Capcom: Next gen console will have much of its technology drawn from the PC technology
Lost Planet 2 for PCs will hit the shelves on October 15th. PC Games Hardware had the honor to have some tech talk with Producer Jun Takeuchi. He tells us what took them so long to move from consoles to PC.
Most games that appear on all three platforms Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC do so simultaneously for consoles and computers. But usually this means nothing good for PC users, since their machines are way more advanced then the next-gen-consoles, that are already four years old. Capcom decided to go a different way. Lost Planet 2 has been released for consoles in May 2010. Jun Takeuchi, Lost Planet 2 Producer, explains to us what makes the PC version of his game so special and the if wait will be worth while.
1)Does Lost Planet 2 still base on the MT-framework engine or have you programmed a new technology from scratch or a new iteration of the engine for the second part? If you reuse MT-Framework do you have to modify the code or add code to tailor your inhouse technology to the requirements of the game? If you build a new engine why was it necessary to base Lost Planet on new technology?
We have used MT Framework Version 2.0 for LP2 (Lost Planet 2). Since LP2 uses many technologically advanced features such as complicated backgrounds and 4 player coop mode, we had to update MT Framework to a faster engine in order to accommodate for our needs in developing it.
2)Regarding the different release dates for the console and PC version of Lost Planet 2 -Xbox 360 and PS3 have already been released - we assume that you develop the console and PC version separately to fully take advantage of the technical possibilities of the PC as a platform has to offer? Is that correct or do you at the moment simply port the console version to the PC?
All Capcom PC titles that utilises MT Framework of course get optimised for the PC platform. For instance LP1 was compatible with DX10 and RE5 was 3D Vision compatible. This time with LP2, we have adapted to the new DX11. We are not just developing a platform but strategically nurturing the MT framework. In terms of pure sales, perhaps PC markets will not be the main priority and several analysts predict this. However, most of technological innovations happen on the PC platform and we are certain the ‘next gen' console will have much of its technology drawn from the PC technology. This is why we will not stop investing in the PC platform. We don't want to develop games in the dark, isolated, but challenging innovations must be tested in the market and only then we can measure the importance of a new element.
3)If the PC version will technically differ from the console one, what are the main differences between the two builds as far as general technical aspects as well as the visuals are concerned? What technical features/visuals can only be realized with the PC as platform, in other words what features/visuals are "PC only”?
We have prepared high resolution textures for PC which were not implemented in the console version. We have also taken full advantage of DX11 and its features - including subdivision surface, displacement mapping, softbody and interactive fluid surfaces by compute shader and such.
4)Can Players expect improved visuals in comparison to the last part of Lost Planet? Have you integrated new rendering technologies? Do you in general leverage very modern rendering techniques like HDR, Per-Pixel-Lightning, Subsurface Scattering, Wet Surfaces, Virtual Displacement Mapping, Soft-Shadows, Depth of Field or Motion Blur? If yes can you please give examples how this rendering techniques are utilized in Lost Planet 2 (don't be afraid to get too technical here)
In comparison to the prequel, we have added subsurface scattering simulation and lens simulation (Depth of Field) as additional features. Other than that, technologies such as HDR, Per-Pixel-Lightning, Soft-Shadows and Motion Blur were already used in LP1!
5)When benchmarking and testing Lost Planet as well as other Capcom titles like Resident Evil 5 or Street Fighter 4 we found out that the base technology scale quite well with multi core especially quad core CPUs. Will the MT-framework 2.0 engine be once again a base technology that is heavily optimized for multithreading? If this is the case:
•How many cores are supported and what is the expected performance gain from 2, 4 or even 6 or 8 cores?
•What different systems run in separate threads? What kind of scheduler do you use?
•Does your engine profit from SMT/Hyper threading or do you recommend turning it off for maximum performance?
As you have mentioned MT Framework is optimised for multi-core. Previously, MT Framework supported up to 8 cores but now in version 2.0 it supports up to 12 cores. In terms of scalability at peak, performance increases up to 80% with 2 cores, 150% with 4 cores and 250% with 8 cores. Threads are used for general tasks, rendering, sound and networks. Using SMT will also improve the general performance between 10 to 20%.
6)Will Lost Planet 2 offer an advanced physics simulation where physics do not affect visuals only but are used for gameplay terms like enemies getting hit by shattered bits of blown-away walls and the like?
We will be using physics simulation for bits off explosions or ragdolls and other visual effects. In terms of gameplay we use it in calculating the movements of grenades on the floor and such.
7)Do you utilize self programmed physics libraries for Lost Planet 2 or do you decide to implement middleware like Havok, ODE or Physx (Nvidia)? Do you even plan to offer support for Physics, calculated on the GPU (GPU-Physx/Direct Compute/CUDA)? What is your personal opinion about this alternative?
We use Havok as a physics simulater in Lost Planet 2. Although we don't make any use of PhysX, MT Framework 2.0 utilises an own GPU (Direct Compute) function. Although only available for DX11, surface effects of Gordiant use softbody and water ripple effects use copute shader.
8)Lost Planet 2 PC does support DirectX 11
•In what way does it allow you to optimize or simplify the rendering process in your game?
•From what DX11-feature do you think your games profits most?
•Do you use DX11-Multithreading to lighten the load on the CPU?
•Will the DX 11 visualization differ substantially from the graphics that are rendered with DX 10(.1)/DX9 hardware or will DX11 just speed up the rendering process?
•If there are special DX11 visuals, what are the graphical features that can only be rendered with shader model 5 hardware?
Considering the current GPU drivers (Nvidia, AMD) don't support deferred contexts, we have had to give up on the idea of multithreading. In terms of visuals there are smooth curbs thanks to subdivision surfacing, displacement mapping in boss battles, interactions with fluid surfaces and softbody simulation. We also make use of high quality shadow filtering using newly added instructions in shader model 5.0.
9)Playing Games on the console becomes more and more popular. On the contrary PC Gaming is getting less interesting and developers concentrate more on developing the console version than a special PC version of a game that utilizes the technical qualities of the PC to full extend - especially in the field of rendering. Will PC Gaming slowly fade out in the next years?
I can't see PC gaming ever fading out completely - we need to remind ourselves the fact vinyl records are still in production to-day. How active it will remain, we don't know. Not many people a few years ago would have guessed that consoles would grow to have such long life span, after all. So it is possible, that in the future, PCs will once again be in the spotlight as the primary gaming platform not only from visual advantages it holds but pricing, convenience and other elements. Having said that, it could well go the other way and like you say, and fade out eventually to a lesser presence.
The factor making the predictions so difficult is the fact PCs don't have set use. Over here in Japan iPhone and iPad are revered as the ‘magic devices' but we well know the product philosophy stems from the original Macintosh, Newton and the likes. The future seems so uncertain, even when knowing everything from the past. I think it would have been very difficult for those who were familiar with Newton to even imagine the success of iPad today.
The so far answer may have not really answered the question properly - but this is the development philosophy of Capcom. PC is a gaming console for some and a business device for others - how could we bundle this up as one platform? We couldn't - PC is in fact very hard to define when it comes to the use of it.
Us game developers provide games and our aim is not to promote the distribution of hardware. I believe in the future, be it 5 or 10years, that we will be able to provide our products in many more different ways than we can this moment. What we must be prepared for therefore, is to have ourselves familiarised with the latest devices so we are not caught off guard. Simply put, the fate of a platform is not so important for us.
The core quality of a product does not depend on the packaging, so to say.
That's how Capcom think.