Crysis 3 is looking like a hot piece of gaming totty for your PC and home consoles alike. SPOnG previewed it last last month and it seems to be a good blend of the direction action from Crysis 2 with a few more open world elements from the original Crysis. I spoke to Crytek’s Senior Creative Director Rasmus Højengaard to find out more.
SPOnG: There seems to be a bit more of a focus on stealth this time around. Would you agree with that? How are you approaching design and development here?
I wouldn’t say it’s heavily stealth focused, but I will say that we’re building the stealth element up more, so it becomes a more useful tool for you. It was kinda rare in Crysis 2
, where you could really go, ‘Wow, for this situation I need to stealth.’ You could hide a little bit, sneak up to a guy and punch him without being spotted, but it didn’t really leverage our core development philosophy - Assess, Adapt and Attack.
There wasn’t a real element of feeling like you could formulate a comprehensive attack plan. We didn’t have many options available to the player. So we’re trying to expand on that. This game seemed like the right time to do that too, because if you’re out to be a believable hunter, obviously you can’t be a big orangutan roaming through the shrubbery and making noise, right? You need to have great tools, to provide that kind of sensation of being a hunter.
SPOnG: It was really cool to know that you can shoot your bow whilst in stealth mode too. Are there any concerns with balancing, though? If you’re able to shoot while being cloaked all the time, it could make the game a bit unbalanced.
You always need counter-elements, whenever you introduce something like that. You need to counter it. And there are many ways to counter it that we’re looking into. One way is obviously via ammunition. We don’t know, at this point, exactly how things are going to work with ammo - how you’re going to pick up these arrows and how many you’re going to have. That’s one very easy way to control things.
Another thing is to make sure there are ways in which your cloak can be broken. For instance, the little de-cloakers have one countermeasure that makes sure you can’t just run arounds in stealth for the whole mission. You can obviously be in scenarios where there’s going to be a lot of potential stealth counters, which is going to make it very hard to stealth through.
But then there will be areas which will present you with huge difficulties if you don’t use stealth. If you just go in there and shoot everything, you will most likely die. It doesn’t mean you can’t try, but it’s going to be difficult. So there’s kind of two sides to this. One is the level design, and then it’s about having countermeasures so that you don’t have obvious golden paths through the game.
It’s something that we spent a lot of effort in, especially when you’re dealing with the third iteration of a game. You have a really good recipe, but you also understand that recipe really well, so when you add one ingredient we’re really aware where any problems might occur before they actually happen.
SPOnG: How challenging was it to design a game that mixes open-world elements from the first Crysis game with some of the more directed gameplay that we saw in Crysis 2?
For the specifics of it, you’d probably have to ask the level designers. But obviously, I would say in some ways it would make things a little easier, because we have a bigger dynamic range and a better toolset of gameplay mechanics, as well as a framework where we can encourage certain things through the setting and scale of things.
Thanks to that, you can’t fall into this trap of being repetitive and feeling like you have to reinvent the same thing. Like, “what if I just flip this one thing around, maybe it’ll feel different.” The environment itself will encourage a lot of diversity in how you play, as well as the variety of the environments.
In some ways, yes creating all these assets and coming up with all this stuff is more difficult, but when you have the tools ready, and you have an experienced design team, then their lives are actually made a little bit easier. So it’s kinda like two sided thing right? Some things are easier, some things are harder.
SPOnG: Were PC players concerned with the move to multi-platform for Crysis 2, and do you think there will be a similar reaction with Crysis 3?
Yes, and yes. I mean, PC players, fundamentally only want Crysis
to be on PC, right? And, you know, that’s kind of understandable when you consider how the original game - and even Crytek itself - started out. But, we’re definitely pushing this game a lot from a visual standpoint, and for sure there’s going to be visual goodies in it that you can only get if you have a super-high-end PC.
At the same time, we want to ensure if you don’t have a super-high-end PC, the game will still look amazing. On top of that, we want to make sure the experience is not different from platform to platform.
The challenges nowadays are a little bit different, to be honest. Five, maybe eight years ago, the challenges developers faced were rather broad. Now, the challenges are more specific in terms of technical features. Can you do area-based soft shadows? Ray-traced area lights? Bounce lights? All this memory-heavy stuff that build up the subtleties of photo-realism - these are the things that take up all the computational cycles.
And it’s not like we have a little switch where can you flick this sort of stuff on and off. It all takes a lot of resources from either the CPU, or the graphics memory. So it’s a different world now with different challenges than there was five years ago.
SPOnG: Let’s flip that question around to consoles. How are you pushing the graphical fidelity on PS3 and Xbox 360, given that these platforms must be hitting a performance ceiling some seven years after launch?
In theory, you can go infinitely far. It depends on how you can translate that while managing resources for each platform. A lot of the fancy DX11 stuff that we’ve done for the PC platform has been translated into console versions that looks almost as good. Or at least, we’ve introduced a fidelity that hasn’t been present in any other console game so far.
Right now, our challenge will be how much of it we will actually be able to implement and to what extent, without stealing too much memory or too many cycles. But for sure, we put a lot of push on that - we have a lot of brilliant R&D guys and they spend a lot of time figuring out how to translate these high-end features into console platforms.
SPOnG: Finally, can you tell us anything about Crytek UK’s involvement in the development of Crysis 3?
SPOnG: Are they working on something else, then?
... Well, it’s not a secret that they’re working on a Homefront
game, right? That’s been announced, so...
SPOnG: So they’re probably busy just working on that, then.
... Yeah, I’d hope so [laughs]!
SPOnG: Thank you for your time!