Want a taste of what 'next-gen' graphics are going to look like? Well, the clever folks over at Square Enix's Luminous Productions studio (the wizards wot made Final Fantasy XV) have just released a brand new tech demo called 'Back Stage' doing just that. Made in collaboration with Nvidia, this real-time ray tracing demo isn't related to any particular game per se (or at least none that we know of), but its depiction of a woman having a chill moment doing her make-up in the mirror sure is a technical feast for the old eyeballs. Here's the demo in full:
Running on the studio's own Luminous Engine (the same one wot powered FFXV as well) and a single RTX 2080 Ti graphics card, according to Nvidia, Back Stage uses a more advanced form of the path tracing tech used in both Quake II RTX and Minecraft.
Path tracing, in case you've forgotten, is sort of like an even fancier version of ray tracing, using a single computing algorithm to render everything from shadows and reflections to ambient occlusion and diffuse global illumination lighting rather than doing it all individually. Nvidia say path tracing is also going to be a big part of Luminous' engine going forward, too, which should hopefully mean we might see this kind of tech make its way into the next Final Fantasy game.
"Back Stage is a showcase demo of our work to answer the question, 'How can you use ray tracing in a next generation game?'" Luminous' new studio head Takeshi Aramaki says. "GeForce RTX graphics cards have power beyond our imagination, and with Nvidia's technology even real-time path tracing has become a reality. Together with Luminous Engine and RTX technology, we have taken one more step forward towards the kind of beautiful and realistic game that we strive to create."
Or maybe it won't be used for the next Final Fantasy game at all. After all, my main takeaway from this demo is that it's surprisingly down to earth compared to the other tech demos Square Enix have done in the past - anyone remember Witch - Chapter 0 Cry or Agni's Philosophy? Indeed, the music alone just makes me think this would be perfect for a new Life is Strange game (which Dontnod made, of course, but Square Enix published).
In fact, going back to watch that Agni's Philosophy demo again (which left me equally floored and desperate for the new Final Fantasy when it was originally shown off back in the heady days of 2012) reveals a cameo by FFXV's old King Regis himself. Or at least a bloke that looks exceptionally like Noctis' dad, anyway. In Back Stage, the only person we actually see is the main make-up lady, and personally she doesn't really strike me as a future Final Fantasy character.
Still, whatever Luminous ends up using it for, the tech itself sure is purrrrdy. I mean, it loses a couple of realism points simply because no one in their right mind would ever do their make-up in such a dark room, but her eyes are just lovely. No uncanny valley here, no sir. And those little tiny facial expressions! And that lipstick! Ooofff... I think I need to go and lie down for a bit.