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How Unreal Engine Helped Turn PES Into eFootball

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The PES series has been transformed into eFootball, but the unexpected name change is probably the least dramatic part of Konami’s massive switch for the franchise. Even as it goes free-to-play, ditches yearly releases, and even alters its controls, perhaps the most fundamental change in eFootball is its new engine, built with Unreal for the first time.

Although Konami teased it last year, the engine switch is more complex than we thought at first. Although built using the foundation of Unreal Engine 4, the eFootball team spent its year off not just designing a game, but an entirely new in-house football engine. It’s a move befitting of turning your annual game into a live platform that needs to grow more organically – but why make such a huge shift when the team is likely already familiar with the old tools? What does an Unreal base offer that FOX couldn’t?

“I would say that there are more options for approaches, and with so many people using Unreal Engine, we can refer to a lot of knowledge,” says series producer Seitaro Kimura. “At Unreal Fest, I was able to hear about development cases of titles that have been adopted, so I was able to get more practical information from a wider network of developers.”

That ability to learn from others has seemingly been key for the eFootball team. Using an engine built only for one company’s games (as PES has done with Konami’s FOX Engine previously) means building new tools only as you can spare the manpower to get to them – with Unreal already so fully featured, and open to so many people, Kimura says his team reduced “waste” while making what it needed.

All of that work has seemingly been to create a best-of-both-worlds situation – using Unreal as a base allows the team to work with one of the most popular, and more importantly well-supported, game engines in the world, but customising it allows Konami to control the creation and refinement of eFootball more closely, with purpose-built tools.

It’s that dual approach that’s helped along Konami’s wildly ambitious plan to release a version of eFootball across new-gen consoles, last-gen consoles, PC, and mobile – and to eventually allow cross-play across every version. “That’s why we chose Unreal Engine,” Kimura says. “Unreal Engine’s development speed is one of the fastest among game engines, and its scalability includes both high-end and low-end – perfect for mobile and next-gen platforms.”

eFootball will be built for consoles first, and use that scalability to tailor it to other devices, something Kimura assures us will mean it will look and play like a new-generation game on PS5 and Xbox Series X, but still work fluidly with mobile players.

eFootball Images

The engine shift has been about more than making a multi-platform game, though. Kimura tells us that the team has used Unreal’s Blueprint visual scripting tool to speed up early development and fix performance issues more quickly – which will presumably help the team to make speedy changes to the live service project. It’s also using Unreal Motion Graphics to create new menus (long a bugbear of PES players) and hopefully improve players’ flow through menus and into the game itself.

And if you’re worrying about the game itself, Kimura tells us this is where the custom-built football engine comes into play. While he won’t outright say that it still feels like the FOX Engine PES games fans are familiar with, he makes very clear that the gameplay itself is being made using Konami’s custom tools, not Unreal’s standard ones. “The football engine is evolving every year,” he says, “and we can feel the changes every year.”

Of course, it’s impossible to assess the results of all this work without playing the game itself – and there’s no word yet on a demo ahead of launch (or if the slimmed-down experience at launch is the demo, in a sense) – but it will be fascinating to see how much of a part the new engine plays in making this feel like something new, rather than simply improved.

Joe Skrebels is IGN’s Executive Editor of News. Follow him on Twitter. Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to [email protected].

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