Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Monster Hunter Rise Director talks about RE Engine On Switch-features

© Capcom

Monster Hunter Rise has been launched for several months, with amazing sales, and it also demonstrated the capabilities of the Switch hardware. One of the only two games on the system that use RE ENGINE-the other is Ghosts’n Goblins Resurrection-which takes the series to the next level on Nintendo hardware, while successfully retaining the visual appearance and charm of the previous generation of works .

However, the technical aspects of the title are interesting. Monster Hunter: World It always seems to be beyond the capabilities of the Nintendo hybrid system, but many methods of updating the title have entered Rise. The days of segmented maps with lots of loading screens are replaced by seamless open areas, and new gameplay allows players to quickly and even vertically traverse the environment. Although the visual styles of Rise and World are different, they have much more in common than many people might realize.

This has recently been strengthened on us-we have a good opportunity to ask them questions Ichinose Yasunori, The director of “Monster Hunter: Rise”. The focus of this interview is the technical development of the game, and of course the realization of Capcom’s flagship RE ENGINE.

Hub town© Capcom / Nintendo Life

Nintendo Life: What are the main technical reasons for using the RE engine for Monster Hunter Rise on Nintendo Switch?

Ichino Yasunorielectronic: The main technical reason is that we can use RE ENGINE’s powerful C# scripting system, not to mention RE ENGINE’s latest graphics functions (if the hardware specifications allow it). In MT FRAMEWORK, all game logic is implemented in C++, so the construction time is a problem; in RE ENGINE, the game logic is implemented in C#, so the construction time can be greatly reduced (about 10 seconds, which is in C++ It needs to be 100 times longer). This allows rapid iteration and trial and error, making the game more interesting. It is not directly visible, but it is a very important part of development, and I think it indirectly contributes to the fun of the game.

Together with Ghosts n’Goblins Resurrection, this is a rare instance of using the engine on Nintendo’s hardware. To what extent has the core RE engine team adjusted the tools to adapt to the Switch?

The initial performance was quite severe, and major optimizations were necessary.

RE ENGINE has considered multiple platforms from the beginning, so simple porting itself is not difficult. However, it is quite difficult to develop a translator for shader programs using core graphics elements (which involve Nintendo Switch’s slightly unique graphics API, NVN).

In RE ENGINE, shader programs are written in HLSL (High Level Shader Language), but we must implement a new converter to convert them to GLSL (OpenGL Shader Language). In this translator, we implemented some tricks to output the best code when converting from HLSL to GLSL to achieve GPU performance. We also specifically added support for Nintendo Switch GPU. For example, we added support for ASTC (Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression), a texture compression format that is very useful in reducing memory and data size.

Did the early testing of the RE engine and the planned visual effects of Rise return good results, or did major optimizations be required to achieve the performance you want?

The initial performance was quite severe, and major optimizations were necessary. First, we switch the graphics pipeline from a delay-based graphics pipeline to a forwarding-based graphics pipeline. In the past, RE ENGINE used a graphics pipeline based on deferred rendering. However, because Nintendo Switch requires memory bandwidth, we built a new forward rendering graphics pipeline for Monster Hunter Rise. Then we made a lot of optimizations one by one, from big to small.

Examples of these optimizations include: baking/applying shadows, applying GPU occlusion culling, and replacing DOF (depth of field) with new lightweight alternatives. Many other miscellaneous optimizations have also been made, including: replacing overly strict calculations with simplified calculations, replacing computer shader implementations with pixel shader implementations, and adding culling processes. We also adjusted the light’s influence area together with the artist, because in areas with too much light, the light source calculation process becomes very onerous.

Just like the previous Monster Hunter World, Rise uses a larger, seamless environment-what is the biggest benefit of this approach?

In Monster Hunter Rise, you can now perform highly flexible actions, such as walking through walls and using Wirebug. You can also ride fast while riding the famous new partner role of Palamute, which works very well with the seamless environment.

Although it is a new engine, the visual design does have similarities with the previous Wii, 3DS and Wii U entries. Can you explain how you improved this look, despite the higher resolution and level of detail?

In order to adapt the new monsters of Monster Hunter Rise to the same field as the monsters of the past games with completely different model specifications, we carefully performed the texture expression, the number of polygons and the number of joints after repeated verification with the sports team. The expression of hair is the hardest part. , But it was solved when the Monster Hunter: World colorizer could be transplanted.

Can you talk about the large amount of animation work in this project? For example, how much improvement does this represent compared to previous 3DS games?

Due to the specifications of the Nintendo Switch, it is easiest to use data from the 3DS era, but since the recent release of Monster Hunter: World, it is important to make Monster Hunter Rise as modern as possible.

Due to the specifications of the Nintendo Switch, it is easiest to use data from the 3DS era, but since the recent release of Monster Hunter: World, it is important to make Monster Hunter Rise as modern as possible. From the processing point of view, the fewer joints, the better, the movement is soft, and the degree of freedom of expression is high. This is an element that we don’t want to cut, so I worked closely with programmers and consulted them. The characters in “Monster Hunter: World” remain as they are as possible, while some new characters were created through consultation with the model team, and we didn’t cut the joints until the last minute. In terms of facial animation, the large number of joints in Monster Hunter: World is an impossible number, so we worked hard to finalize the number of this game, and then performed facial treatments.

As for the animation work, we first make sure that the data of “Monster Hunter: World” is portable. Modifying and reducing chains and auxiliary joints is a task that requires more work by modelers and programmers. In addition to the attacks and actions of “Monster Hunter: World”, “Monster Hunter: Rise” has also added the “Dragon Ride” function, so the number of actions we need to create has increased significantly. It takes a long time to create attacks, actions, and techniques, and since the “Dragon Ride” action has also been added, the enemy animation team is saddened by the amount of material, creation time, and post-merger inspection.

On the player side, we added a lot of aerial actions, including Wirebug actions and additional actions using walls, so in addition to internal capture, we also got help from Katsugekiza (action mo-cap team) to improve the quality. For NPCs, we focus on the location and relevance of each NPC in the game. We hope you will like these little things that change, such as the way the NPC greets you when you come to their village, or the way the NPC changes their location when you move from one area to another.

In terms of the steps that make the game look and perform so well, what graphics skills and adjustments are you most proud of (such as lowering the frame rate of distant creatures, resolution adjustments)?

Texture streaming is not performed during the game, but in cutscenes, the NPC texture is only streamed and loaded in the high-resolution mipmap part to make it have a higher resolution. This allows us to reduce memory usage during the game while making the edited scene look better. The graphics in Monster Hunter Rise incorporate many beautiful tricks and adjustments, and we are equally proud of them.

Small objects (props) in the background will be erased when they are far away, but if they suddenly disappear, they will be highlighted. Therefore, we use dithering mode to erase them gradually so that they don’t stand out. We also manually adjusted the distance to erase the highlighted individual items. Since there is no G-Buffer in forward rendering, the techniques often used in deferred rendering (SSAO and SSR) cannot be used as they are, but implemented in a creative way. SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion) is implemented using a method that uses the “normal” recovered from the depth value of the depth buffer to calculate it. Special support for SSR (Screen Space Reflection) by adding a dedicated drawing path only for the water surface. The reflection of the water surface is the part we work hard, even if it slightly increases the processing load, because we want it to look real and beautiful. In addition, Fog also includes a simple atmospheric scattering calculation. Since the processing load is small, I think this helps to make the background light performance look more gorgeous.

I am very happy that we were able to create something that people think is impressive because it runs at this quality on Nintendo Switch.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice at the beginning of the development of “Monster Hunter: Rise”, what would it be?

I think we should create an environment for automatic performance measurement earlier. Monster Hunter has various combinations of levels, monsters, weapon types, etc., so we don’t have an automatic measurement environment that covers all these modes. This makes it a bit difficult to check the optimization results.

What is your overall feeling after finishing “Monster Hunter” in the RE engine of Nintendo Switch?

Optimization is very difficult, but it is also full of challenges and rewards. Thanks to the basic design, tools and development methods of RE ENGINE, we are able to challenge optimization until the last minute. Installing a large RE engine into a small Nintendo Switch is a challenge, but I am very happy that we were able to create something that people think is impressive because it runs at this quality on the Nintendo Switch.

We would like to thank Capcom and Yasunori Ichinose for their time.