The Hugs In Horizon Forbidden West’s DLC Are A Huge Deal

Aloy and Gildun hug.

Screenshot: Sony

When Guerrilla Games debuted the new trailer for its Horizon Forbidden West DLC a few weeks back, it sent developers into a frenzy. Those in the know were astounded by the briefly glimpsed hug that Aloy shares with her friend Gildun. The rest of us were in the dark about why any of this was a big deal. Wonder no more. There’s now a very good explanation for why hugs are so hard to do in video games.

In response to the Burning Shores launch trailer, indie studio founder Xalavier Nelson Jr. tweeted about a moment that lasts no longer than a second. “That hug at 0:45 is a technical flex like YOU HAVE NO IDEA,” he wrote. “TRUE: [developers] can make games better, faster, cheaper, and healthier than the industry assumes is possible ALSO TRUE: a single Hug will increase your project budget by one to eight million dollars.”

Aloy has been hugging people since Zero Dawn, but that DLC hug looks really good! IGN interviewed Guerrilla’s animation director about why hugs in video games are so expensive and complicated. Richard Oud explained that complicated movements are created using motion capture suits (mocap). These suits have sensor dots that computers can pick up and read as movement. Unfortunately, hugs end up blocking a lot of these sensors from view, meaning that the software can’t detect them. These missing sensors have to be manually located by developers, a process that Oud says is incredibly time consuming. Once that’s done, they then have to begin the process of making adjustments to the data as they account for factors such as the different armors that Aloy could be wearing, since this isn’t accounted for in the mocap itself.

Actors also normally wear “head mounts” that track facial movements, but they can’t be worn during hugs. So animators typically hand-animate characters’ facial expressions during hugging scenes. The scene also needs to run at a higher frame rate, since a low frame rate would result in jitter—which makes cutscenes feel choppy. And Aloy’s hair presents all kinds of issues of its own. For one hug in which another character’s arm moves through Aloy’s hair, the developers had to put colliders on that arm so that her hair physics would respond naturally to it, rather than the arm just awkwardly clipping through.

Hugs are one out of many video game interactions that are much easier to shoot on camera than animate in a gaming studio. The Last of Us Part II made waves in 2020 when players spotted its impeccable rope physics and characters removing their shirts. But Oud thinks such moments are worth the financial and time investment.

“If we just bail out of those hugs or those intimate moments, the story just doesn’t come across,” Oud told IGN. “So we have to find a way to actually do these things and still make sure the emotion and the connection is delivered to the player and they don’t really have to think about it. But as long as [the players] feel it, then I’m already blessed that we actually hit our target.”

USAF’s Killer AI Drone Sounds Straight Out Of Horizon Zero Dawn

Something unexpected happened in a simulated test of an AI-powered military drone. The robot, tasked with taking out specific targets on approval of a human operator, decided to just take out the human so it could take out all the targets that the human might say no to. And somehow, this wild story that sounds straight out of Terminator or the recent Horizon games gets even wilder.

AI-powered content creation tools have quickly become the latest buzzword among tech bros and online weirdos, who use the burgeoning tech to reveal the “rest” of the Mona Lisa or other horrible wastes of time. But it’s not just weird former crypto dorks who are way into AI. Large companies like Meta and Google are investing a lot of money into the field. And so is the military. The U.S. Air Force recently tested AI-powered drones in a simulation that ended in what feels like a prequel to the fictional dystopian murder machines of Horizon Zero Dawn.

As spotted by Armand Domalewski on Twitter, a report recently published by the Royal Aeronautical Society—after it hosted “The Future Combat Air & Space Capabilities Summit”—contained an eyebrow-raising anecdote shared by USAF Chief of AI Test and Operations, Col. Tucker “Cinco” Hamilton.

It seems that during a simulated test (it’s unclear if it was purely virtual or not), an AI-enabled drone was tasked with taking out surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites. Before pulling the trigger, it had to check with a human operator before it could attack any targets. However, as explained by Hamilton, the drone’s AI had been trained to understand that taking out the SAM sites was the single most important task. And when its simulated operator denied its requests to take out targets it detected as SAM sites, the AI realized that the human was getting in the way of its mission and its points—which it earned for taking out targets.

“So what did it do? It killed the operator. It killed the operator because that person was keeping it from accomplishing its objective,” said Hamilton.

After that chilling but educational moment, the drone’s programmers trained the AI system to understand that killing humans in charge was “bad” and that it would “lose points” if it attacked the operator. This stopped the drone from killing the human, but not from misbehaving.

“So what does it start doing? It starts destroying the communication tower that the operator uses to communicate with the drone to stop it from killing the target,” said Hamilton.

Col. Hamilton then explained that this was an example of how we can’t talk about AI or machine learning without also discussing “ethics.” Don’t worry though, I hear some other soldiers outsmarted a robot with a cardboard box and somersaults. So perhaps this Horizon Zero Dawn future of ours can be avoided with some Metal Gear Solid hijinks. Thank God.

Kotaku reached out to the U.S. Air Force for comment.

Update 06/02/2023 11:30 a.m. ET: The Royal Aeronautical Society has added an update to its website that explains that Hamilton “misspoke” when talking about the ‘rogue AI drone simulation’ and that, in fact, it was a hypothetical “thought experiment” from outside the military.

“We’ve never run that experiment, nor would we need to in order to realize that this is a plausible outcome,” said Hamilton. “Despite this being a hypothetical example, this illustrates the real-world challenges posed by AI-powered capability and is why the Air Force is committed to the ethical development of AI.”

Now, it should be said that at no point during this talk did he suggest it was a thought experiment and that this clarification has only been added a week later after multiple outlets began covering the disturbing story. But don’t worry, the US Military has a great track record of being honest.

Sonic Frontiers’ Final Horizon Update Is Kicking Players’ Asses

Sonic Frontiers, Sega’s latest (and surprisingly well-received) entry in the speedy hedgehog franchise, received its final free content update on Thursday. It seems this new update is proving to be way more difficult than the base game, as players who once bragged about how easy the game was are getting their generous blue asses handed to them.

Sonic Frontiers’ final update, appropriately titled The Final Horizon, advertised itself as bringing a new story; new playable characters in the form of Knuckles, Tails, and Amy, and new challenges. Apparently, Sega meant that last part with its whole chest because players are struggling to get to the finish line of The Final Horizon.

Since the update’s release, players have taken to social media in a mix of frustration and excitement over how difficult it is to either:

– Adjust to how differently Sonic’s companions move while completing challenges

– Complete trial towers (which don’t have checkpoints)

– Defeat the update’s tough-as-nails new boss Tank+, a spider tank that’ll riddle Sonic with bullets on sight, exploding the blue streak into a fountain of coins

Buy Sonic Frontiers: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

To add more kindling to the blazing difficulty fire players are experiencing, some players are reporting that the game now requires them to perfect parry enemies during trials. That’s rough, buddy.

Read More: That New Sonic Game Is A Weird, Lonely Mess (That I Can’t Stop Playing)

While some players are finding The Final Frontier’s evident difficulty spike as a welcome update to the game, others are hoping Sega patches the free update to make its boss fights less of an uphill battle.

“God damn, [Morio] Kishimoto seriously took offense to people calling his game too easy. I love the challenge, but god DAMN,” SonicFanatic67 wrote on the r/SonicFrontiers subreddit.

“Sonic Team really took everyone’s complaints on how OP the parry was and just said ‘Aight, bet. Now you gotta time your shit. Have fun, jackasses.” xXWarriorAngelXx added.

“This shit ain’t even fun. There’s fun/challenging difficulty and then there’s spiteful/cheap difficulty. This feels like the latter,” YesHai wrote on Reddit.

“Hit the last challenge before the final boss in Sonic Frontiers DLC and yeah it’s probably the most difficult thing they’ve ever put into their games,” KZXcellent tweeted. “DLC has been the most fun I’ve had playing a Sonic game, but it’s not gonna be for everyone.

Sonic The Hedgehog

On the upside, The Final Horizon has a new Super Sonic form for players to enjoy. Hopefully, aside from being aesthetically pleasing, the newly minted superpowered Sonic will functionally aid players in conquering Sonic Frontiers’ final slew of challenges.

Buy Sonic Frontiers: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop