Ori and the Will of the Wisps: inside an ‘impossible’ Switch port

Moon Studios’ Ori and the Will of the Wisps received critical acclaim when it released earlier this year and for good reason – its tight platforming action, gorgeous environments and evocative musical score serve as the foundation for one of the best 2D action games of the generation. It’s a phenomenal follow-up to an already tremendous original game, and now, remarkably, that experience has transferred seamlessly to Nintendo Switch with few visual compromises. You can stack the game up against Xbox One X and it still looks great – and unlike many of these Switch miracle ports, it still runs at its original 60 frames per second.

Quite how developers are able to extract so much from Nintendo’s hybrid has always been a matter of mystery and wonder for us, but this time we’re able to offer an insight into how this technological achievement was delivered. I had the chance to speak extensively with Gennadiy Korol – the game’s lead engineer and studio co-founder – who shared insights into the creation of Ori and the Will of the Wisps along with the techniques used to deliver what is surely one of Switch’s greatest ports.

When first looking at Ori, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a simple 2D game – one that would run with ease on any modern platform – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is, modern graphics engines are typically designed to accelerate 3D graphics. Z-buffering, early occlusion, order independent transparency, draw call batching and more are all tools developers can use to improve performance in modern 3D games. With a 2D game like Ori, most of this isn’t applicable.

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