Square Enix shows off photo-realistic next-generation engine

At a press conference in Japan last weekend, Square Enix showed off tech demos of its next-generation Luminous Engine, which it first announced in August, and announced features of its Luminous Studio development framework.

Designed with native DirectX 11 support, the engine includes cloth and fluid simulation, realtime reflections and highly efficient tessellation techniques that lower the level of detail of 3D models with minimal memory usage cost.

Square Enix chief technical officer Yoshihisa Hashimoto claimed that despite its startlingly realistic visual fidelity and new features, Luminous Studio can reduce game development costs by up to 30 per cent, and expects it to enable faster development cycles.

Square Enix's team has also created a demo of realtime scenes, including an underground parking garage, designed to show off the Luminous Engine's ability to mirror digital photographs of the real thing. The effect is mainly achieved through diffuse reflection, which models light as it behaves in the real world, with coloured surfaces bleeding their hue on to nearby surfaces.

It's technology that Square Enix Group worldwide technology director Julien Merceron hinted towards in a recent interview with us: "If I take a picture and after this I create the same objects in a game with the right materials, I can achieve a rendering that is very close to the picture because I'm using the physical parameters of the real world."

The engine also features procedural animation techniques, which use data from a database of motion capture to augment animation such as walking or swinging a sword. The technology can automatically change the movement of an avatar as the weight of a sword is increased, for example, or adjust the stance of its complete body if just one limb is moved. The approach can also adjust gait as an avatar walks over rough ground.

Luminous Studio will also feature advanced AI support that's based on characters having knowledge about the world around them. It's designed, however, to scale between small-scale casual games to large, complex next-generation games.