In a tech demo, which debuted at Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference in May, famed Japanese developer Square Enix created a cinema-quality computer-generated character into a video game. Nyx Ulric, voiced by Aaron Paul in the CGI movie Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XVwas previously confined to the silver screen, where the complexity of producing detailed computer graphics is transferred one frame at a time to huge farms of computers (each taking hours to render), before merging 24 of them together to create a few seconds to create film.
Using high-end PC hardware from Nvidia (the server-grade Tesla V100, no less), Square Enix took character models and textures from the movie and showed them in real time with Luminous Studio Pro, the same engine that Final Fantasy XV on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and—with the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition in 2018 – pc. Like any good tech demo, Kingsglaive is as impressive as it is impractical, with authentic modeling of hair, skin, leather, fur and lighting that no PC or console on the market can render (at least in 4K).
The Xbox One X, Microsoft’s “most powerful console in the world,” has about six teraflops of processing power (FP32, for those tech-savvy) to push graphics at 4K resolution — that’s four times the pixel count of a typical HD. -television. The Kingsglaive technical demo requires more than 12 teraflops of processing power, more than is found in Nvidia’s $1,000 / £1,000 Titan Xp graphics card.
The man behind the daring Kingsglaive demo is Final Fantasy XV Director Hajime Tabata, who collaborated with a talented team of artists and engineers at Square Enix to create a series of graphics showpieces. Those include: Agni’s Philosophy and Witch Chapter 0 [cry], the latter of which used advanced software and hardware in the form of DirectX 12, an eight-core Intel processor, and four Nvidia Titan X graphics cards. Despite only lasting a few minutes, it took over a year to produce.
“Even with the 12 teraflops of power behind [Kingsglaive],,The only thing we can have this character do is stand in this ready-made position,” laughs Tabata when I ask about the development of the demo. “To get him to walk around, extra computing power is needed. It wouldn’t even work in this environment. Our expectation is that until you have maybe two or three times the processing power of 12 teraflops, you won’t be able to let characters of that quality and level of detail move freely in a gaming environment.”
The luminous engine that drives the . drives Kingsglaive demo started life as “Ebony” in Final Fantasy vs XIII (what became FFXV), before being merged with early versions of Luminous and technology from Visual Works, the company’s CGI division. Now known as Luminous Studio Pro, Square Enix is pushing the engine towards an ambitious goal: to create video games that look as good as the pre-rendered CGI of Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV—and with each tech demo, Square Enix gets a little closer.
“The Witches Chapter demo was running fully native 4K,” explains Tabata, “but we realized that to do that if you have multiple cards and you have data transfer between those cards via SLI, there’s a bottleneck there, and that causes problems. To overcome that for the home version, we really just want to go with one card, because that eliminates the data transfer calculations… What we’ve been aiming for with Final Fantasy XV is that even with the richest environment possible, you still only need one fairly high card to control it.”