Crysis 3 Interview: Next-Gen, Homefront 2 & Competing With Call Of Duty
Crytek’s CEO Cevat Yerli and Crysis 3’s and senior creative director Rasmas Hojengaard talk us through Crysis 3 and the next-gen of PC gaming…
Do graphics really make better gameplay?
Cevat: I think they do. Crysis 3 does justice to that. People say that graphics don’t matter, but play Crysis and tell me they don’t matter. It’s always been about graphics driving gameplay. In Crysis 3 it’s the grass and the vegetation, the way the physics runs the grass interact and sways them in the wind. You can read when an AI enemy is running towards you just by observing the way the grass blades.
You can hide in the grass from the AI and it provides a tactical difference and we truly make it part of the gameplay now. Graphics, whether it’s lighting and shadows, puts you in a different emotional context and drives the immersion. And immersion is effectively the number one thing we can use to help you buy into the world.
The better the graphics, the better the physics, the better the sound design, the better the technical assets and production values are, paired with the art direction making things look spectacular and stylistic is 60% of the game. Then it’s about gameplay tactical choice, freedom, AI, the weapon systems, the nanosuit; that’s the other part. Can you just play Crysis with the other parts and without the technology?
It wouldn’t be Crysis, it would be similar from a mechanics perspective, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as spectacular because you have to be drawn into the world.
In computer games competition there’s this [gameplay] thing of ‘move, move, move – cinematics, explosion, particles – move, move, move – cinematics, explosion, particles’ formula. And it’s always clear what you have to do. Crysis 1 was very slow paced. You went somewhere, analysed the situation and then you went in the way you wanted and if you made a bad choice the game became difficult and if you made a smart choice it became efficient.
We call this internally as designers ‘Veni Vidi Vici’, I come, I see and then I conquer a place. In Crysis 2, it didn’t work like that because we were pushing you towards cinematics and despite the fact that you could still play the way you wanted, people still went the quickest way because that’s the way the game drove you.
People felt linearised in this game. With Crysis 3, because of the choice to look back at Crysis 1, we wanted a proactive shooter and to give people the choice ‘how do you play?’ The game should not push you forward and you’ll find yourself quickly unguided and you’ll be left to figure it out and it’s up to you.
And people do die more often and replay much more often, but that’s what we want. We want players to think, explore and play around and experiment instead of finishing a section in two or three minutes. Just don’t forget the story.
Do you feel any pressure for Crysis 3’s multiplayer to compete with Call Of Duty on consoles?
Rasmus: No, I mean, an important priority for multiplayer in Crysis 3 has always been, after doing it for the first time in Crysis 2, has been to stand out and create something that supports the universe, gameplay and type of game Crysis is; as well as bringing something new to the multiplayer arena.
We primarily do that with the Hunter mode, which is a really interesting mode. It has more success criteria than a normal multiplayer mode, it has multiple rounds which are different and it gives you a chance to succeed in each of these depending on your play-style and skill. It makes it less difficult to approach for new players, but it can also be incredibly rewarding if you’re also very good.
Some of the challenges to reach the ‘end game’ of the rounds are very challenging. One of the issues I have with a [multiplayer] game that’s fun for a while and playing multiplayer is that people are just so good at it. I have to accept being whooped for a long period of time and that’s for me, personally something that’s very hard to accept [laughs].
A game that gives you this level and range is just really good on the multiplayer front and something we really, really like. [Crysis 3] has had a lot of legs, thinking about the isometrical features and multiplayer features that I’m sure can be developed in all kinds of directions that are interesting.
Cevat: And to be also fair, the Hunter mode is going to be fun for people who like single-player, and I hope they give it a chance because it is the closest multiplayer game we have to a single-player game. It puts you in the same emotional context as a narrative multiplayer. We had some Hunter mode trailers released and it was effectively a narrated multiplayer trailer, which you can’t really do that good or very implicitly. At best it’s just who is fighting against who as two sides fight it out.
But here, the narration was more dramatic and there was drama as the Cell died, with one surviving and things like that. So, we think that this funnel addresses one key issue of Crysis 2. The multiplayer itself, we had pro gamers and hardcore players that really liked the multiplayer, but they had to spend a lot of time with it to really understand it. You had to really give it five or six hours before you understood the nanosuit and everything else.
I think the Hunter mode is really the easy way in here and gives you a taste of that. It gives both hardcore gamers coming from multiplayer on other games, but also players who like the single-player. And hopefully they’ll both find what’s special about the multiplayer through Hunter mode that they’ll go to the other modes as well.
Is the multiplayer beta important?
Cevat: We’ll definitely learn a lot from the beta, but there are of course limited things we can change from the beta to release. But we are listening and observing and we’ll try and steer [development] as best we can to ensure that this is the best multiplayer Crytek has ever done.
I believe technically and fidelity wise [Crysis 3] is nothing short of the very best multiplayer games out there. But standing out is important and whether we standout or not… well, only time will tell.
Exactly how do the Xbox 360 and PS3 visuals compare to the PC version?
Cevat: Well, it’s been difficult and we knew this time around Crysis 3 on PC had to do something different, because we’re talking about two years more hardware development, innovation and progression in the PC department compared to consoles, which have stayed the same.
With Direct X 11 and CryEngine 3.9 we need to push PC gaming forward and we have to choose to do things like tessellation, physics and other areas like particles, lighting and volumetrics in order to really push that forward. But, at the same time, these are scalable areas that need to scaled down for the console versions and hit the console barrier, but clearly, we can’t get the same PC quality on them.
At the same time, we said this time the PC version is going to be one that not everyone can play. You won’t be able to play it right from the gate and it’s funny and ironic, people will give us approval if the game cannot run on their PC! I think Crysis 3 will show that we can push the boundaries on PC and we can still be accessible, but to max it out you’ll still need some time.
Why not just wait for next-gen consoles like the PS4 and Xbox 720?
Cevat: Well, it was more tempting to just do the PC version as the same as the [current] consoles because it’s much easier and that’s pretty much what everyone does. If you look at all multiplatform games that’s exactly what’s happening right now.
It was tempting from a simplicity perspective but it’s not Crytek. Crytek needs to be in the front and it has to be more Crysis 1 than Crysis 3. In all aspects we said [Crysis 3] has to be like Crysis 1. It has to be more open, there has to be more lush vegetation and more sandbox and we just to continue with the story from Crysis 2, nothing else.
But everything else from the game perspective should be more like Crysis 1 with its own identity, which is the urban rain forest over New York and you feel like you’re in a jungle. You can see the volumetric light beams, the birds and the insects just like in a jungle. All of that is to brand Crysis in a whole new way and give gamers an experience that’s very unique visually.
Whether it’s films or games, this has not been done before and we really wanted to drive the openness.
How are you evolving the story in Crysis 3?
Rasmus: We brought in Steven Hall and he’s an incredibly avid gamer as well as an excellent novelist, giving everything he writes character. We really wanted the story to be character-driven and there are some really interesting properties to our characters. [Prophet] has screwed up with a couple of things, or at least he’s perceived that he’s screwed up, which has led to a few of his men dying.
It’s always interesting to have a protagonist that makes mistakes and can go through learning process. And then you have Psycho who’s also a very troubled man and it just felt like, the kind of writer Steven Hall is, he could take that somewhere. And he really did and though he’s not a sci-fi writer per se, the stuff that he writes is pretty out there and he can really relate to this even though he’s never written on the Crysis franchise before.
Cevat: And Richard Morgan just wasn’t available in this instance; he had some personal issues, he became a father.
Would you consider re-releasing an next-gen version of Crysis 3 on PS4 and Xbox 702?
Cevat: Well, umm, that’s a good idea.
How is Homefront 2 coming along and what does it mean for Crytek to buy the IP from THQ?
Cevat: Well, the team has done close to18 months of work on the project and there has been great progress. We always loved the concept and the idea and somebody asked me if there would have been a concept of someone else’s, what would we like to, and pretty much it was Homefront.
We saw Homefront and thought it would be a great IP for Crytek and we couldn’t have it obviously at that point, but we would like to make it differently. We would like to re-do it and we would like to have a game that is Crysis or Far Cry without mutants or aliens, as some people wanted.
There are many fans out there who just want a great human story. And so we said this time around, when the whole unfortunate situation with THQ happened, we said to them that we’d love to bid for it and they said we should go ahead and just do it. Then we made some calls and lucky us, we got it.