“The amount of work involved in making games for next-gen consoles is eight to ten times greater than what is required for the current generation of consoles,” says Masaru Ijuin, Senior Manager of Technology Management at Capcom, in an internal discussion.
It is for this reason that Capcom developed their “Panta Rhei” engine, says Ijuin—because their versatile MT Framework engine, which they have employed on every platform from Xbox 360 to Wii to 3DS, was starting to impose limitations on next-gen work.
“Upgrading MT Framework was definitely an option, and there were people in the company who were a little hesitant about developing a new engine,” admits Ijuin. “But taking the easy route often fails to bring about the best results. Improvements to MT Framework might have reduced the work time from one hour to 30 minutes. We sought to go beyond that and shorten those 30 minutes to ten.”
Unfortunately, such a drastic change comes with challenges of its own, Ijuin says. Capcom’s creators will have to “start back at square one” when learning how to develop games using Panta Rhei. This is because “Next-gen consoles have drastically redefined the way games are rendered,” according to Ijuin.
That having been said, Panta Rhei is meant to help cut down on development time, and Ijuin goes on to provide an example of how it will do so.
“One of the main features is ‘parallelization’. Normally when a game is made, the planner comes up with a plan, and the designer draws a map,” says Ijuin. “The characters are then placed on the map and the created game is played. If the game’s not fun, the map is redesigned from scratch. This is what you would call a serial process. On the other hand, Panta Rhei transforms this into a parallel process, thereby minimizing work loss through the coordination of efforts.”
Panta Rhei will also enable the company to make games appear more realistic. In particular, Capcom are interested in the concept of “global illumination,” where colours of objects will reflect off of their surroundings.
Ijuin says that, going forward, Capcom will continue to use MT Framework to develop games for current-gen consoles, handhelds and smartphone devices. Meanwhile, Panta Rhei will be employed for development of multiplatform next-gen titles. Deep Down, for instance, is being developed using Panta Rhei, even though the engine is being built alongside the creation of that game, and Panta Rhei’s designers are coordinating their development efforts with the Deep Down development team.
“This relationship will continue until we reach the development deadline for Deep Down,” says Ijuin. “I’m pretty sure Panta Rhei will be complete by the time Deep Down is ready for release.” Beyond that, he says, Capcom will continue to make improvements to the Panta Rhei engine as necessary.