Crytek: 'We're looking at other genres'
15th Feb 2011 | 11:22
Ahead of the release of Crysis 2 next month we had the chance to chat to Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli about the studio's first console title and the new engine behind it.
In part one of our interview, we focus on CryEngine3, the challenges facing the PC and console markets, and on Crytek's desire to move beyond its FPS origins...
Crysis 2 is your first console game and also the showcase for CryEngine3, and you've made bold claims about the game's graphics and AI system. How important is it for you to establish CryEngine3 as the dominant engine for PC and the next hardware generation?
Our primary goal is to make a game as perfect as we can make it. Perfection is never achieved, but as far as we're concerned, I think when we say "we'll have the best" - I think that's for gamers and journalists to judge - what I'm talking about is that it will be Crytek's best so far, within our own benchmarks.
For us it's important that Crysis 2 becomes a landmark product for Crytek, and for being the game that pushes the boundaries of PC and console on the graphics side, not for the sake of graphics but for the sake of providing the gamer with an immersive experience unlike they've ever seen.
Our goal is to make it the most immersive of any of our games, make it so beautiful that people can forget it's a game world, but also from an AI perspective, we must go beyond and above what we have done on Far Cry and Crysis to support a wider range of gamers and also to create a richer, more 3D and more magical world, and one that's more densely populated from a props and geometric population point of view, because the world is very busy, especially in urban environments.
So making an AI that is still realistic, believable, challenging and fun as well as being better than what we've done before is our benchmark.
Back in May, Epic's Mike Capps said he was surprised that people could take Crytek seriously as a cross platform engine company considering you'd yet to ship a console game. Do you believe there's room for two major third-party engines and what gives you the confidence that CryEngine3 can take on the likes of upcoming engines like Unreal Engine 4?
Without going too much into competition, I think we've never cared about what competitors do. That might sound arrogant and ignorant but that's not the point. I'm trying to do what we think is the right thing to do. We're trying to build an engine that's the most productive from a flow perspective, one that allows designers, directors, artists, programmers and everyone else in the whole development chain to be as efficient as possible.
We've proven for ten years now that one of the reasons we are as efficient as we are right now, and why we could do Far Cry and Crysis with our quite inexperienced team, was because we had pipelines and workflows that were apparently superior to our competitors' because we made our first titles much faster than our competitors did. Most importantly, right now we're looking at multiplatform development and I just think that our competitors' engines couldn't deliver Crysis 2, and that's the most important statement for me.
Crysis 2, from a gameplay and entertainment perspective, just demands so much more, and we as a company ultimately are making games and an engine, but our primary goal is still entertainment. I really am not saying we're going to have the best engine in the world and there's no room for more engines, for that matter I think there's room for even five engines. With more engines people will have to be more innovative.
Whether our engine is better or not is something to be judged by the people who use the engine, but I can say that Crysis 2 wouldn't have been possible with any other engine, but pretty much any other game that has been shipped with out competitors' engines could have been done with the Crytek engine.
You said previously that you expect the next graphical breakthrough to come in 2011/2012 and that it might coincide with new console hardware. Do you still believe we'll see new consoles that soon?
For some reason my gut feeling is still that we'll see a new generation in 2012, 2013. Factually spoken, it looks like I'm going be wrong, but my gut feeling is that there's going to be a new one because it's really getting old and tight in this space.
If there isn't going to be a new console generation in the next few years, where do you think the focus is going to be development-wise, and in which areas will the next jump come in?
I think it's going to be several. I believe it's going to be about interaction, animation, physics, but ultimately still about graphics as well. Gaming is interactive entertainment, so you always have the visual part of it, but it's mainly the interaction part of it. I think we're going to see more finely granular physics, more finely granular world animation and dynamicness.
That is what we're going to see in the way of user benefits, but technically I think we're going to pretty much convert even more towards what is done in film CG. The kind of pipelines and workflows are getting more complicated and I think we're reaching a degree that is close to film development.
Many publishers and developers have had trouble with the PC triple-A model and are dipping their toes in new areas. Do you think that's a fair assessment and is that what Crytek's attempting with Warface?
I would say so, yes. Warface is an exploration of a new business model and a new company model for that matter too. We're turning into an online service company as well and we want to see how far we can take that. The requirements of this kind of game are very different from a retail package and, analysing them, understanding them and working with partners who have a lot of experience in the area is the next goal for Crytek right now. We do want to make Warface become a major, successful IP for the company that delivers a new experience.
We're not approaching it like, "hey, let's make a copy of Call of Duty and make it free-to-play and call it Warface". That's definitely not the way we're approaching it. Rest assured there will be plenty of innovation in Warface and it will stand on its own legs as much as Crysis does.
You're targeting Warface at Asian markets. Is it a model you can roll out in the West? Is there a market in Europe for free-to-play shooters like Warface?
There's certainly a big market in Europe and the US. Whether we will or not hasn't been decided yet, but it would be stupid to say we haven't thought about it. But we just want to be successful with it in Asia first because the market there is used to this kind of competition already, it's saturated for this kind of business model. When we release Warface in Asia and are competitive in terms of business model and quality we will re-evaluate it for Europe or the US.
When will we hear more about Xbox 360 exclusive Codename Kingdoms?
I can't really talk about that at the moment, maybe at E3, maybe before, I don't know yet.
You're known for making shooters, but are you keen to develop in other genres and time periods too?
Certainly we're looking at it. As a company we can't just make shooters, we need to breed genuinely new forms of entertainment and interactive experiences, and I think Kingdoms is a new interactive entertainment experience. Working with Microsoft allows us to do something really new and awesome from our perspective, and from gamers' perspective I think they'll have a very different experience with Kingdoms.
We're looking at new challenges for the company and thinking about what experiences and types of games people may want to play. Whatever it is, we will try to do. The genre may not even exist yet for that matter, so what we're keen on is games that offer new experiences for every moment the gamer plays. This has been at the core of the evolution of new IPs at all of our studios.
Was there a particular reason that you chose to do an Xbox 360 exclusive over PS3 and how did that opportunity come about?
In a way it has been one of my personal goals to make a platform exclusive first-party game. I think it's very exciting as a company because you're exposed to certain things that you wouldn't otherwise be, and from a company treatment perspective, and also from a partnership perspective, it is very exciting.
It has already proved different working on Kingdoms with Microsoft compared to working with multiplatform publishers, for example. I'm not saying it's good or bad but it's different and provides new learning opportunities and develops our mentality as a company. And generally, I think that the Xbox 360 is a platform that has not yet been maximised, but that's true for the PS3 as well to be fair.
But I think when we put Crysis 2 out we will show a level that is, multiplatform-wise, maxing out, but we will look into with Microsoft how Kingdoms can push the Xbox 360 110 percent, to its limits. When you're spending a multimillion budget only on the Xbox 360, that team will be able to crank out the last two or three percent left in the console. But I think that two or three percent will make the difference potentially between day and night that you cannot afford if you go multiplatform.
Now that you've experienced developing for both consoles, do you feel either of the consoles has more life in it than the other?
I think Kinect may actually give 360 some quite long legs now in fact. It was a really smart, risky, ballsy move for Microsoft. Its success is evidence that the decision was right and the convergence between the casual market and hardcore market is potentially something that could give it longer legs. For example, Kinect games may become triple-A titles. Kinect games are currently very casual, mainstream focused and designed to expand the market, but within two or three years it may be that Kinect plays home to triple-A productions.
I don't know. Maybe, maybe not (laughs). What I mean is that it may give the 360 legs that the competitors don't have, which could change the landscape quite a lot.
Have you had any access to the 3DS or PSP2 and are you interested in developing for handheld platforms in the future?
Maybe. I can't really talk about that at the moment, so let's see what time brings.
You acquired Free Radical Entertainment, which is now Crytek UK and working on Crysis 2 multiplayer. How is the studio coming along?
Generally, I love working with our UK friends. The team has been performing up to the quality bar easily. Our thinking was that the team had done 80-85 rated games, and we thought that with the right technology, IP and global IP direction they could reach the 90 barrier. I'm very confident that they can do that.
They've done a tremendous amount of detailed work and fine experiences in the multiplayer space that confirms what we thought they could do. That makes us as a company very happy because we get a top notch experience. Today we have around 70 plus team members working on multiplayer only. That's a huge commitment from our company and was only possible because Free Radical had that capacity and was able to grow quite fast after we took it over.
There's a lot of interest in a new Timesplitters game. Is that a discussion you're having at Crytek?
Yeah, we have been discussing it, but nothing has been confirmed yet, so let's see after Crysis 2.
Are you actively looking at more acquisition targets or was Free Radical just fortunate timing?
Free Radical was great timing as we were looking for a multiplayer team for Crysis 2 as I didn't want the same team doing campaign and multiplayer. I wanted a team to dedicate all their time and passion solely to multiplayer and not get distracted by anything else. That opportunity was unfortunate for Free Radical back then but fortunate for us then, and fortunate for both of us now. It was a really strong opportunity and win-win for everybody.
Have you had any exposure to OnLive or Gaikai and what are your feelings on the potential impact of those two services?
I used OnLive in a test condition. I haven't used it in a real world situation since it doesn't exist in Europe and in the US I barely have the time to try it out. When I did try it, it seemed to work, but I had question marks about the sustainability of the business model.
It also lacks the killer app. These kind of platforms need a game that is exclusive to the platform, that shows it off and can't be done on other platforms. If it just becomes a redistribution service that is low-cost and accessible from the client side I don't think that's enough. But for example, if it launched with Crysis as an exclusive OnLive title it could have been a great argument for OnLive. I think OnLive is a great first mover, but there's still a rocky road there.
Do you have any hopes or worries for the industry in 2011 and are there any big trends that you think might dominate next year?
I think mobile is going to take off much more. Online, mobile and internet-based games are taking off like rockets right now. I think that is going to continue and people will gravitate towards them a lot more.