine.

With this, Unreal Engine 4 may be one of the most powerful and expansive engines on the market, more than it already is. It'll be interesting to see when this technology makes it way to developers who use Unreal Engine 4 and later iterations. It'll probably take a while, well into the Xbox Series X's generation, in my opinion.

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

  • I can see good and bad elements to this acquisition. It's great that it's a part of one of the biggest engines currently around providing more accessibility to developers to utilise, but it's a shame that it is then locked out from companies that want to use their own engine or Unity/Frostbite/etc. Unless Epic will be willing to provide the mocap tech separate from the main engine for people that require it. I'm not sure whether game engines can be picked at like a buffet or you get what you get.
  • Did Cubic make the facial animations in Gears 5? I ask this, cause Gears 5 got huge praise for its facial animation tech by Digital Foundry. I seem to remember reading that The Coalition used brand new Facial Animation technology not used before for Gears 5. Im guessing all of Xbox Game Studios including Ninja Theory will use the same tech Gears 5 did?? The sheer amount of praise The Coalition got for its facial animations and new tech it used was impressive. I believe DF actually said Gears 5 is right at the top in terms of animation alongside Naughty Dog when it released.