There’s far more to Crysis 3 than at first meets the eye. Here, we discuss Crytek’s ambitions for Crysis 3 with the studio’s Director of Creative Development Rasmus Højengaard, including its experimentation with existentialism and philosophical theories, its new hi-tech meets lo-tech weaponry, and the team’s desire to create the best-looking game ever made.
GamerZines: Prophet died at the beginning of Crysis 2, but he’s back here in Crysis 3 20 years later. How is that explained in the game?
Rasmus Højengaard, Director of Creative Development, Crytek: We’re exploring the concept of life and death a little bit, and existentialism you could say. So yeah, [Prophet] does blow his brains out but he does already appear at the end of Crysis 2.
So the question that is posed is: what exactly is it inside the suit? You’re hearing his voice but what does that actually mean? That’s a theme that is going through the entire game, wrapping up the story of Prophet. I can understand why people are puzzled about it but everything is going to get explained in the game.
So it might not actually be Prophet inside the suit?
Well, it’s some interpretation of Prophet at least, right?
That notion of life and death appears to carry over into the game world, too, and the main theme of Crysis 3 appears to be about nature taking back a dead New York City. What does Crysis 3’s urban rainforest offer the player over the concrete jungle of Crysis 2, and how does the reintroduction of foliage and nature affect the gameplay?
It gives us the ability to play around with the perception of reality, because all of a sudden you’re not limited by the confines of a city and how a city is structured. If you suddenly need a big pile of something in a city, how do you make that unless you collapse a building, which maybe wouldn’t make sense? We now have liberties with shapes and objects and level design in general to be able to do things that we wouldn’t have been able to do in Crysis 2.
Let’s take Central Park as it exists now as an example. That’s a big field of grass and there’s not much you can do there. But if you grow that stuff and plant trees there, immediately that setting is completely different to the Central Park that you know, yet it’s still Central Park because the concept of what’s going on with New York is believable. You buy it and go like, ‘yeah, I can see that, 50 years from now somebody hyper-growing something’. It’s a greenhouse on crack. That is what it is. So yeah, we can use it to push certain types of gameplay and certain types of mood or beats in the story to our heart’s content. It’s a great toolbox to have available for our concepts.
Crysis has always been about advanced technology and weaponry, but the introduction of the bow appears to take Crysis in the opposite way. It feels quite primal, rather than futuristic.
The bow is hi-tech meets lo-tech and the reason we have it in there is because it supports the setting. One of the messages of our game is that Prophet is reversing himself from being the hunted to being the hunter, and if you want this feeling of being a predator you need weapons and items that support that. It wouldn’t have been a logical introduction in Crysis 2, for example, but here it just fits well.
We actually want to avoid arbitrary design decisions or arbitrary additions to the game: they all need to point towards something at a higher level or something that has something to do with the vision or the story or the character, and that’s why we have the bow.
There appears to be a very different change of pace here to the previous two Crysis games. Those games had two fairly distinct halves, with the latter portions of the game based almost purely around the Ceph. In Crysis 3, though, the Ceph are the target from the very beginning. Why did you make that change in pace, and can players expect any similar midpoint twists?
The decision to make it very clear what the conflict is early on was a conscious decision, and in retrospect it was actually one of the things that we probably would have done a little bit differently in Crysis 2. There is still a ramp but it’s different. We learnt a lot.
Pacing wise, in terms of gameplay, this [level] perhaps has a bias towards playing it stealthily. You have other sections where it’s completely different and where you should probably just run as fast as you can and shoot whatever moves. There’s always going to be the odd player who’s going to do the exact opposite of what you want them to do, though, and the game needs to support that as well.
We’re not talking about more features yet. We will roll out what all these things are later on. One thing I can say though is that we are definitely going for having the richness in the features: we want the depth of the feature rather than the breadth of features.
You only saw a tiny fraction of what the hacking feature is going to be in the full game. It’s more like a concept of the feature rather than the feature itself, because there’s going to be a multitude of these different things. You need to figure out how and what to use in the environment, and it isn’t about just finding any kind of thing you can interact with and then interact with it: that’s not necessarily the right approach. Also, it will scale in complexity and so on.
When it comes to weapons and features like that, we want the context to resonate really well; it needs to tie in with high-level visions. It’s not enough for it to be cool in isolation but doesn’t fit the rest of the game. It needs to feel rich and rewarding, and that’s why we’re being very careful not to make the Nanosuit too complicated.
Is Crytek UK back developing the multiplayer?
I can’t say.
With next-generation hardware rumoured to be available, or at least revealed, by early next year, spring 2013 seems like a risky launch period for a game that places so much emphasis on its visuals. How are you going to ensure that Crysis 3 doesn’t become overshadowed by any next-generation developments?
There isn’t a hard-set rule… I mean, God of War  had big success doing this where it launched late in the console cycle. I think if a game is amazing enough and if there’s no availability of other consoles, then people will buy it anyway. Whether it’s going to be a swansong or a benchmark of what was possible on those consoles, we can’t really tell until we’re at that point. If it becomes that, that’s great!
The thing is, the quality of the artwork here is not so much about the tech as the quality of the actual art, and that’s really good because it’s easier to translate onto lesser-powerful hardware platforms. The difficult thing to translate is the tech, and we want to make sure that not only do we push the technology, we also the push the quality of the artwork, the mood and the sense of a living breathing environment, which was very much the case in Crysis 1. We had all these random animals walking around and all that kind of stuff. That kind of headspace where you have almost arrogant perceptions to game design: ‘I’m going to put a frog here just because you might see it’. We now have little critters jumping around Manhattan.
It’s really important for us to underline that [Crysis 3] is not only about the technology, but about the setting and the mood. The visuals need to be amazing even if they don’t have the tech. We’re just going for making the best looking game that’s ever been made, basically, and I think we’re well on the way.
Crysis 3 launches on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in spring 2013.
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