Prophet’s Story Draws To a Close But The Series Is Not Finished Yet! Interview With Michael Read Producer at Crytek.
Platform PC, PS3, Xbox360
Release Date March 2013
Crysis 3 marks the end of the trilogy and with a lot of lingering questions still to be answered we got the chance to chat with Michael Read Producer at Crytek. We got his thoughts on the upcoming game, the next gen, piracy in the industry and Cryteks future plans for the series and studio.
BI: Your Beta testing is now well under way have you gotten good feedback from the Alpha that you ran previously?
MR: Yea we got tons of feedback from the alpha so much that it actually took a bit of time to compile it all. We starting looking at what weapons people are using, how long they are using them for… things like that. We have expanded a little bit more for the beta with some extra maps and modes, so we are pretty excited about how that is going.
BI: The Alpha looked amazing even at that early stage how far away from the finished game was it?
MR: Yea at that stage we were still working on lots of things like the lighting and textures, and of course the maps themselves. So it has improved a lot since then. We have two maps and two modes in the beta, but in the full game there is something like 12 modes and 8 maps but we will be talking more about that later and of course it is important to be releasing the beta on all three platforms to see how it performs and get that information back.
BI: This is the third part of the trilogy. Where does “Prophet” go from here? Is this the end or is there more to come in the future?
MR: You will have to wait to play this game and see what happens as it explains a lot. There was a lot of crazy stuff happening in Crysis 2 that either made people very angry, or very curious, or very happy. There was a whole bunch of emotions that people experience at the end. They had a lot of questions that need to be answered (like how can you say that? Didn’t Prophet kill himself?).
There are a lot of questions from the whole series that will be answered. It is a very strong ending to the series. It is really great story telling and relies on a lot more character interactions. There are a lot of strong characters, and not only that great gameplay too.
BI: To the actual game itself. Crysis 1 used a free roaming approach then Crysis 2 was much more linear. (but I remember at the time you guys saying that is something spectacular was going to happen like a space ship crashing into a building you wanted the player to be there to see it not at the other side of the city). So how have you approached number three? Have you balanced it somewhere in the middle?
MR: Yea so there is a lot more freedom. We wanted to create the “action” experience but still have freedom within that. You have seen the map layouts today so you can see that even though you are in enclosed spaces it still offers you a lot of options. Especially in this “swamp” level there is a lot of verticality to use.
To approach a level we have a start point and we give an end point then how you get there is up to you, if I did videos on how everyone got there they would all show different paths, which is cool it is not the same guy, with the same gun, running up to the same door all the time but rather it depends on how people play. I would spread out and go that way but someone else might just gear up and rush through the middle, but what is really cool is seeing those options and allowing the player to choose.
And we have much more of an interactive story this time, we have used performance capture so rather than having the motion capture and then dubbing over it, it is all shot with performance capture and a director on set so is much more immersive. As that technology advances it is only going to be getting more prevalent in gaming so it is interesting to see how it all fits together.
BI: Talking about directors you did work with Albert Huges on the Seven Wonders of Crysis?
MR: Yea so we brought in Albert and he was great, we wanted to let him inject the way he makes films into the mini series. He likes to use a lot of single camera action sequences and quick cuts. This brought a lot of different challenges to making the series but it turned out great.
Albert was really good to work with, we sat down with him at the start and showed him a really early build of the game. The game had no lighting or any finished levels. He had to work with story boards and unfinished code but what he created was brilliant. One things people ask about it is if that is CG? But no everything was done in the engine it was the one thing we insisted on.
BI: So is this the end of the Crysis series or just this segment?
MR: No it’s not the end. When we first started out we wanted to make a trilogy so this will be the end of this section. We have the nanosuit and sometimes that is a bigger character than who is in it. Prophet is a really strong character. More so than Nomad or Alcatraz so people are going to really enjoy the closing up of this series.
BI: It gives you plenty of opportunities to take it off in another directions with spin offs.
MR: Absolutely we will have to look at it. Once this is done we will sit down with the creative guys and see where we want to take the series.
BI: At the moment the gulf between the console and PC has never been greater and it is often mentioned that the consoles are holding games back, is this a correct statement because I know in the past Crytek have talked about having to have all three products reasonability similar?
MR: Ok so there are a number of things that play into that really. Crytek as a whole had a lot to learn when developing Crysis 2. We had to learn how to develop on console, in addition to developing a major iteration of the engine technology. Those two things are like oil and water mixing together.
We are thinking, “we don’t know how to develop on console so we need to learn that and we are making a major iteration of our engine at the same time”, but we managed to do that.
It wasn’t without its pains but I think the long term implications of that process has definitely done great things for our licensing side. Not only for games but for the architecture side of things and film special effects too.
So coming into Crysis 3 we were really able to identify and pipeline the consoles so having that at the start was a really big help. Now we know what we can do with consoles so let’s take that and see how far we can push the hardware.
It’s not a secret that there is an eight year gap between where PC’s are now and where consoles are. When the consoles came out they were more or less around the same as a PC in terms of a hardware software mix. It stayed like that for a few years but then the PC’s really took off and surged ahead. It is really a factor to consider that things have stagnated a bit. Software is held back by the limitations of the hardware that is true. There has been a lot of speculation as to the architecture of the next gen consoles. That they will be a lot different from this generation. It will be interesting to see where that will lead in the future.
BI: Crysis has a history as one of the most pirated games on PC is this something that is discouraging for a PC developer and does it tend to push you towards the consoles?
MR: Yea I don’t know what to think about that it is both a blessing and a curse. It is not something we are proud of but it is one of those things, it is a reality.
It’s not necessarily pushing us to consoles though. I worked in the music industry before this so I learnt a lot about piracy there. It really ties into two things availability and accessibility. This has led to the success of iTunes and now we are seeing that for games too. People are starting to ask do I really want to risk going on these torrent sites and risking virus, is it infected or has it some problem? when I can just click a button and get it legally.
Not having that accessibility to music was a big problem as the industry that was so focused on having everything on CD. Then iTunes came along and offered that accessibility to the public but the industry was slow to react. It had an opportunity to move on but it chose to hang on to the physical product that had been a huge success for them in the 90’s instead of moving on and we know the result of that.
They have been slow to move but the gaming industry has continued to evolve and the move to digital distribution of product now gives greater access to content and with the advent of streaming technologies and delivery systems we have seen a great response so it remains to be seen but I am hopeful for the gaming industry as it is technology based to be able to move with the times and keep up.
BI: We have also seen thanks to digital distribution and the technological advances that the PC market is in a resurgence at the moment. You can put together a decent gaming rig now for a few hundred euro and many of the traditional barriers are coming down.
MR: Absolutely and it will last you years as you can swap out parts and you can upgrade as you go. I also see as PC gamers have been using digital distribution for about 5 or 6 years. What you start to notice is how people change their gaming habits. I’ll be looking at my friend’s list and a lot of the games I buy now are because I see my friends playing them and I think I might like that and then I’ll buy it whereas that didn’t happen before.
Then you have the ease of buying digitally. The days of me going to stand in line in minus 30 at midnight to queue up, buy a physical game, then drive home and play it are gone. I can pre load it, it will download on its own and I can just play it without ever leaving my house. So I think in the next generation comes we will definitely see more of that for the consoles.
BI: On the next Gen do ye have any plans for a Crysis 3 release on next gen to get that boost in performance that you are missing on the current consoles?
MR: That’s a question that keeps coming up. We will have to wait and see, there is a lot of speculation on the next gen stuff that we can’t talk about so we will have to wait and see what happens, I guess that’s up to the consumer.
It is exciting though it reminds me of the time in the industry when we have the CDi and Sony and Nintendo and all these guys battling it out, it really is a technology race almost like VHS and Betamax way back in the day and it will be interesting to see what happens.
BI: Crysis 1 was a “PC Killer”, will this one kill PC’s or how many people are you expecting to be able to run this at max settings?
MR: Yea so that’s what we had at Gamescom “Crysis will melt your PC”! It will in some ways yes, we are definitely pushing things to a level we have not seen before. We pretty much pushed the consoles as hard as we thought they could go, on PC it is different because six months from now there will be a new chip and new card and a new board and those take time to implement those after they are released.
But if you are running a huge machine with twenty video cards and the best stuff in the world then there is still room to push the game a bit more, that’s what we want to do on PC is to take that and bring it as far as it will go. We have a lot of guys in the tech team during the Alpha that chart that and see what happens when you keep pushing it and that was a lot of fun.
BI: So I’ve played it on three different machines from a fairly poor low range machine, a decent mid-range machine and to your ones here that are a well spec’d machine and it performs really well on all three so that must be encouraging to see?
MR: Yea and the ones here are good but you can get much higher specs but yea it does perform really well even on the lower spec’d machines it still looks really great.
BI: Really quickly you also have a number of other projects that you are working on the Free to Play model for Warface, the Homefront 2 game now with THQ gone and you picked up Vigil games studio too.
MR: Yea Warface and free to play, we won’t be taking Crytek totally free to play but it is something we are testing with Warface.
We are lucky as we are pretty much the only independent studio that has a publishing deal with pretty much everybody ha ha. With EA, Microsoft, Sony, Trion, Nexon etc so we get to see the industry from all these different angles and there are a lot of opportunities.
We have just also bought the license fully for Homefront 2 from THQ and we also picked up a lot of the guys from Vigil, we didn’t get the Darksiders license but we have got most of that studio. Being based in Europe it was often difficult to temp talent form the US and Canada to come over but now we will set up “Crytek US” branch in the states so that will help there but yea it is an exciting time.