Techland’s Pawel Rohleder on Experimenting with Ray Tracing and NVIDIA DLSS in Dying Light 2, DX12 Implementation & More
Last month in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Reboot Develop Blue 2019 once again cemented itself as one of the most important conferences for game developers in the world. Featuring amazing talks from a large variety of incredible speakers, industry experts showed off new technologies and shared with the world their nuanced uses of video game AI, APIs, ray tracing and much more.
While at the conference I sat down to speak with Pawel Rohleder, CTO (Chief Technical Officer) from Polish developer Techland, who is currently hard at work on Dying Light 2. We spoke about that, of course, as well as the updated game engine, Google Stadia, Epic Games Store, Nintendo Switch support and more.
Let's talk about Dying Light 2. I had a chat with Chris Avellone this morning who is, of course, working on the game, and he's as excited as we are to see the final product. What can you tell me about Dying Light 2 right now?
Pawel Rohleder: Dying Light 2 is going to have a big game. So after Dying Light was released, we made a lot of changes to our technology. I counted 16 new systems, in addition to introducing streaming, introducing new content generation tools, a new animation system, UI system, new quest system with choices and consequences. So a lot of stuff happened from the tech side for those two years. Plus, the company after 25 years decided to work on multiple projects. So we have two AAA pipelines sharing the same tech base, working on those games simultaneously. And one of those games is Dying Light 2.
So how has the Chrome Engine progressed since Dying Light?
PR: It's the C Engine now, so we rebranded. We've been developing the engine for 19 years, and it's the next evolution. This is the biggest evolution from Dying Light, right? So we introduced streaming, for example, which enables us to create really huge and detailed worlds, and render a very detailed environment around the player. This is something that we're fighting for, photorealism and high technical quality. This is our top priority right now.
Is mod support going to be included in Dying Light 2?
PR: I think at this point it's too early to really think about that. But yes, we are supporting our players and our content creators, like previous titles. So this is definitely something to consider for sure.
From what I understand by my one was Direct X 11. Right? Are we moving on to Direct X 12 or Vulkan?
PR: Yeah, we already have Direct X 12 implementation, which is parallel with Direct X 11, which is quite mature and pretty well optimized. But right now we can see some of the differences between those. So there are some places where Direct X 12 is better, and faster, and are some places that we still need to work on the specific cases and solve those issues. But in general, the architecture of the renderer is less tailored for Direct X 12 implementation so we want to do things properly. And I really believe it will be a better experience in the end.
Do you feel these APIs are going to give you more performance gains moving forward?
PR: Yeah, this is the reason to switch to those, we can use the hardware through this platform like Vulkan or Direct X more efficiently. And this is the way to utilize the hardware in a better way. Just to make the game richer or working faster.
This is going to be enhanced for Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. Can we expect any major differences between the versions of base consoles and upgraded consoles?
PR: It's a very interesting topic. Because right now, there's a huge gap in between the consoles, the current version consoles, and the PCs is like five or six years. And this still every half a year, you have a new generation of graphics boards. And so in general, we want to support the wide variety of systems, including high-end PCs with RTX implementations. On the other hand, we're making the games for the current version as well. Xbox One X and PS4 Pro is somewhere in the middle. So it will be for sure enhanced in some way, but the very high-end PCs will be even more enhanced, right. So we want to give the same experience, but maybe a slightly better visual experience if someone has the hardware with better capabilities, right. And this is also one of the biggest challenges that we're struggling with right now, how to create the game, which looks okay, on this, like a variety of devices. And also thinking about future platforms.
You mentioned ray tracing, have you been experimenting with ray tracing in Dying Light 2?
PR: Yeah, right now we're conducting the research on that. So we're not entirely sure of whether it will be in the final game or not, because we're afraid of performance a little bit. So this is the huge step forward. And this is something we're really looking into because of the photorealism. And the lighting is a major component of the photorealism. But still, we're experimenting right now with some parts of the game that ray tracing can be used for global illumination.
Have you been looking into Nvidia's deep learning supersampling (DLSS)?
PR: Yes, we have also been doing some research in that area. We even did some preliminary implementation of that. And right now testing and looking at how the quality is increasing. Is it really increasing? So this is also something that we are looking into.
Of course, you said you wanted to be scalable and spot as many platforms possible. What does that mean for the Nintendo Switch?
PR: The engine does not support Nintendo Switch. We are focusing on AAA content. But I can tell you that we might have a surprise for the Nintendo Switch later this year. I can't tell you more.
What do you think currently about competition in the gaming industry? Like the Epic Games Store and Google Stadia? Do you feel like these are good things going forward or are there concerns you have?
PR: Techland is always looking into new technology. So we're actually at looking what's happening in the industry. And for sure, we're evaluating all the technologies and different ways of distributing the game. But at this particular moment, we're focused on the production of Dying Light 2 this is our primary focus for now. So we're just like, basically looking at what's going on. We're curious about business models that there will be because Google Stadia seems to be some kind of a Netflix or Spotify for games, we'll see. So the business model might be changed. But still, from the tech perspective, and from the developer's perspective, we just need to make a great game. Whatever the platform will be, we just need to take care of the scalability because we want to access as many players as possible. That's why thinking about different platforms, different shops, and different ways to get to the players, that's really something that we need to be aware of all the time. But still, you know, we cannot put our hands on everything. So we're just making the game right now. And we're doing some research and talking to partners, about what the best way is to reach as many players as possible.
Dying Light was incredibly well received, I can only assume that Dying Light 2 is going to be bigger and better than ever. Are you expecting a better reception?
PR: Even now, we're pretty surprised. But after four years that the game was released, in 2015.
I can't believe it's been that long.
PR: Yep, over four years, and still we have a couple of hundred thousand players playing the game every day. We were like top two or top three on Steam last year? So yeah, it's a great success. And we're really surprised. That's why we decided to restore the software for the games and provide new content for players because they're just playing the game. And that's awesome. We want to give them some more fun, right?
Is there anything else you feel that we should know?
PR: You can just be sure that we're having all our hands to really focus on finishing Dying Light 2 and making a great game. So we're aiming higher than Dying Light so we really expect to have a big hit. Yeah, there's a lot of work to be done, but we still really believe this will be a great year because we know what the game is all about. We just need to make it.
Thank you for your time.
Pawel was busy during the conference, but gracious enough to offer us the time for a lighthearted interview despite his schedule. We'll have a separate Dying Light 2 interview up soon centered on the game's story and RPG systems, so stay tuned for that.