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Luminous Productions' Back Stage tech demo shows off Square Enix's ray tracing tech

September 4, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

Square Enix’s Luminous Productions studio, the team assembled from Final Fantasy XV developers last year, has released a short video to show off the work the studio has been doing in partnership with Nvidia with advanced rendering tech and its own Luminous Engine.

That video, embedded above, shows a short scene of a woman applying makeup in front of a cluttered mirror in a dimly lit room. What’s of note to game makers here, is that the video itself is rendered almost entirely with path tracing, something Nvidia describes in a blog as an advanced form of ray tracing that “enables real-time rendering of lifelike lighting, shadows, and reflections.”

What’s more, that blog post points out that the scene itself was captured in real-time using a single (but pricey) GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card.

“Visual realism improves greatly by using ray tracing, but by stepping up to path tracing, shadows, reflections, ambient occlusion, and diffuse global illumination lighting are all computed in a unified way, by tracing and bouncing millions of rays through a scene, instead of using separate algorithms,” writes the Nvidia team. “This delivers superior results, where everything renders and updates automatically in real-time, in accordance with the action occurring on-screen.”

Luminous Productions itself was set up by Square Enix back in early 2018, and was repositioned as a studio to focus on “large-scale, high-quality, triple-A game titles” later that year. In a recent interview with Siliconera, Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda elaborated on the studio’s goals further, saying that he wanted it to exist at the intersection of cutting-edge technology and art.

“I want Luminous Productions to pursue their own form of 'cutting edge.' Square Enix has always developed and will always develop unique games, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what new flavors and style Luminous Productions will bring to the group,” Matsuda told the publication.

Going by Nvidia’s breakdown of Back Stage, this ray tracing tech is the cornerstone of Luminous Productions’ engine, and studio head Takeshi Aramaki says that the video is a “showcase demo of our work to answer the question ‘How can you use ray tracing in a next-generation game?’”

Ray tracing has caught a lot of attention recently as a way for developers to up the visual fidelity of even older projects, but the tech itself often requires powerful machines to render as intended. That hasn’t stopped teams large and small from working in into games, however.

Mojang recently announced plans to bring real-time ray tracing to Minecraft, also in partnership with Nvidia, as an unofficial replacement to the game’s high-end graphics overhaul. On the other end, a KIT graduate student worked Vulkan ray-tracing tech into a version of Quake II earlier this year, showing off some of the visual enhancements it and some lighting tricks can give even a decade-old game.

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