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How Square used UE, Oodle and Kraken for a next-gen experience in FFVII: Intergrade

cormack12

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Source: https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/...al-fantasy-vii-remake-intergrade-for-next-gen
....some more at link

To see how Square Enix took advantage of Sony’s next-gen console, we interviewed Square Enix Co-Director Naoki Hamaguchi, Lead Rendering Programmer Shuichi Ikeda, and Lead Technical Programmer Tomohito Hano. The trio discuss how they significantly bolstered texture quality, shortened load times, and improved lighting and shadows while maintaining smooth, consistent performance.

On the technical side, what were your major goals coming into the next-gen update?
Co-Director Naoki Hamaguchi:
My biggest goal was to get a first-hand feel of the performance of the next-gen hardware leading up to the next installment of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE. I was able to learn several things, like how much load is feasible using 3K and 4K rendering resolutions, or what the threshold is for loading high-quality assets while allowing players to play without stress, since the I/O bottleneck is now gone due to the implementation of the high-speed SSD. These were all very meaningful experiences for our developers working on our next title.


Was there a lot of work involved in optimizing the game to load more quickly on PS5's NVME SSD?
Lead Technical Programmer Tomohito Hano:
With PS5 having an SSD, I/O speeds were no longer a bottleneck. Instead, time slicing and CPU load became the causes for longer load times.

Because of that, we improved the load flow by doing things like putting in unique serialization so that it would lessen the load during deserialization in areas especially prone to bottlenecks. Through these efforts, we were able to go from approximately 12 second load times down to six.

While we were exploring options for further improvement, we realized the loader was inefficient. So, we integrated Unversioned Property Serialization and IOStore, which were introduced with Unreal Engine 4.25. This title was developed based on UE 4.18, so it required some changes, but because of the implementations, we were able to shorten the time to about two seconds, so I feel that this brought improvement that was well worth the investment.


Textures load much faster, too. Can you talk about the work that went into improving those streaming issues using Unreal Engine?
In the PlayStation 4 version, we had to forgo using a higher-quality format and high-resolution textures due to memory and disc capacity restrictions. However, we still didn’t have enough disc capacity with FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE to include a high-quality format and high-resolution textures.

And so, we integrated Oodle Texture [Compression], and by using it in combination with Oodle Kraken, we were able to achieve a smaller file size on the PS5 version, even taking the higher resolution textures into account.

Plus, the increased memory compared to PS4 and the improvement of the Non Streamable Mip Map, which ties into the response of the aforementioned question, also helped to load textures.

We were also able to use more high-resolution light maps, which improved the accuracy of the lighting.


FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE features upgraded screen-space reflections (SSR), which are really noticeable on water reflections. Can you talk about the work that went into this enhancement?
Ikeda
: The SSR we used in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE traces rays not just from glossy surfaces, but also rough surfaces, which generally tend to be omitted. By doing so, a more accurate occlusion is considered geometry-wise, and so you can see things like the light of a foot lamp bouncing off of a surface, or the hilt of Cloud’s sword being reflected in its guard.

There were times when aliasing from ambient light passing through could be seen on the eyes and the nose, which was a bit unsightly, but that was dramatically reduced. Typically, the mapping vectors obtained via normal mapping point in directions that would not be visible by the line of sight in many instances. When using these vectors in SSR, the direction of the reflection points to the inside of the surface, so it will always return a tracing error. This time, the mapping vectors on the polygon surface were stored in the buffer as well, and we corrected the error pixels when reflections were created to combat this issue.

In typical SSR, the image in the previous frame would be referenced, so whenever something like a camera switch happens, you can see a delay in the reflections being processed. For this title, whenever something like that happens, we would prioritize rendering the incomplete current frame so it would make an alternative reference, in order to address any hopping. Additionally, in a typical implementation, the prior frame that is referenced may already have the fog rendered, which causes that fog to be processed twice when referenced in SSR.


Can you talk about the work that went into FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE's improved lighting using Unreal Engine?
Ikeda
: Upon commencing production for FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE, we reevaluated all of the lights placed in towns and, as a result, decided to increase the number of placements. We also increased the resolution for the environment map, which would serve as a surface for the neon lights to be reflected. We also revisited how color burn for static light was being handled, and at the same time made revisions to the luminance corrections made via light probes.

Fog information placed in every nook and cranny would react to all of the light sources, which I believe contributed to the atmosphere of Wall Market’s hustle and bustle. The bloom was a mix of volume metric fog plus some post processes, but by updating how decimate and kernels were processed, you can see how even the smallest piece of ember can cause a reaction.


Can you talk about the work that went into increasing the game's shadow fidelity?
Ikeda
: We had to revisit the processing buffer allocation for shadows as well. Because of the change in memory allocation, the overall fidelity increased, so that should be reflected in the geometry of the details, which were previously lost. Furthermore, we corrected the jittering and bias in the sampling processes, so you should see less deterioration here as well.

We’ve been using SSAO for micro shadowing, but we’ve rewritten parts of it, including the denoising component of it, so you should be able to get a sense of the sharper details.
 

SlimeGooGoo

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Their own in-house engine looks better though.

I suppose their choice of using a third party engine in those projects is to make outsourcing easier and cheaper, as more people are familiar with UE4 than their own closed-source engine that nobody has access to.
 

Kumomeme

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Their own in-house engine looks better though.

I suppose their choice of using a third party engine in those projects is to make outsourcing easier and cheaper, as more people are familiar with UE4 than their own closed-source engine that nobody has access to.
taken from 2020 interview:

Hamaguchi: Originally, we were driving the development of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE with an organizational structure based around external development partners. Around 2017, in order to heighten the quality of the product even further, and to stabilize mass production schedules, we shifted to an organizational structure based around development that would take place internally, although this didn’t change the fact that we continued to work with many external partners. In this respect, we determined that developing on a public engine, with expertise built up both internally and externally, was better suited for us when considering the organizational structure for developing REMAKE.

Further, staff members with experience developing KINGDOM HEARTS III came on board for the development of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE, and we were able to circulate the expertise they had already built up with Unreal Engine very well among us internally. This definitely helped propel us forward as we progressed with development.

like you said they want to makesure the development is smooth while taking advantages of staff's exisiting experience/knowledge internaly and externaly.


When developing AAA FINAL FANTASY titles, it had been the norm to use development engines produced internally, so it was necessary for us to keep in mind the learning period whenever new staff members joined the team. However, using Unreal Engine, which generally can be utilized by many people all over, meant that there were many staff members who already had experience working with it. This led to shorter learning periods, which was a huge plus for development efficiency.

more to the interview if anyone interested:



which is makesense that changing engine would affect their learning periods. also i believe it is due to their former technial director Julien Mceron that want to avoid Crystal Tool's fiasco, he mandated Luminous Engine to be developed alongside only one game(FFXV). that time the engine support team is focused with Tabata team. so rather than wait for the engine is fully finished, better for them to use already finished proven like engine UE4. also , Epic even set up office at japan for devs support, which is one of reason why more japanese developers using the engine now compared to during UE3 days.
 
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jroc74

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It looks incredible on PS5, very excited for the future.
Yup, the first time I played it was the Intergrade...and its one of the first games where I panned the camera damn near every chance I could. One was remembering how the original looked and how this is literally an up to date, modern version. Two....because it looks so damn good.

Interesting how they mentioned using Oodle and Kraken too. Good times ahead for loading and game sizes.
 
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SlimeGooGoo

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taken from 2020 interview:





like you said they want to makesure the development is smooth while taking advantages of staff's exisiting experience/knowledge internaly and externaly.







which is makesense that changing engine would affect their learning periods. also i believe it is due to their former technial director Julien Mceron that want to avoid Crystal Tool's fiasco, he mandated Luminous Engine to be developed alongside only one game(FFXV). that time the engine support team is focused with Tabata team. so rather than wait for the engine is fully finished, better for them to use already finished proven like engine UE4. also , Epic even set up office at japan for devs support, which is one of reason why more japanese developers using the engine now compared to during UE3 days.
Thanks for the links. It makes a lot of sense business-wise, especially for a big corporation.
I just wish they've used their own engine for more projects, like Dragon Quest for instance.
While it does look good on UE4, the lighting looks kinda off in some parts.
 
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TGO

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Their own in-house engine looks better though
 

Orion2

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good to know it's so easy to use PS5's custom Kraken hardware with the various Kraken software, I wish they touched more on what are the actual details of the dynamic resolution boundaries, the Temporal component used, is it upsampling or the fancy new UE5 one for when the res is lower than 4k, or neither just straight TAA and plain upscaling on top of that, also I was interested to know the resolution of these new high quality textures, are they 4kx4k? and what would the size of the game be with no compression?
 

Corndog

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It is easy to know if Kraken is being used… just compare the size of PS5 and PS4 versions.

BTW maybe now the “unbelievers” will finally face the truth.
What truth? That texture compression is used in games?
 

ethomaz

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What truth? That texture compression is used in games?
A lot of people said that it was not due Kraken that the games on PS5 was smaller...
If you look the threads from the past six months you will be surprised (or not?).
 

Corndog

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A lot of people said that it was not due Kraken that the games on PS5 was smaller...
If you look the threads from the past six months you will be surprised (or not?).
This doesn’t prove anything except for this game.
 

Neilg

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I really liked how much additional detail the Yuffie DLC got too - being built exclusively for ps5 you can really feel the bump in polycount, especially in the second act climbing that huge piece of interior machinery.
 
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Sensei

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Assuming that Part 2 will come out in three years (at best), I hope they'll upgrade to UE5 after the end of beta (which should be by the end of the year IIRC).
 
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Dabaus

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With the psn leak of the card game yesterday and Ff7 crew playing up the Ps5 like this, well Sony either paid SE a lot for a some game deals or more is going on behind the scenes. Am I reading too much into all of that?
 

Kumomeme

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Thanks for the links. It makes a lot of sense business-wise, especially for a big corporation.
I just wish they've used their own engine for more projects, like Dragon Quest for instance.
While it does look good on UE4, the lighting looks kinda off in some parts.
same here. i intrigued to see their Luminous Engine run other game. i believe it eventually will be happened but right now with how their devs already used to UE4, it might take awhile for that.

just hope they properly completed and upgraded that engine so no more Crystal Tools fiasco again. thats the last things should happened. Final Fantasy franchise almost ruined due to that.
 
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lh032

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Their own in-house engine looks better though.

I suppose their choice of using a third party engine in those projects is to make outsourcing easier and cheaper, as more people are familiar with UE4 than their own closed-source engine that nobody has access to.
Considering Season 3 GIF by Portlandia
 
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Shifty1897

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After seeing FF7R in action on PS5, it's obvious that Square are the most talented developers using Unreal Engine in Japan right now. The level of optimization is impressive, not a single frame is dropped in that game.

They've come a long way since The Last Remnant.
 
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