Co.Design

Ellen Page Is Naked In The Uncanny Valley

Or is she? That's the question at the center of a game design controversy that Sony doesn't want you to know about.

Beyond: Two Souls is an interactive action-adventure game by French developer Quantic Dream. It's not really a great game, but like Quantic Dream's previous two titles, it is at least notable for its emphasis on realistic characters brought to life through extensive use of motion-capture. The headlining actor lending her voice, motion and likeness to Beyond: Two Souls is Juno and Inception star Ellen Page, who donned a black catsuit covered in ping pong balls and allowed Quantic Dream to record her movements with 64 Vicon cameras. This data was then crunched by a computer and used to bring a 3-D model inspired by her likeness to life.

This is where things get interesting. Several weeks ago, nude images of Jodie Holmes, Ellen Page's character in Beyond: Two Souls, leaked online, and were published by several gaming blogs. By itself, it was something of a non-event, but the game's publisher, Sony Entertainment, quickly moved to get these posts taken down. "The images are from an illegally hacked console and are very damaging for Ellen Page," the rep reportedly told one site. "It’s not actually her body. I would really appreciate if you can take the story down to end the cycle of discussion around this."

If the goal of the takedown requests was to "end the cycle of discussion," it had the opposite effect entirely. Fueled by the implicit contradiction in Sony's statement on the matter, discussion about the images heated up online. If the nude images were "not actually her body," how could they be "very damaging" to Ellen Page? And what do we mean when we say that a 3-D model is nude, when as a society we can't even agree what nudity means?

The first thing to understand is that Sony is right at least about one thing: the nude images that have leaked online are of Jodie Holmes, not Ellen Page. It's an important distinction. Although Jodie Holmes bears a resemblance to Ellen Page, and though both her voice and movements were used to bring the character to life, Holmes is essentially a cartoon: a 3-D character created by a digital artist based upon Ellen Page's likeness.

The fact that the images in question are "nude" images of a model created by a Quantic Dream artist might be at least part of the source of Sony's embarrassment. Beyond: Two Souls features a shower sequence, but it does not contain visible nudity: instead, Page's character Jodie Holmes bathes while her body is tastefully obscured by steam and a carefully placed curtain, just like you might see in a PG-13 movie.

Unfortunately, a game is not a movie. Scenes in a game are rendered, not filmed, which means that if a hacker knows what he's doing, he can "move the camera" and see a scene from an angle that was not intended. Which is exactly what happened.

But if Quantic Dream never meant for players to see Jodie Holmes naked, why did a Quantic Dream artist spend time painstakingly modeling her breasts, nipples, vagina, and pubic hair? A 3-D model is usually as sexless as a wax doll underneath its clothing, because designing games is expensive, and creating assets for things players aren't going to see is a waste of time. That a Quantic Dream artist would unnecessarily create a sexually realistic body for a 3-D model, then task Ellen Page to bring it to life without her knowledge, seems creepy at best, and a violation at worst.

This is also potentially a legal matter for Sony. Mark Methenitis, a lawyer speaking about the Beyond: Two Souls controversy to Ars Technica, says that he would think that Ellen Page's contract with Quantic Dream and Sony would contain a complete bar on nudity, "in which case including the model in a way that can be accessed at all probably trips it."

Whether or not the Beyond: Two Souls nudity debacle ends up in a lawsuit, the mere possibility that a 3-D model of what Ellen Page might look like naked is enough to trigger her contract's "no nudity" clause raises some interesting questions. What meaning does the entire idea of nudity have in a world where photorealistic 3-D models of any person can be created? Is it really about seeing some nipples or genitalia—which may or may not be real—or is it about the way in which these things are viewed, and whether or not we are titillated by them?

In truth, the very idea of nakedness has always been in flux. A woman wearing a thong bikini wouldn't be thought indecent on the beach today, but in the era of bathing costumes, she would have been considered practically naked. Likewise, there was a time when a man would apologize to a woman if she discovered him wearing short sleeves. Nudity isn't so much about what you can see as it is about how it is seen. It's about what is exposed, not what is revealed.

There's a term widely used to describe the problem of creating lifelike representations of people using computers called the uncanny valley. Essentially, the uncanny valley refers to the pit of revulsion that we all fall into when we are confronted with artificial representations of human beings that aren't exactly lifelike.

Realistic, motion-captured games like Beyond: Two Souls prove that after decades spent trying to claw our way out of the uncanny valley, we've finally reached a more naturalistic plateau when it comes to virtually recreating the human aesthetic. Yet if this controversy has proven anything, it's that even though we can now photorealistically render the human body in a convincing way down to the smallest detail, we're still just as confused as ever about the meaning of being naked.

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32 Comments

  • Andrew Bell

    in this day of modern gadgets we should be able to create a censor wall that maps the human form in its natural habitat

  • Alexander Vartzbed

    I would suppose, the model they used was probably pre textured and in a library from "poser" or another 3D Human Characters library. I doubt someone spent any time on the details.

    There's an entire Development Team behind this! and wasting Time on developing Genitalia and breast features would be a huge waste of precious resources. I don't think they would do that.

    Also I don't think the whole "nudity" thing is that much of a deal, most esp. since this is NOT Ellen page! She did NOT stand naked in front of a camera and let someone model her features. So I don't really see what the big deal is.

    Further more, if a "hacker" - as you guys liked calling a person that can access a Games code - can change camera angles, said "Hacker" would also be able to change assets within the game.

    Also please change that entire part about "re-filming" scenes!!! It's embarrassing. A game is rendered live at all times (unless it playes back a movie clip)! Vertices are calculated and displayed 60 times a second, sometimes 120 times (if you go 3D) and processed by the graphics Processor! it made me cringe when I read this article. they are NOT re-filmed!

  • JS353535

    Ummm, am I the only one here asking the question: WHY is there even this long of a shower scene in a *game* and what exactly does it add to the story? Oh that's right, precisely nothing. This whole article and story is retarded because none of this should have ever been created in the first place. Is this game interactive porn or just a game?

  • Antony

    Well, it wouldn't be real if you don't shower before a date? I mean, do you like not shower at all?

    At least the shower scene makes more sense to me than the cloth changing scene in Star Trek Into Darkness

  • dave birney

    christ i just did a search on google images to see what the original versions of these pics are like.... its disturbing the amount of pictures that have her head photoshoped on other grils bodies. and some god awful photoshoping as well :/

  • NemiSith

    Yes the developers intended to have naked scenes of "Jodie Holms" In game however in order for the game to gain PEGI 16 rating in the US these scenes were omitted, And i totally disagree with the statement "Its not really a great game" Its the best fucking game of the year and quite frankly i cant wait for a/the sequel.

    Source:
    http://www.gameplanet.com.au/p...

  • Call Of Deadly 3

    First of all, this was NOT a hacker, it was someone with a Dev. Kit of a PS3, And you could get those easily by just Registering a Job Submission for Sony. Then you get it and Quit. (I think, haven't tried) But I KNOW you can get those as easy as shit, not too mention Ebay... So either a Ps3 Dev Got horny and tried too look at her Tits, or Someone who used My method did. Not even close too a hacker...

  • Rick Sander

    absolutely agree. anyone who knows about to anything on a computer other than browse is deemed by the press as a "hacker"!

  • jjbreezy

    To be honest, Ellen has every right to be angry. I don't understand why Quantic Dream went through the trouble of rendering her naked body. So maybe they wanted to show her naked at some point? I know the actress who played Madison Paige in Heavy Rain had the same problem. Quantic Dream rendered her nude without her consent. At least that's what I heard.

    Quantic Dream was wrong. I have Beyond Two Souls, I think it's a great game, and I've enjoyed every Quantic Dream game I've played. But this was wrong and creepy. It's clear Ellen had no idea they rendered her naked body. The thing is, if Quantic dream never rendered her nude body, when the hacker hacked the scene, there would be nothing to see, and this wouldn't even be an issue.

  • Luke Martin

    Why would a developer *not* apply full textures to a model, though? Article seems to be implying creepy behaviour by the devs because they did a whole-body texture job.

  • jjbreezy

    It wasn't necessary for a shower scene that wasn't going to show nudity. They didn't show her breasts in the game, and they didn't show her vagina, so there was no need to render it.

  • Luke Martin

    If they're using images of another woman's nude body to provide the imagery, then why would they selectively edit out bits of that body, particularly if obscured by other elements in-game? Seems like needless busywork.

    Other games have had 'nude' scenes without physiological correctness and they seem to heighten the disconnect. I assume that's what Cage is aiming to break as he seems to be more about making movies than games. (Well, movies with QTEs.)

  • jjbreezy

    Why render them in the first place? If they were going to cover them up, why draw the boobs, the nipples, vagina etc? There's no need. Like the author of the article said, they could have simply gave her a mannequin type body, so when hackers moved the camera, there would be nothing sexual about the imagery they covered up.

  • Luke Martin

    Like I said, if it's in the original images used to map textures (presumably taken from someone similarly built to Page) why edit them out? Doesn't make sense.

    I don't see how you're conflating 'nudity' with 'sexual', either. It's a naked image that shouldn't have been seen in toto, and was seen because either the devs or Sony were too slack to nail it down properly.

  • jjbreezy

    Clearly Ellen doesn't want herself associated with nudity. The developers must have known this could be accessed in some way. Plus, they've done this with Madison Paige's actress in Heavy Rain.

    Like I said in a previous post, they didn't need to map the textures if they weren't going to use them! Why map textures if you aren't going to show it? Did they model Ellie from the Last of Us' naked model? And I would bet my bottom dollar that if there was a shower scene in The Last of Us, and they didn't show the nudity, Naughty Dog wouldn't bother rendering a naked model.

  • Luke Martin

    Why must the developers have known it'd be able to be accessed? Most people don't have devkits or non-final code. Whether Page wants nudity or not, given the high level of mocap and actual acting involved in the story, I cannot believe she didn't know there would be a shower scene in the game. This is the equivalent of someone taking a photo from the sidelines of a shoot on a movie - it's something nobody is supposed to see, and it's only an error that it has come out.

    If she didn't want herself associated with nudity in any form, I find it surprising she'd give the nod to the game at all, given the presence of the scene.

    Mannequins have nipples even though they're not shown, remember. The data points for her body are all there, and texture map merely is something laid over that. You're suggesting pixelating an image of -another- individual's naked body, regardless of how janky that'd look. What, do you just expect them to have the grey-and-white transparency squares of photoshop show up where her bum is meant to be? You can see quite a bit of the model in the censored shower scene, so I find it unrealistic that they're going to obliterate anything.

    Again, if there's a fault it's that the developers did not lock the product down as tightly as supposed. Look at Fahrenheit - there's sex scenes in there and they have detailed models and maps in there, too. It's hardly unprecedented.

  • jjbreezy

    Developers should know that there are hackers out there. Not everyone is capable, but there are many out there who are capable, so why take the risk and render the body? It's as if they created it to be unlocked to generate more attention for their game.

    "You're suggesting pixelating an image of -another- individual's naked body, regardless of how janky that'd look."

    I'm not suggesting that. I just don't think they should have rendered anything. Perhaps Mannequins was a bad example because they do seem to have nipples. But if you were going to film from the neck up, I don't see the need to model breasts.

    It seems like Quantic dream likes rendering nude models of actresses without their consent.

    "If she didn't want herself associated with nudity in any form, I find
    it surprising she'd give the nod to the game at all, given the presence
    of the scene."

    She most likely assumed the developers would not render her entire body. She's not really a gamer, she took the role because she was interested in the story. She didn't know about Quantic Dream's process.

    When she acted on set, she wore a performance capture suit, even when she did the shower scene. She probably assumed the developers wouldn't model her naked body when she was acting that scene out in a black spandex outfit with ping pong looking balls on it.

  • Luke Martin

    So wait, developers for a LOCKED PLATFORM should change their MO because of something the bulk of users can't do? So someone hacked a console to allow dev access to the content - that's one out of how many million copies, how many million consoles? How many of those users would've ever seen it if not for that?

    There's a wireframe for breasts as the character would look stupid without them, given that it's meant to accurately represent a human. Your issue being with nipples, maybe, or arse-crack? Steam is not a completely obscuring thing, so if there was just flat texture (instead of the photographic texture of another naked body, as I've mentioned repeatedly) it would be blindingly obvious. In addition, it's pretty obvious that there's a lot of skin on display anyway - have you actually watched the video of the shower scene?

    And as for the "without their consent" thing - that's a big leap. I would imagine that the map used for the nude part of the body was obtained by release approval, or bought from a stock image house. Seriously, you think multi-million dollar developments just skimp on that kind of stuff?

    I understand she was clothed when doing mocap. (Though I bet Defoe would've done it nude, given half a chance.) I just fail to see your logic that an experienced actress would somehow expect there to be NO NUDITY IN A BATHROOM SCENE. It beggars belief, really. How do you think they sold it, as a shower in a three-piece suit?

  • jjbreezy

    "I would imagine that the map used for the nude part of the body was obtained by release approval,"

    Doubtful considering how upset Ellen Page was. She's never done nudity and she doesn't like to associate herself with it.

    "I just fail to see your logic that an experienced actress would somehow expect there to be NO NUDITY IN A BATHROOM SCENE."

    Because actresses can do bed scenes and shower scenes without actually being naked. An actress can wear a strapless bikini and take a shower. With clever camera angles, they can make it look like she's naked when she's really not.

    You said in an earlier post that Quantic Dream should have found a way to lock it down so no one could hack it. Debatable. Imo, they shouldn't have drew her naked. I understand that they need the shape of
    her body with breasts when she has clothes on, but if they had no intention to show her nude, there was no need to design anything else. It was unnecessary. Nothing you say will convince me otherwise, I'm sorry.

    Agree to disagree.