Crysis 3 Interview – Crytek Talk The End of an Era and a Future Crysis
Written Saturday, February 09, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
From causing PC rigs to almost explode into huge balls of flame to a sequel that certain fans were rather disappointed with, the Crysis series has been through a lot in a relatively short space of time. Soon, the third game will be let loose from the confines of Crytek, a studio that currently employs more than 900 staff at various studios around the world.
It's fair to say that Crytek has grown and developed substantially in recent years, with Crysis as its lynchpin franchise, and the apparently “next-gen ready” CryEngine 3 the jewel in the developer's crown.
With Crysis 3's launch looming and the next-generation of consoles just around the corner, we managed to have some time with the Founder, CEO and President of Crytek, Cevat Yerli and Creative Director, Rasmus Højengaard to chat about those very subjects.
With this being the third game in the series, were there many challenges that you faced in making it?
Rasmus Højengaard: Well, one thing was wrapping up a trilogy. That's always a tough one, because that's going to be – at least for this instalment of Crysis – it's going to be the last thing people will remember, so it needs to make a lasting impression. But not only that. It also needs to keep people still interested in the game, and that goes for gameplay and how that has evolved throughout the franchise, and it also goes for the setting, characters, story and those kind of things. You need to be somewhat respectful of the fact that you're doing the last one in the trilogy and it's very important to really think about what would be cool if you were going to buy this game. What would you like to be left with that you'd really like. Just as you would if it was the last in a movie franchise.
Cervat Yerli: The other thing that was a challenge was to build upon Crysis 2 from a feedback perspective, because there were some concerns about Crysis 2 moving away from Crysis 1 and it's DNA has changed and things like that, but that's normal. Crysis 2 is a sequel, its DNA is supposed to evolve, but that evolution probably didn't go in the direction that gamers would have liked it to. With Crysis 3 we wanted to effectively redirect it back to what it was, but merge it with the things we learned from Crysis 2 and mitigate the problems that we had to truly make the best Crysis we possibly could having learnt from Crysis 1 and Crysis 2. And I feel like it's more of a sequel to Crysis 1 from a gameplay perspective and from a pushing for impressiveness perspective. As a story it obviously continues Crysis 2.
Was part of going back to the spirit of the first Crysis revisiting the jungle environments and the heavy foliage that you've now got under the New York Nanodomes in Crysis 3?
CY: Pretty much, yeah. I mean, we created a whole bunch of excuses for that, right? We said we've got to go back and do something like Crysis 1, so how do we do that? Well, we need much more jungle, but we don't want to go back to the island, we want to continue the story. We needed to create fiction around why there's jungle here, so we invented the Nanodomes that are over Manhattan and actually in several places around the world to contaminate and contain the alien infection and infestation, although you'll learn that the true reasons are different as you play the game. It gives us a shell to work with, and reasoning for the gameplay, story and whatnot.
RH: Regarding the Nanodomes, we actually wanted to re-establish CELL as a very important antagonist as well, and they're playing a much clearer role this time around. And what is more identifiable for demonstrating how much power they have than having a city covered by a high-tech shell?
CY: Yeah, and they have a voice, they have a story and they're effectively speaking throughout the game at you.
RH: You have two equally important antagonists in this game. It's also a little bit representative of how humans behave towards one another, right? Humans tend to be very antagonistic towards other humans, unfortunately, so not only do you have to defend the entire human race and Earth as you know it from the Ceph invasion, but you also have to make sure the humans don't screw it up for themselves too. Because CELL doesn't really realise what they're dealing with, although they have the perception that they do, but you as Prophet know that they're not right about it. It's very hard for Prophet having had those visions to convince people of what's coming, as they might think you're a bit crazy. He just takes charge of the situation and takes it upon himself to fix it. That's cool because it ties in really well with the whole concept of being a hunter, and not only are you hunting in a literal way per se with your bow and all this stuff, but you're also hunting that vision to ensure that it doesn't come to fulfilment, because it's pretty dire. It all connects really well and has a nice context.
Crysis 3 represents the closing of a trilogy, but we remember something being said about the next Crysis and that it could possibly fit into any genre, rather than being a first-person shooter in the future...
CY: What I wanted to say, and again this is what happens when you're just brief about something, it gets taken out of context. The basic idea is that the next Crysis, I said probably won't even be called Crysis 4, it could be anything. You'd still feel the roots of Crysis, but it could be a whole different depiction of Crysis, it could even be an entire re-imagination of Crysis, a reboot of what Crysis is about. We haven't really decided this yet, and so I just want to say effectively we are interested to continue Crysis, but it's not going to be continuing the story of Prophet and the story of what we've learned in Crysis 1 and Crysis 3.
RH: The world is our oyster, essentially.
Are there any particular genres that you're interested in experimenting with for future Crysis titles then?
CY: There has been successful trends and I think there are new emerging trends, so we're observing them. And we as gamers love certain games as well, like I personally like for example two different opposing types of game, like the slower action RPG style open-world games, then you have the more linear, co-ordinated, scripted cinematic experiences, and Crysis has always been positioned as this open sandbox. But yet from a fiction perspective it's still choreographed so that the story is still cinematic but the gameplay is up to you. We have our DNA there and we've done that with Crysis, so we're thinking, should we shift the DNA? Not in the left direction, but rather more in the right direction, which is more open, more choices and more consequences.
Well, you have a pretty powerful game engine in the CryEngine. Does that require adaptation for the next-generation of consoles?
CY: The CryEngine is kind of next-gen ready and we've been advertising it as next-gen ready since probably 2010, or maybe even before that. We anticipated that from predictions, because if you forecast through consumer cost pricing for that power - per gigaflops so to say - if you just do the maths there, it kinds of makes sense that whatever the consumer electronics will be for the consoles, it will be about as powerful as the PC gaming hardware out there, which is like 2000-3000 dollar rigs. By that principal we anticipated that we are already next-gen and the more information we get, the more it looks like we really have been next-gen since then. CryEngine has been equipped very well, and I could tell you some really nice stories about it now, but I'd be in breach of several NDAs (non-disclosure agreements)!
Do you foresee a future for Crysis on next-generation platforms then or are you more interested in fostering new IP?
CY: Perhaps. We have Crysis as our sci-fi IP, so you can probably bet money on it that we're going to continue in one form or another the sci-fi IP, right? But as a company, we have about 900 people right now, so there's obviously more games beyond Crysis, so we are always interested in new IP and new directions. Crysis will definitely have a future, but how it is and when it is etc, we just can't say. Is it going to be a next-gen title or not, is it going to be online or not, is it going to be open or not, is it going to be paused for five years and then come back? We just don't know yet.
With Crysis 2 being relatively recent, has it been difficult to do something different with Crysis 3?
CY: Actually, I think it was a really good exercise for the team to focus really creatively as well as on the technology. So the technology has improved and because we're at the limits of the current generation and the PC was only DX11 - which we had already done with Crysis 2, so we just improved that - there wasn't really a need for another truly cycle. We we're just kind of spearheading the visuals and graphics in real-time anyway, so improving that was a no-brainer and so we did that. But the team had time to focus on other more creative matters, such as the lush urban rainforest concept, which was a big challenge to create for all platforms. On PC, yes it's easy. If you want to make really big, open, expansive environments filled with millions of grass blades, yes you can do that. On consoles? No, so it's a big challenge. A lot of our efforts went into making the game still happen on consoles without compromising the PC version.
RH: There's also a lot to look at in terms of innovation and how that's perceived in games compared to films and other art forms. Innovation in games very often seems to be rooted in “is there a new way to shoot your gun or a new way to decapitate someone.” It's very feature-orientated, whereas as a whole the experience can be completely different even if we hadn't innovated at all. Just the context of the story and the feel of what you're doing could make the game feel like a massive innovation. This game has moved a lot on all levels actually. There are new features, there's a completely new environment, there's the wrap-up of a trilogy and there is a different way to convey the storytelling in the game, that's different to both of the previous two instalments and Crysis: Warhead. It's just a pet peeve of mine. Innovation in games is not only about what new features there are. There's like a whole other experience.
CY: And it is fair to say that Crysis 3 is the most creative Crysis we've made. It is technically advancing as well, but the creative focus is much heavier this time around than it was in Crysis 1 or 2.
What would you say to someone unconvinced that Crysis 3 has moved on? What would be your convincing argument to those people?
CY: They should go and play the multiplayer beta right now (laughs). That'll help in convincing them. In fact, I think the beta is going to be a convincing factor in my opinion. It's really strong and I believe it's differentiating Crysis 3 from all the other multiplayer games out there. The Hunter Mode for me is just a big standout game-type. It's so fun, very fast and just very different, and I think that's a key hook. From a visual fidelity and gameplay perspective, if you played Crysis 1, but didn't like Crysis 2 too much, you're going to be very happy with Crysis 3. And Crysis 2 players will be very happy as well!
RH: Also, if people have questions, like “what's the deal with this Prophet guy in this Nanosuit and all that?” they can find answers in this game as well that will wrap that all up really nicely.
Crysis 3 is out on February 19th in North America and February 22nd in Europe.