Crysis 3: worth upgrading your PC for
A couple of weeks ago, publisher EA held a massive one-day hands-on for New Zealand and Australian gaming writers in Sydney with some of its upcoming games. I flew to Sydney courtesy of EA.
Included in the five games on show were Insomniac's new IP Fuse (which didn't blow me away, to be honset); Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel; and Dead Space 3. But the two games that really caught my eye were SimCity and Crysis 3. These are two games to keep a watch on.
I got the chance to interview SimCity's producer Jason Haber and Crysis 3's producer Mike Read. Today, I bring you the Mike Read interview where we discuss how challenging it was to bring the Crysis series to consoles and how Hollywood could learn somethings from the vide games industry.
Crysis 3 is the game that you'll want to upgrade your PC for. Seriously.
Sure the game featuring nanosuit-wearing soldier Prophet is coming to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 but if you really want the best-looking version,plumb for the PC one. After some hands on time in Sydney at EA's Showcase event recently, that's the version I'm going for. It just looks better.
How much better looking? In Sydney Crysis 3's single player campaign was running on high-end PCs (looked to be running a dual graphics card set-up). The textures and lighting effects were gorgeous; thick grass blew in the breeze and particle effects danced in streaming sunlight. Later in the day, EA booted up the game's multiplayer mode, Hunter, on Xbox 360 (In Hunter mode, two players start out as invisible nanosuit-wearing soldiers hunting the other players who are Cell soldiers: Each time a Cell soldier is killed, the player respawns as an invisible nanosuit-wearing soldier, hunting the remaining Cell).
Crysis 3 on console looks good - really, it does - and if you hadn't seen the PC version you'd be happy, but I have seen the PC and that's the best one, graphically. Textures look sharper, details looked, well, more detailled. Also, the PC version of the game will offer 16-player multiplayer, using dedicated servers, while the console versions will only offer 12-player multiplayer.
But then, the fact that Crysis 3 looks phenomenal on PC should should come as no surprise: the original Crysis was a game with such high system demands that most gamers had trouble running it even at medium graphical settings. I suspect there will be scores of gamers upgrading their gaming PC come February 22, when the game is released in our market. If there's a game that will fuel the console vs PC war, this is it!
Even Mike Read, whose mother hails from New Plymouth, jokes that the original Crysis was "a beast of a game that couldn't run on anyone's PC". Console gamers need not fear, though, as while there have been graphical compromises, the game play won't suffer. You'll still get the same experience as PC gamers.
"I can't sit here and say it's going to look as great on consoles as it does on PC. We're just not capable of doing that, but we're still able to provide the same game play experience experience across the board. That's what we wanted to achieve: we didn't want to dumb that down", says Read.
Read said Crysis 3 was pushing current generation consoles to the limit and he saw the next five to 10 years in the industry as an interesting period. "It's going to be really interesting to see if the next-gen consoles get seven or eight years like they did this time around or maybe with technologies like streaming and other things, could they get 20 years out of them? It's hard to say."
What did Read think the appeal of the Crysis series was? "It came into the market as this beast of a game that couldn't run on anybody's PCs unless you had the top-of-the-line equipment. I think that created a barrier for entry for people but at the same time, in the industry as a whole, it made people go "Woah, I really need to upgrade my hardware" and it did that.
Read says getting Crysis 2 to consoles proved a formidable task. "Getting Crysis 2 to consoles provided a lot of challenges for Crytek as a whole, having to go "OK, we've never made a game for a console before. We don't have an engine that works on consoles how do we do this?" So we had to take out engine, rip it to pieces and build that in tandem with building the game. It was a massive task but we managed to achieve it and CryEngine 3 has really become a power in the licensing market [other game makers pay to use the CryEngine 3 technology in its games], not only for games but for films and architecture previsualisation that we've moved into. We've become a very multifaceted company now."
At EA Showcase, Read also showed off the first episode of a short film series called The Seven Wonders of Crysis 3, which has been made using in-game assets and cinematic work from the game and directed by Albert Hughes. I asked him what was the reasoning behind the short film series?
"Our CEO Cervat Yerli is very fascinated with Hollywood and I think the games industry as a whole can learn a lot from Hollywood and I think that Hollywood can learn a lot from us. There's definitely a crossover coming and we wanted to bring somebody in who had a vision and understood what our IP was and was able to build a story from that. This series [directed by Albert Hughes] has been incredibly challenging because we're making a game at the same time and everything in the series has been done using in-game graphics and CGI. The big challenge was how do we seamlessly go from this cinematic to this game play moment and then back again and we successfully did that. Albert was pretty awesome to work with."
So, what could video games industry teach Hollywood?
"Interactivity, I think, might be the biggest one. People want to get this format but it's almost like there's a stigma attached to it that those [video games] are for kids but it's starting to broaden out now where you see casual games for people of all ages. How we end up blending those two [movies and video games] is really going to be interesting."
Read said despite knowing pretty much everything about Crysis 3 he was still surprised when he watched people play the game, especially how they used the main character's predator bow.
"Everyone says "Oh, when you talk about the predator bow it's silent, it's this tactical thing that can be fired while cloaked" and we were like "Yeah, that's what it's all about" but what we found in a number of scenarios was people using it more in a forward action kind of scenario and they'd be like "This guy's behind here, I'm going to run up and jump over, and pull the bow back mid-air and hit him with it" and they're doing all this crazy stuff with the bow that we really didn't expect. It's providing people a variety of different options. That's what we wanted to do with Crysis 3: provide people with the tools to do what they want.
"I've watched people playing the demo that we released at E3 and say to myself "I don't remember seeing this before!" I've played this game hundreds of times myself and watched hundreds of playthroughs but still I go "I've never seen that before" and it's that kind of emergent game play."
Read said despite many games offering open-world exploration, Crysis had a linear story but was presented in a very cinematic way. "We wanted to provide that [the linearity] and that's what it's always been about. We didn't want to go into the "Your decisions matter" realm like Mass Effect ."
The biggest challenge, says Read, was creating the varied environments that made up the game's Libety Dome and its 7 Wonders. "If I had to identify the hardest thing it would be the environments, which are so vastly different from previous Crysis games. It's not like we had New York and we're like 'OK, we know where this is" but we had to build the elements around the 7 Wonders: you've got swamp areas, you've got canyons, you've got islands, you've got fields - all of these are defined in very different ways, with very different buildings and plants, so from a design perspective that's been the biggest challenge."
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