The original Crysis is still held in high esteem by many who see it as one of the pinnacles of PC gaming visuals. So when Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli recently showed Crysis 2 running off an Xbox 360, many were wondering if the cross-platform sequel would live up to the graphical benchmarks of the original. From our brief look at the game last month, we were left more than impressed at what we saw, with Crysis 2 looking extremely sharp. So what did Crytek do to its proprietary CryEngine 3--the tech powering Crysis 2--to get the game up to speed on consoles? GameSpot chatted to Yerli to find out how the sandbox nature of Crysis 2 affected console development and to gauge his views on the future of graphics in games.
GameSpot AU: When GameSpot spoke to you last year, you mentioned that Crytek had done three years of research and development into consoles before work on Crysis 2 started. What sorts of things were you looking at?
Cevat Yerli: If I wanted to make a linear experience in New York, where I break certain things at a certain time, then that's easy. But if I wanted it to be systemic experience, where it's a sandbox and the game reacts and ties things together like physics, AI, graphics, and animations in a systemic way so they can interact with one another in an unpredictable fashion in the game, then it puts a much bigger burden on technical requirements. That can cause a huge demand on processing and memory, especially with new kinds of geometry formations. If I break a wall, it creates new geometry. If I deform a car, it creates unique deformation. All those things occupy more memory as we go.
If you're on a console with limited memory, then you have to deal with optimisations that allow you to make these kinds of games. On a PC, what do you do if you need more memory? Well, you just ask for more memory. Memory is not an issue on a PC. For me, I wanted to translate that type of interactivity in a live world with a sandbox nature before I could commit to a game on the console. Our console research has shown more and more progress with systems that can interact with each other. Those systems were getting more and more optimised, and we even optimised the PC version, so ultimately we were able to pull it off.
If I wanted to create an explosion in a game in New York where it's just linear, we could do it--every game engine can. It's just a matter of quality difference. But in our case, it's not just a quality bar, but the unpredictable nature of our sandbox gameplay. You may actually cause 10, or 15, or 20 of those explosions, or none at all, and the technology has to cope with it.
GS AU: How much do you think you are pushing the technical limitations of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 now?
CY: I really think there's not much left--there may be 10 or 15 percent more. But we are already doing more than even Microsoft or Sony said we could do. It's not really about just pushing technical power, but how you can algorithmically optimise and rethink some strategies; otherwise, we would have hit the wall two years ago. We needed to look at the basics--how do you do light, how do you do shadows, physics. We challenged everything so we could get more quality out of it.
GS AU: You've said in the past that graphically games aren't going to get much better in the next few years because it's tied to console life cycle. Do you think we've reached our visual zenith now?
CY: I think so. This generation is technically bound now. But it's still creatively unbound. And that's why in Crysis 2 we are trying to make a creative push--by being fictionally more rich, by telling more stories through the graphics, through the art and design direction. We want more creative expression in Crysis 2, whereas with Crysis it was all about pushing the boundaries of reality. And we still want to have realistic physics and materials, but we also want to push into style to tell more than the real world can tell.
GS AU: What games do you personally think are pushing the visual boundaries in this generation?
CY: I think Uncharted 2 looked very interesting. God of War has some very interesting style, but again something I wouldn't do, but it uses technology to provide a stylised experience. Uncharted 2 does try to be realistic, but with vibrant colours and some interesting art direction. I liked Uncharted 2 quite a lot, but I think there's none of them that I would say has the vibe of what I would like Crysis 2 to be.
GS AU: What are your thoughts on 3D gaming? Is that something that will take off?
CY: It's something that you will hear from us really soon in a very interesting way.
GS AU: So does that mean Crysis 2 will be in 3D?
CY: I didn't say that (laughs).
GS AU: Cevat Yerli, thanks for your time.