Square Enix Orchestrates New Portable Gaming Experience with Demons' Score THD
Square Enix is one of the game publishers that embraced the portable games space early. The maker of hit console game franchises like Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider and Hitman is developing original titles for the latest smartphones and tablets. One such unique offering is Demons’ Score THD. Takahashi Tokita, producer on the game at Square Enix, explains how NVIDIA Tegra technology helped the game maker orchestrate portable success in this exclusive interview.
Can you talk about how you've worked with NVIDIA on this game?
We used Unreal Engine 3 for development from the beginning, but we had difficulty in developing the Android version. And with that, we focused on Tegra 3-powered devices to get help from NVIDIA with whom we had already been sharing information. We collaborated with NVIDIA in advancing development as Demons’ Score THD and added effects not possible in the iOS version due to limited processing speed.
What have they provided in terms of tech that has helped with development?
They arranged development tools for Tegra 3 and the necessary version of Android OS, which were very helpful for us. Since, in Demons’ Score THD, we sometimes tried to achieve graphic quality exceeding the iOS version, even with all the high power of Tegra 3, we had to face with difficulties in development. However, thanks to the generous support from NVIDIA, especially from professionals having profound knowledge about Tegra 3 and drawing, we were able to tackle big challenges. They also helped us out with program implementation, including the establishment of a drawing system tailored to UE3, optimization of drawing and lowering of input delay.
How does your game make use of the latest Tegra technology? Without the high power of Tegra, we could not have improved graphic quality. We are also taking advantage of Open GL extensions for optimization, which are only available on Tegra. We would have been happier if Depth Buffer precision were more than 24 bits and if Tegra supported Depth Texture generation.
How does this impact the gameplay experience?
We were able to deliver the consumer-class supreme quality graphics to users of mobile devices.
What are the challenges of developing for Android devices today? How does NVIDIA help with this?
Heterogeneity of devices, of course. This is good for users, but it poses serious obstacles to game developers. Especially, Demons’ Score THD is a title for which we used Unreal Engine3 to provide gorgeous quality never achieved in smartphones and tablets. Given the growth potential of the growing tablet markets, we decided to focus on Tegra 3 powered-devices in our development. During development, lag time between touch input and display output was a serious problem. In DEMONS’ SCORE THD, we customized buffering of UE3 in order to compensate drawing delay. NVIDIA kindly customized almost all its implementations. It can be said for mobile devices in general that performing high quality shader requires expensive drawing cost. But thanks to the shader code optimization made by NVIDIA, post-effects used for consumer devices can now be implemented on Android devices.
Can you talk about the gameplay experience and how consoles have inspired you?
I have grown up in step with the evolution of digital games since the era of Invader games and TV tennis games. Beginning from simple controls up to the endless evolution of storylines and visual expressions, I experienced everything from the Big Bang to the prosperity of civilization. With the advent of role-playing games, I witnessed its growing potential as new media enabling us to experience stories as a main character. It was very impressive to me, partly because I was involved in theater. I was producing Final Fantasy IV at that time. Then, Parasite Eve, which I produced with overseas CG professionals. That made me realize that it was evolving into a medium that gave us real image experiences. After that, games rapidly underwent capacity enlargement and the shift to HD, and the high-end mobile environment market we see now was expanding. While the game environment has made notable progress during the last few decades, I believe that the core of gameplay -- the fun experienced by players -- will remain universal.
What are your thoughts on what can be done with tablet gaming today?
Now, we can enjoy experiences on tablets and smartphones which were only possible on console machines several years ago. I guess the big difference is simple UI, play time and environments. Unlike smartphones, we can share plays and images on tablets. Taking into accounts networks and communities, I think new game experiences, consolidating features of all devices including game machines and PCs, have infinite potential.
What were your goals heading into this game?
Our goal was to create a new genre anyone can play that had an amazing quality. We picked up a variety of storylines and simple UIs, instead of QTE, to explore new a genre only mobile devices can realize.
What does your title bring new to the genre?
When you look at it as a sound game, it’s the storylines and situations players can feel through gameplay. When you look at it as an action game, it’s the situations and music and UI optimization.
Can you talk about the story and the game universe?
The scene is set in present day. The whole story starts off when a college girl, Serenity, visits the Salme State Hospital & Laboratory, where her missing father, Dr. Aliester, worked. Guided by a talking teddy bear, David, she sets out to track down her father and marches into the Laboratory, which has been turned into a demon’s world where a myriad of demons are waiting for her. She has an application software Demons’ Score, sent by her father, which enables demon’s power to possess her. A wide variety of boss demons will wait for her, depending on the genre of BGM. When the heroine gets possessed by demons defeated by the power of Demon’s Score, her power, appearance, character and voice will change, along with the scores of melodies being played.
What are some of the environments players will engage in?
The gameplay time is around five minutes long per one sequence, so players can easily enjoy a high-end gaming experience in short time increments.
How is this game different from others?
Anyone can experience dramatic gameplay in an intuitive manner. The gameplay undergoes marked changes depending upon the types of demon possessions, which is also the appeal of this game
What do you think tablet gamers will really like about this title?
Tablet devices can give you gameplay with more beautiful visuals. I think tablet devices are easier to control because they have bigger screens. One of the greatest advantages of tablet devices is that you can share your playing images with your mates.
How do you see tablet gaming evolving over the next five years?
Even now, high-end gameplay of this level is possible in terms of the specs. Moving forward, the progress toward cloud environments will accelerate after the further enhancement of memories and acceleration of the telecommunication environment will allow us to share stuff of higher quality with our friends comfortably. Connecting with the TV at home and enjoying higher definition images and sounds will become more common. We are looking forward to delivering new games to players by means of simpler and more comfortable interfaces made available through the advancement in devices.