GDC08: Square Enix unveils Crystal Tools engine

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Note: Image not representative of engine. Once again, Square Enix refuses to let us take photographs from their sessions. Sorry.

Square Enix's Taku Murata of the GM, Research and Development Division spoke to a completely packed audience at GDC this year. In a session entitled "The Technology of Final Fantasy," Murata explained the new technical direction of the company for the new generation of gaming platforms. "This is the first time Square Enix has made a technology platform that could be used across the entire company."

The platforms being targeted are PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC, although he noted that "some of our technologies support Wii. It's not 100% yet, so that's why I didn't put it up [on the slide] yet." He noted that in the past, Square Enix has made games specifically for one platform. However, that's not what they're interested in pursuing in the future. "In the past that approach, that worked and at the time I believe that was the right approach."

In 2004, the company wanted to a "common 3D data format" to work on. This decision occurred as hardware manufacturers started offering new details on the current generation of hardware. Square's Research and Development Division was established on September 2006, and they announced an engine, then nicknamed "White Engine." At GDC, Murata unveiled its official new name: Crystal Tools, which reached version 1.0 on September 2007. (Internally, the team is working with v.1.1 of the tools.)
The development team requested extensive use of character close-ups and stylized expressions. Visuals are of the upmost importance for Square Enix. "When you look at the screen, it should look cool, or you should feel good."

Currently, the Crystal Tools engine is being used for Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and a new MMORPG . Unfortunately, no other details could be provided for any of these three projects. When asked if the engine would be made available for other companies to use, Murata noted that there simply isn't enough documentation to properly support a public release. Perhaps in the future, Square Enix will be able to support a public release of the tools in the future.
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