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PlatinumGames developing in-house PlatinumEngine

Mista

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PlatinumGames has updated the official website for its recently established Tokyo studio with a new interview with its engine staff, who are developing an in-house engine tentative titled PlatinumEngine.

Full interview:
Bigger, More Expressive, More Creative—The New PlatinumGames Engine

Our Research and Development Group finds the technical solutions we need to create thrilling next-generation action games. Now, they’re hard at work on the PlatinumEngine* a new in-house engine to drive all of our creations. Below, our engine developers talk about their process, and how their approach differs from most in-house engine development.

*Please note that “PlatinumEngine” is still only a working name for our new engine, and the final name may differ.

■ Speeding up the Prototype Phase

—How did development start on the PlatinumEngine?

Wataru Ohmori:
“We’ve used our own in-house engine, specialized for action game development, since PlatinumGames was founded. But modern games demand a whole new level of quality, a greater variety and number of objects on-screen, and a richer amount of expressive visual power. We came to the frightening realization that if we don’t make our work more efficient, we’re simply not going to be able to keep making the games that we want to make as technology and expectations grow. Our new engine will help us make bigger, more expressive games than ever before, and with greater ease.”

—Why develop an engine in-house, instead of using an established engine like Unreal Engine or Unity?

Ohmori:
“We tested out external engines like those, but we found that they were lacking some features that we needed. It’s possible those features could be implemented at some point, but even if so, it would be on a timeframe that’s completely out of our control. When you’re trying to develop highly original titles, that lack of control can be fatal. We decided that developing and improving our own engine is the only way to be sure that we meet our game development teams’ exact needs.”

—What’s unique about the PlatinumEngine?

Ohmori:
“It bucks a few recent trends in engine development.”

Tsuyoshi Odera: “When people try to sell you on their game engine and what it can do, usually the first thing they do is tout its graphical capabilities. Which makes sense, since that has the most visual impact. But we’re thinking of the engine we’re building as a game engine, through and through. Don’t take that to mean that we aren’t giving graphical performance its due; we just think that there are other elements that are every bit as crucial to making truly engaging, AAA titles, and we want to give them as much emphasis.”

Ohmori: “Another major point is that ease of use is a very high priority. With this new engine, prototyping – which is where we try out new ideas for action gameplay, to see how they feel – will be much faster. To give an example, programmers at PlatinumGames have more freedom to directly control game animations than they do at most game studios; that gives them a particularly important role in action game development. Our existing engine already puts assets in the hands of each artist to freely control, so it’s easy for programmers to tweak what they need to, too. This is one of PlatinumGames’ strengths as a developer, and with the new engine, we want to give artists and programmers even greater control to try things out with their creations. The idea is for the new engine to both boost efficiency and make it easier to try new challenges in how our games are presented.”

■ Better Visuals with Less Effort

—Tell us about the team developing the PlatinumEngine.

Ohmori:
“Development itself started about two years ago, with Odera thinking through the fundamental settings and layout. Once he had that foundation set, we got the engine team together. There are six or seven people working on the engine to extend its capabilities right now. To be perfectly honest, we could use a few more…”

Odera: “At this point, I leave the finer details up to each of the engine team members, but I’m still in charge of the overall architecture. This may be rephrasing something Ohmori already said, but our goal with this new engine is to reduce, as much as we can, the amount of effort that goes into game development. The idea is to take all the unnecessary work away from our game development teams. We’re looking into everything we can do to make their work more efficient, even if those changes seem minor on the surface. Things like reducing the number of button presses needed to convert data, reflecting new work in the build right after it’s converted, or making levels playable directly from the editor. I have experience setting up digital content creation pipelines, so I have a sense of what artists want their workflow to be like.”

Ryoichi Takahashi: “I’m in charge of adding new rendering features to the engine. I see it as building a frame on top of the foundation that Odera made. Right now, I’m looking into all the tools that we might want to implement, and putting together systems that will allow us to put those tools to good use to improve our games’ visuals. My top priority is creating a canvas for rich visuals, with an eye towards recent trends in technology. On top of that, I want to make sure it’s easy for anyone to get good results.

“For the most part, I’ve worked more closely with game development teams than on system development, and each project has its own needs that have to be met through manual work; they often start to approach the limits of what can be done in terms of time and scale. At the end of the day, I want to give our artists an engine that will let them dig in to a wide variety of visual styles – photorealism, cartoony cell-shading, and beyond – to make sure our games are up to Platinum standards visually.”

—Seki’s position in the development team is a little different, though.

Ohmori:
“We expect Seki will be merging into the main PlatinumEngine team a bit further down the line. Right now, he’s doing independent research into things that interest him, and to help meet the technical needs of all of our current projects. I know that he’s focused on topics that will be considered essential to game development in the near future. It’s up to him to decide where he allocates his costs and how he provides feedback based on his research to the team at large.”

Gun Seki: “Two themes have driven my research so far. One is figuring out how to meet requests we’ve gotten from PlatinumGames’ various game development teams. The other is working out what is necessary to build new game mechanics. For example, I might look into pathfinding in open-world games, or full-body IK systems that control character animations in real time; those would fall under the first theme. As for the second theme, that means talking with Ohmori and, based on the judgement of the R&G Group as a whole, implementing technologies that will open us up to wider mechanical possibilities in the future.

“Lately I’ve been focusing on techniques for fast asset creation. One of those techniques is markerless motion capture using machine learning, which we could use to generate 3D animations, even from flat 2D video. Of course, doing motion capture the old-fashioned way with a studio and a full marker setup would yield higher-quality animation, but it also takes more money and time. Markerless mocap with machine learning could be useful for creating placeholder animations for game prototypes. I’m also researching how we could automatically generate normal maps using the principles of photometric stereo, and other ways that we could make even more high-quality assets as efficiently as possible.”

■ There’s Much Work to be Done

—What sort of people is the engine development team looking for?

Ohmori:
“Not many companies build their engines from square one these days. I think the challenge that presents is a valuable opportunity. PlatinumGames is known for our action games, but going forward, we’re going to have to try making things we haven’t made before. Those new challenges might be under the broad “action game” umbrella, or they might be something completely different, with some action elements. Either way, we’ll need to step up our game in terms of scale and expression. There’s much work to be done all around. If you’re thinking, “I have ideas I want to see through, but I don’t know, they’re kind of different from what PlatinumGames usually does…” then please apply. Your different ideas might be exactly what we’re looking for.”

Odera: “PlatinumGames is making strides towards self-publishing, but we’ll still have plenty of opportunities to work with other publishers and across many different platforms. Up until now, it’s been unusual for a studio to be able to offer so many challenges and chances. If you want to test your skills against those challenges – not to mention the challenge of creating fresh, new games – then you should apply.”

Seki: “On the research side of things, I’d love to work with people who have specialized knowledge from a scholarly background, but who are still passionate about game development. Pure academic research feeds on novelty; no matter what fruits your research might yield, presenting those results effectively requires a fresh approach. Meanwhile, in game development, you can research all you like, but at the end of the day, the goal is to finish and release a game. Functionality and stability are paramount. The most fulfilling part of this job is taking the technology you’ve researched and figuring out how to put it to use in creating a strong game system.”

—What makes a PlatinumGames programmer?

Odera:
“A lot is left up to your own discretion at PlatinumGames. It’s a work environment that values following through on your own ideas, which is very satisfying.”

Takahashi: “I’ve worked at PlatinumGames for ten years, and in all that time, I’ve never felt bored or tied down. There’s a lot of freedom here, which makes the work feel meaningful.”

Ohmori: “Right now, we’re focused on the new engine, but that puts us in a close relationship with the teams working on our games themselves, too. About half of our work comes from hearing the project teams say, ‘Oh, I want to do this,’ and not only solving those problems, but also digging in to those desires to find something to add to the engine for future projects.

“Other engine developers are often somewhat detached from game developers, and may not see how the features they’re creating are really being put to use. Some of them may only interact with game developers over support e-mail! As an engine developer at PlatinumGames, you’ll get to know the faces of every game developer who uses your creations. Of course, that also means they can walk right up to you and complain when something goes wrong, so maybe it’s a double-edged sword… But if you value direct feedback, then this might be the job for you.”
Gematsu
 

vaibhavpisal

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Umm, they did got a solid funding apparently.

Don't know what is their idea behind it. I thought off the shelf engines these days were good enough for anything and more advanced than what a single studio could make due to constant evolution.
 

Mista

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Umm, they did got a solid funding apparently.

Don't know what is their idea behind it. I thought off the shelf engines these days were good enough for anything and more advanced than what a single studio could make due to constant evolution.
Yeah the fake kickstarter they made
 

Cert.in.Death

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Very risky. Keeping an engine on the bleeding edge is costly and the primary advantage (differentiation) renders it a money pit from which you will not see any direct revenue. Plus there’s the worry your engine will begin to look dated in comparison with the mainstays whose development teams are tweaking and experimenting around the clock.

Upside? No revenue-sharing with the engine maker, but that’s offset by your internal investment into making and maintaining it. But you do get to integrate certain features that other, larger engine makers are ignoring, hypothetically speaking.
 
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01011001

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well their current engine is showing its age. so it was about time for a new one.
 

Griffon

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Well it's not much of a surprise.

They already used their own custom engine since the beginning. Refreshing their tech a bit for next gen is a given.
 

Herr Edgy

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Umm, they did got a solid funding apparently.

Don't know what is their idea behind it. I thought off the shelf engines these days were good enough for anything and more advanced than what a single studio could make due to constant evolution.
I'm split on that decision.
On one hand, going with UE4 as a developer seems to be the best of both worlds. You get a huge amount of well working and advanced engine technology, on the other hand the engine's source code is freely available and you are free to change it, meaning you have full control over everything that's happening. You'd still owe Epic Games 5% of revenue, or nothing if you get a custom deal with them that involves a lot of money at once.
The "features could become available at some point, but not in time" is therefore kind of invalid as they are free to implement those features themselves, just as they are doing with their own engine.

I think the actual reasons are a) wanting to avoid the revenue share/deal with Epic and instead choosing to invest more money into engine dev themselves - it might pay off, who knows?
and b) wanting to let the knowledge about the engine grow as it the engine grows instead of trying to absorb the entire engine all at once, which would be an intimidating task. I've been doing tools development with UE4 (you could call it engine development but my systems are rather high level/not very abstract which makes it easier) for a couple years now and I'm still learning many things every time I use the engine. It's just that huge, and there are tons of areas I haven't worked with yet at all).
 
Apr 27, 2018
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Nah fam, my eyes perfectly fine. They build games for nintendo hardware since their inception. Drop your switch and ask for better.
Niger Automata better or Astral Chain better? Because Astral Chain is their best looking game and it's a Switch exclusive.

Looks great, actually.
 
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nowhat

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well their current engine is showing its age
Is whatever runs NieR:A an in-house engine? Because there's one glaring fault with that one - streaming assets just sucks ass, and not in a pleasant way. You'll get stuttering in world traversal across all versions, even if the game would run fine when in combat or staying mostly in the same location. It really doesn't affect gameplay, but is quite jarring nevertheless.
 

01011001

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Is whatever runs NieR:A an in-house engine? Because there's one glaring fault with that one - streaming assets just sucks ass, and not in a pleasant way. You'll get stuttering in world traversal across all versions, even if the game would run fine when in combat or staying mostly in the same location. It really doesn't affect gameplay, but is quite jarring nevertheless.

as a fan of NieR 1 and Platinum, I gotta say I reall, really dont like NieR Automata, and the awful performance while traversing was one of the reasons why. the whole game felt rushed and unfinished at many points. the stuttering was just one of the issues.
 

NAI1210

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Nah fam, my eyes perfectly fine. They build games for nintendo hardware since their inception. Drop your switch and ask for better.
About 40% of their output has been on Nintendo consoles, 80% of their output has been great no matter the platform (Sega ported the ps3 bayonetta not platinum) the worst 3 games they did where all tied to Activision, legend of korra, transformers and turtles 👍
 

MDSLKTR

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Yes, thats clearly looks like a PS2 game /s
Nice pc renders, then you play in the real world it and it's 810p @ 30fps
You can pile up on me all you want, won't change the fact that platinum has been known to be technically incompetent, facts are facts 🤷‍♂️
 

R6Rider

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Nice pc renders, then you play in the real world it and it's 810p @ 30fps
You can pile up on me all you want, won't change the fact that platinum has been known to be technically incompetent, facts are facts 🤷‍♂️

The fact is you said something not only stupid, but incorrect. Now you have multiple people calling you out.

Deal with it.
 

Oddspeak

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That's awesome. Looking forward to better performing Platinum titles in the future.

Ohmori: “Another major point is that ease of use is a very high priority. With this new engine, prototyping – which is where we try out new ideas for action gameplay, to see how they feel – will be much faster. To give an example, programmers at PlatinumGames have more freedom to directly control game animations than they do at most game studios; that gives them a particularly important role in action game development. Our existing engine already puts assets in the hands of each artist to freely control, so it’s easy for programmers to tweak what they need to, too. This is one of PlatinumGames’ strengths as a developer, and with the new engine, we want to give artists and programmers even greater control to try things out with their creations. The idea is for the new engine to both boost efficiency and make it easier to try new challenges in how our games are presented.”

This tidbit sounds extremely promising. Having a more streamlined and efficient protyping period could allow tighter and more interesting mechanics to be implemented with less effort. Platinum's already strong combat design could get much stronger.
 
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vaibhavpisal

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I'm split on that decision.
On one hand, going with UE4 as a developer seems to be the best of both worlds. You get a huge amount of well working and advanced engine technology, on the other hand the engine's source code is freely available and you are free to change it, meaning you have full control over everything that's happening. You'd still owe Epic Games 5% of revenue, or nothing if you get a custom deal with them that involves a lot of money at once.
The "features could become available at some point, but not in time" is therefore kind of invalid as they are free to implement those features themselves, just as they are doing with their own engine.

I think the actual reasons are a) wanting to avoid the revenue share/deal with Epic and instead choosing to invest more money into engine dev themselves - it might pay off, who knows?
and b) wanting to let the knowledge about the engine grow as it the engine grows instead of trying to absorb the entire engine all at once, which would be an intimidating task. I've been doing tools development with UE4 (you could call it engine development but my systems are rather high level/not very abstract which makes it easier) for a couple years now and I'm still learning many things every time I use the engine. It's just that huge, and there are tons of areas I haven't worked with yet at all).

Ok cool. Thanks for the info. Had no idea epic charged 5% for use of their engine. That seems like a lot, probably rolling in cash.

No wonder they supported fortnite like they did. And are buying exclusives for their store.
 

Herr Edgy

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Ok cool. Thanks for the info. Had no idea epic charged 5% for use of their engine. That seems like a lot, probably rolling in cash.

No wonder they supported fortnite like they did. And are buying exclusives for their store.
I mean it's a business. Charging money for use of their commercial engine makes sense. 5% is even pretty adequate given that it saves a ton of work and you only have to pay once you start making money with it.

What do you mean by 'supported fortnite' though? They make Fortnite. I think it's safe to say that Fortnite made them more money than the engine did in the same timeframe though.
 

it_wasn't_me

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Umm, they did got a solid funding apparently.

Don't know what is their idea behind it. I thought off the shelf engines these days were good enough for anything and more advanced than what a single studio could make due to constant evolution.

Yep. Also, developing in-house engine surely takes time. Probably they started developing it before funding.
 

Silver Wattle

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I think a better idea would be for the Japanese industry to come together and build a single engine.
Obviously that won't happen though.

Hopefully platinum aim for 120hz for next gen with this engine.
 

Kumomeme

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its good move for platinum to make their own action specific engine..it surely will speed up their production and creativity..also they currently in route to be their own publisher..having a engine to be shared among internal studios will be great like other companies does

cant blame them for not using existing engine like UE4...different team had their own style,specialty and tools that they used to..having engine tailoured for them specifically surely will benefit alot...before during metal gear rising development, at first kojima want them to use fox engine, but end up let platinum develop the game with tools and engine that they are comfortable with.
 
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Fbh

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Hopefully it works out for them.
Seems like for every in-house engine that works out and does well for the dev (like RE engine, IDtech, or the Dragon engine) there's an equal amount of them that seem to mostly translate into a waste of time and money (Luminous or Panta Rhei)
 

LordKasual

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Just gonna say it

we've been watching Square try this for decades

this is a bad idea. Platinum's games have never really been lookers, so i highly doubt their own in-house engine is going to do them any favors.
 
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OmegaSupreme

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Just gonna say it

we've been watching Square try this for decades

this is a bad idea. Platinum's games have never really been lookers, so i highly doubt their own in-house engine is going to do them any favors.
I'd say Bayonetta and Vanquish were lookers for their day. All this talking about their games looking shit is really baffling to me though. Not every game is going to have a Naughty Dog budget.
 
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Kumomeme

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Just gonna say it

we've been watching Square try this for decades

this is a bad idea. Platinum's games have never really been lookers, so i highly doubt their own in-house engine is going to do them any favors.
its fine...its not like they neglected it...they did said in the interview that they didnt chase for 'visual lookers'...but more to increase their work speed and efficiency while at same time give freedom and expand what devs can do..basically they gonna offer tools that going to help out the devs on team... their game is not about visual..but gameplay..as long they had correct artstyle..it could look atleast decent or georgous..i love their game because of the gameplay...another example is fromsoft's demon soul and dark soul ..had some, ugly asset,ugly foliage but the design, tone is gorgeous and most importantly the gameplay set up new standard and even created new genre that also inspired lot of game..even their next game afterwards not so much looker compared to other big hitter in industry and yet we gonna have rpg writed with george rr martin.
 
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Enjay

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I just hope they've realized that the camera does not have to be another obstacle for the player to overcome.
 

-Arcadia-

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If they have custom goals (and considering how unique their games tend to be, that bears out) that can’t be achieved on a one-size-fits-all engine, this approach makes sense to me.

Can they go head to head with Unreal Engine 4 in terms of cutting-edge visual features? No, but I don’t think they’re looking to. Good enough will be fine. Their games are highly stylized to begin with, and are probably not targeting visual perfection.

At the end of the day, this lets them build the type of game they like to build with ease, and without compromise for their crazy gameplay ideas. That’s probably the long and short of what matters for this developer.