Of all the major league sports in the United States, basketball is the most balletic…in my humble opinion. Basketball demonstrates a fluidity of complex full-body motion all the while interactively and iteratively guiding and correcting the trajectory of a ball which repeatedly rebounds from the hard court surface. Watching real basketball players drive through the crowd toward the hoop gives us a hint of the artfulness. Watching it in slow motion makes us stare in wonder at the complexity of the performance.
Transitioning to the world of video games (where many sports seem to find their way) the observer has quite a different impression watching today’s state-of-the-art synthetic players. The rendered players go through the motions, but the simulation just doesn’t seem real. Even though the characters themselves look quite good in static poses there is something clearly counterfeit about how they move. No matter how great the skills of the animator are, it seems impossible to specify all of the angular velocities at all of the joints for even the most basic moves. It’s not that we search to find subtle flaws in their movement, but rather that we are instantly struck with how unnatural these players are.