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Yoichi Wada Discusses Square Enix's Next Generation Engine Luminous

Company not planning on licensing engine for external use.


Famitsu.com has delivered its promised interview with Yoichi Wada. The Square Enix CEO discussed the company's new Luminous Studio technology.

Famitsu began its conversation with Wada by asking about the thinking behind Luminous Studio's development. A game company must offer its developers a development environment, replied Wada, just like Da Vinci had a studio. When considering a game engine, there are two approaches -- put everything together in one engine for use across multiple games, or have a new engine for each game. Luminous Studio attempts to fall right in between these two approaches.

Square Enix's current engines include Crystal Dynamics' Crystal Engine, which is used in Tomb Raider, and IO Interactive's Glacier 2, which is used in Hitman Absolution. While these engines aren't limited to just one particular type of game, they specialized. Crystal Engine is more appropriate for adventure and action games with various actions and a maps created from multiple parts. Glacier 2 is better for shooters with high degrees of freedom.

For Square Enix's Tokyo Studio, you have games like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. There aren't engines that are appropriate for these types of games, which is why the teams developed and reformed engines with each game. This is why Square Enix gave the go on Luminous Studio's creation, because they want something that's more general purpose but can still meet specific game characteristics. Their goal was something that can cover RPGs and more action oriented RPGs, with a target of Direct X 11 level.

(Note: Wada did not mention Square Enix's Crystal Tools/White Engine in the interview.)

Realtime image from the Luminous tech demo that Square Enix debuted yesterday.

The demo Square Enix showed yesterday to demonstrate Luminous was titled "Agni's Philosophy Final Fantasy Realtime Tech Demo." Why did they put FF in the title? It's because they want to show that Luminous Studio is an engine that can make a Final Fantasy type of game.

Famitsu asked if this means Luminous will be used to develop Square Enix brand RPGs and action RPGs. "We aren't thinking about selling the engine externally, so that's about right," replied Wada. "There's no mistake that Luminous Studio is an engine made with the view of producing RPGs like the past FF games. But not just that -- it has a broad reach, from games with high action to games without high action." Wada later added that when contracting external studios for development work, they will offer them the use of Luminous Studio.

Famitsu also asked if this means Luminous Studio will be used to make a next generation Final Fantasy, and also if players can look forward to completely new IPs from the engine. Wada didn't respond to the Final Fantasy question, but did say that Square Enix does plan on trying out new IPs. Wada wants current staff to try making new IPs, and new staff coming from the outside to also try out new IPs on Luminous Studio.

Square Enix originally demonstrated the engine last year with parking garage comparison pics like this.

Wada noted that Luminous Studio stands apart from most engines, except for perhaps Unity Engine, in that it's being developed specifically as an engine, and not attached to or built along side a particular game. In contrast, Source Engine and Unreal Engine are developed alongside a game, he noted.

At present, there are no games using Luminous Studio as an engine. Wada personally would like to see internal use of the engine by the end of the year or early next year.

The end of Famitsu's conversation with Wada turned into a discussion about the place of Japan in the worldwide games market.

The high end games market is currently centered on Europe and North America, said Wada. Whether this is good or bad is besides the point, but the Japanese market is often compared to the Galapagos Islands due to its separation from the rest of the world. Even within this state, Wada wants Square Enix to make games that can be received well both in Japan and abroad. He wants his creators to aim for the world. Japan's creators cannot give up on the world without trying. The announcement of Luminous Studio is a message to Japan's creators: it's okay to take the challenge.

Luminous Studio targets high end and core gamers. Wada hopes that the availability of Luminous Studio will allow creators within the Square Enix group greater selection choice in their use of engine, in turn allowing for a variety of games to be created in the future. Among these, he hopes to invest in what he refers to as "games with a backbone," the kind of game that he wants to play. These types of games are risky, but if you don't invest in them, you won't be able to take on the world.

Asked for a closing message to Japanese game fans, Wada said, "What I fear is that people will stop anticipating things from Japanese game companies. We want Japanese game players to have greater expectations of Japanese game companies. We'll devote our full power to making this happen."

You can read all bout Luminous Studio here.

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