Development studio Crytek made a name for itself with the impressive 2004 shooter Far Cry, a beautiful-looking game with highly open-ended gameplay. Now the developer is working on its second project, Crysis, which will put you in the role of a top-secret supersoldier equipped with some heavy-duty guns and a cutting edge "nanosuit" that grants you superhuman powers. Crytek president Cevat Yerli sat down with us to discuss the lessons the studio took from Far Cry's development and to give us an update on the game's development.
GameSpot: Far Cry was Crytek's first game and must have been a learning experience in many ways. What are some of the key lessons that you took from Far Cry and are applying to Crysis?
Cevat Yerli: In terms of gameplay, [the important lessons were] the accessibility and difficulty. That was exposed in Far Cry through the difficulty of the artificial intelligence, but also the lack of quick-save functionality. Production wise, it was all about learning to focus, albeit still going wide and ensuring the story is core to the development effort. We also wanted to make sure that community development began earlier, and multiplayer had to receive a more-substantial focus.
GS: It's been said that you guys didn't like how the introduction of the Trigen mutants changed the pace of that game. It went from its open-ended gameplay to a typical shooter. How do you avoid that situation with Crysis and its aliens?
CY: In Far Cry, the mutants received too little development time; something we were able to focus more on this time around. Their AI code was not on par with the human AI. Their "counter" reactions were not as smart--they just rushed toward you--and that turned Far Cry into a reactive shooter once they entered the game. Prior to the mutants, Far Cry was all about outsmarting your enemy, and it was essential to really think before taking action. That design principle, which we dubbed "veni-vidi-vici," is core in our encounter design. Assess before you engage. Read [the enemies'] weakness. In Crysis, utilizing the nanosuit in any combat situation will be the player's first choice in making a nonlinear experience versus intelligent alien enemies with advanced AI.
GS: There are players out there who don't like, or perhaps don't "get," open-ended gameplay experiences. They felt sort of lost in the previous game. Has this factored into the design process of Crysis in any way? How will the new game better cater to people who prefer a more-linear experience?
CY: We do, in fact, have more ways we lead, more reminders, more tools to funnel the experience, but at the same time, we increased the options the player has to express his own intelligent tactics. This is done through the nanosuit, through a customizable weapons system that has meaningful tactical differences, through a more-open level design, and enemies that react more intelligently. Put the unparalleled depth of interactivity into the mix and you always get a new experience while essentially not getting lost. We firmly believe that a game [that is] fun through your own smart choices is always better than a game that [holds your hand].
GS: What are some of the lessons that you've learned while developing Crysis? This is such an ambitious game that there are obviously new things that you've discovered.
CY: Any way you look at it, Crysis is gigantic, starting from its wide array of new "firsts" in the industry to innovation, production values, ambitious goals. A [principle] that is inherent in Crytek's philosophy and culture [is] to push the boundaries in any area important to a genre. That is what we learned: that our philosophy and culture makes our production efficiency difficult. Let's see what happens next!
GS: How much of the original design of Crysis has survived at this point? Have you had to drop features? Have you added new ones that you didn't expect?
CY: In fact, overall, it evened out. We had to some scenes and features here and there, but we revised, reviewed, and added quite a few new elements. Of course, [these were not] not core to the gameplay but good additions. We refined a lot of interface work to streamline the game.
GS: Let's get to the E3 demo, which had the first level of the game on display. You have to get from one side of a bay to the other. Could you discuss the different ways to approach this and the type of strategy that you can employ?
CY: There are a hundred ways you could play that section. You could take an action route, going over the left side down to the jamming device, roof jumping, and shooting down your enemies. Or you could take a more stealthy approach, sneak in without killing anyone, deactivate the GPS, and bypass your enemies completely unseen. You can hang back at the top of the approach with a silencer and surgically pick off the few guards in the area. You can even see if a jeep comes and drive it into the jammer itself. We have never seen any two people approach this small section the same way.
GS: We've heard that if you throw an enemy soldier into the deep water of the bay, the sharks will get him. That's pretty impressive. Is this just a sample of the emergent gameplay in Crysis? Are there things that happen in the game that you didn't expect or foresee?
CY: There are quite a few emergent gameplay examples we have been surprised with, but the most important thing is that you as a gamer have a lot of opportunities to explore. And as long you smile [and enjoy the fact] that your tactic worked out, we will be happy. A fun example that happened to me was when I shot a guy in his legs and he fell over, [which was] the typical response. I thought he was dead. I was walking away then all of a sudden, the guy stood up and shot at me. As he shot me, when I turned, I was so shocked that I aimed a bit higher, hitting a barrel on the roof, which then collapsed on him and took him out. I did not mean to shoot the barrel at all--it was pure coincidence--but it got me the same result.
GS: What sort of hardware was the E3 demo running on? How's the battle to optimize the game going? Are you still sticking with the general rule that Crysis will run on two-year old hardware, albeit at lower visual settings?
CY: At E3, we were running on a [GeForce] 8800 video card and a dual-core Intel [CPU]with 4 gigabytes of RAM at very high settings. Not the highest, though! Most of the time, it was running smoothly.
Yes, we [are] progressing very well on optimization, and we will achieve our goal. Two-to-three-year-old rigs will run Crysis well, with lower visual settings still competing with the best games of two-to-three years ago.
GS: Where's the game at currently in development? Will Crysis ship this year? Can you get any more specific than that?
CY: Yes, we will ship this year. In fact, we will announce the ship date very, very soon.
GS: Finally, is there anything that you'd like to add about Crysis? The lessons learned from Far Cry or E3?
CY: Nothing--just really that we want to send out a big "thank you" for the support and patience to our fans and also a big "sorry!" for taking so long. The wait will be worth it, we promise!