During a lecture held at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris, attended by DualShockers, Former Square Enix Worldwide Technology Director Julien Merceron talked about the spectacular tech demo Agni’s Philosophy, that debuted in 2013.
Asked how it’s possible for the demo to be translated from an advanced PC to a much less powerful PS4 hardware without losing graphical fidelity, Merceron joked by saying the answer should not be revealed outside of the audience, and mentioned that with Agni’s Philosophy his team created the cinematic tools and the engine, while the assets (textures, models and so forth) were created by the artists of the studio that worked on the Final Fantasy animated movie Spirits Within.
According to Merceron, that studio had no experience in real time rendering, and above all they create assets for movies, and those assets were absolutely not optimized. The density of polygons and useless elements was horrifying, and there was no notion of object culling (a technique that renders only what is visible). If you look at it in Maya, the whole thing is a big mesh with no instances.
Thanks to that, Merceron’s team found a number of ways to optimize the assets without changing the quality of the visuals at short distances.
It wasn’t all the artists’ fault, as there were many engine optimizations that were also done, as the demo that was shown at E3 was actually finished just the day before.
The particle engine was completely redone for The PS4, the shaders were adapted to the console, and streaming was reworked. On PC a small trick was implemented for it to look like a single cinematic scene, but on PS4 that choice was not available. Other small optimizations were also done on the memory management side for it to run smoothly.
This, according to Merceron, demonstrates once more that optimization can be done on everything. In the end the team did not have to sacrifice the quality of the assets close to the camera. In fact, the artists never noticed a difference, despite the fact that the parts that didn’t appear on camera were gutted.
That said, the biggest part of the quality you see when you look at Agni’s Philosophy is due to the artists’ work, and it’s absolutely amazing. Merceron was surprised by what they were able to create, and it pushed the team forward. Hair and similar elements had to be created procedurally, lighting and shading had to work correctly, so his had to push hard on the technology side to live up to the work of the artists.
[On-Location Reporting and Translation: Morgane Bouvais]