Crysis is arguably the franchise that brought German developer Crytek mainstream popularity and success. But the tech-intensive FPS proved too much for console hardware - so a sequel was born that offered a change in design. A change that, arguably, lost the studio a lot of favour with the same fans that championed its past PC work.
Crytek’s producer, Mike Read
is the developer’s attempt to strike a perfect balance between the restrictions of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 hardware, and the limitless potential of the PC platform. And Crytek’s producer, Mike Read, feels confident that the company has got it right. Read on to find out why - and what this third instalment means for the Crysis
SPOnG: Now that work on Crysis 3 has been completed, how far do you think you’ve pushed the PC platform?
Pretty hard. We went in with the intention of really maximising the PC out. When we worked on Crysis 2
, it was our first time developing on console hardware. Not only that, but we were also developing an engine in tandem with the game. Really, we were attempting things that we hadn’t done before on multiple levels... I think it’s done well for our business though, especially in regards to licensing CryEngine 3, and how [development on] that’s come along.
So when it came to Crysis 3
, we knew how to approach consoles and build on that hardware from the ground up. But we also wanted to look on the flip-side of that - hardware has accelerated so much in the last seven years, since the launch of the PS3 and Xbox 360, so what can we do to really push that?
That was how we worked for the PC version - at a certain stage, we separated out between console and computer, understanding what we had maxed out on consoles and where we could further push the PC. We also wanted to make the PC version future proof, so that we could take advantage of future hardware too.
SPOnG: I remember reading an interview last year which claimed that Crysis 3 was going to melt PCs...
Yeah, that was Cevat (Yerli, Crytek CEO) who said that at Gamescom [laughs]. And I think we’ve kept to that. Ever since the Alpha came out and people got their hands on it, we’ve had all the big tech geeks plotting to see if it lives up to that expectation. And it’s definitely going to do that.
SPOnG: So development on this title wasn’t too daunting for you at all, because you knew how to push the hardware and where to focus resources?
Yeah - well, making games in general is always daunting, to be honest. There’s always a challenge, that’s what makes it interesting. There aren’t many industries out there that really pool together all these different technical and artistic discliplines - grabbing programmers, artists, QA guys, level designers, throwing them all into a pit and making them do things. There’s no formulaic way of approaching development, which is why it’s such an artistic form.
You know, Crysis 3
wasn’t devoid of challenges. We definitely had our fair share along the way. But if you look at the result and compare it to our previous games... I mean, we really minimalised a lot of the crunch this time around and still delivered a very high end product.
SPOnG: How have you tackled the game design elements of the Crysis games throughout the series? Crysis 2 was a lot more linear than its predecessor in some respects, but it was also a bit more focused as a result. How have you blended open world and narrative-driven gameplay together here?
There’s a number of things when you look back at Crysis 1
. You had a very... people sometimes come back and use the term ‘open world’ or ‘open ended’ [to describe the game]. It really wasn’t. I mean, you had large areas in which you could traverse around in multiple ways to reach objectives, but...
With Crysis 2
, we added verticality but also included a visual reference that was very closed off, as well as the urban grid of New York City. That created a fascade for people, it made them believe that the game was much more narrow than the first. At the same time though, it was very laser-focused in some ways - both in terms of gameplay and in the limitations of the environments we were using.
So now, in Crysis 3
we’ve combined those two experiences together. You’re going to find that, when you start a level, we provide you with an objective point but you can approach it in a vast number of ways. It’s not quite as expansive or open as Crysis 1
, but there is a lot more verticality in the stages and a good blend of what made both of the two games great.
SPOnG: How do you go about setting up these multiple pathways to an objective - making each path different, while offering a challenge to the player?
That’s really the difficult part - when you have that human element in there to consider. What is the player going to do here, and how many possible ways is this scenario going to end? It’s a nightmare for our QA team in particular! They’ve got to sit down and test every possible route and outcome.
Even when it all works, it can all throw up some challenging problems. Not just in terms of game design, but also in the art style, lighting and generally building the levels out. Any time you build a game that is based on this style of level design, you always end up experiencing emergent types of gameplay and other things that you would never expect.
SPOnG: Still, that was one of the things I liked about Crysis 2 - you could scope the area around you, and each tactical option had very specific but different ways of tackling your objective. By stealth, gunfight or turret sabotage, for example. It gently guided you, without being too heavy handed, I felt.
Well, that comes back to a question that I remember reading in a magazine a few years back - ‘How much freedom do gamers really want?’ I think that article included a contrast between World of Warcraft
and EVE Online
[as extreme examples of player-guiding].
I believe that gamers are starting to end up in a space now where they want that kind of extreme freedom. I mean, manuals are non-existent now. Nobody Reads the Fucking Manual - that’s been the acronym for God knows how long. But that’s what we want people to experience, especially in an FPS.
It’s important that you don’t come up to a corner and play through the same scenario over and over again. Instead, you should be able to tackle open scenarios in multiple ways, be offered different directions and create sophisticated AI that works to your play style so you have a new experience every time.
I think that’s where FPS games are going, even with more open world games too. In Crysis
, it’s always been... the story’s always been a linear type of experience. Particularly in how the story is told, where we want the action sequences to really speak to the player and offer a series of options.
SPOnG: This is a direct sequel to Crysis 2, but do you see this as closure for Prophet at all? The end of a trilogy for the Crysis series, perhaps? How do you see the franchise evolving in the future?
The thing with Crysis
is that, it’s never really been about the character specifically. There have been different characters, from Nomad to Alcatraz, along with Prophet’s little cameos in Crysis 2
. Of course, in Crysis 3
you’re playing as Prophet, which people are kinda scratching their heads about. But some of that will be explained in the game!
So the way we look at it... back in 2007, we originally said that Crysis
was going to be a trilogy. It’s just cool that we got that far, to be honest. What we’ve done over the years, in building a franchise... we’ve come a long way.
And it’s really the end of this story - what I would call a story ‘bubble’ - in the Crysis
franchise. There’s numerous ways we can go. We’re looking at what the future possibilities are, and seeing what we can move onto next.
SPOnG: Thank you very much for your time.