Square Enix and Nvidia unleash path-traced lighting tech demo for next-gen games

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Nvidia and Square Enix’s Luminous Productions have teamed up to present ‘Back Stage’, a new real-time tech demo showing off fill path-traced ray traced. It’s been created using the Luminous Engine and the footage is powered by a single Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card.

The tech demo is actually fairly unique in that it uses path tracing, an even more advanced form of ray tracing than we see in titles such as Control and Metro Exodus. Path tracing is being used with considerable success in Quake II RTX and Minecraft, although both of these games are fairly basic looking to begin with.

This newest Back Stage demo is something else entirely, utilising realistic imagery together with path tracing, shadows, reflections, ambient occlusion, and diffuse global illumination RTX lighting. 

“Back Stage is a showcase demo of our work to answer the question, “How can you use ray tracing in a next generation game?” 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,” writes Takeshi Aramaki, studio head of Luminous Productions.

Now, having spent around a decade crafting the Luminous Engine, you’d think Square Enix would be only too keen to use its new toy with everything it develops. That’s not been the case though. Revealed in 2011, the luminous Engine 1.0 was used used for Final Fantasy XIV and Luminous Studio 1.5 was used for Final Fantasy XV.

Final Fantasy VII Remake, Kingdom Hearts 3, and Dragon Quest XI have all seen Square Enix revert to Unreal Engine 4, despite the obvious capabilities of Luminous. This tells us it’s probably a very tricky engine to use. 

The last time we had Square Enix show us a tech demo, it was the Witch Chapter 0 [cry] (Square Enix’s naming schemes get sillier by the day) showcase, a DirectX 12 tech demo which was eventually refined for Final Fantasy XV. It’s not the greatest game ever but it sure does look nice. The very existence of this Back Stage video demonstrates Square Enix is still developing it, presumably preparing for the next Final Fantasy (FFXVI).