Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Crytek To Send 2D Gaming Into A Crisis (Or Is It CRYSIS)?

Hello everyone, Adam Loncar here. This is my first time writing for MarketSaw and I am ecstatic about being a new contributor to this website. I've been reading this site ever since October 2007, around the time Jim got the exclusive about The Hobbit being in 3D and Peter Jackson being at the helm. Ever since Michael Stat decided to step down from writing on MarketSaw I knew that someone would have to replace him (*Editor's note: We wish Michael all the best! He is welcome back anytime). I will attempt to fill his shoes and I hope I can inform and entertain you all with my writing. I am immensely excited to join the MarketSaw community that Jim has worked so hard to create. Have a read!

Back in November 2007 game developer Crytek unleashed the defining technological achievement in the industry that was a PC exclusive using their in house developed CryEngine 2 game technology. As you might know that title was Crysis and it still remains today the most technically complex and most visually stunning game any developer has ever made or dared to make – with the exception of Crytek. They quickly followed their flagship property with another entry in the series by the name of Crysis Warhead. Although it actually improves upon the unmatched graphics of the original, it isn’t as hotly talked as being the benchmark title for which all PCs being used for gaming will be judged simply because it is much more optimized than its predecessor, even though it makes significant improvements in what gamers actually want in terms of performance and on-screen visuals. What that means is the frame rate in Crysis Warhead can be very smooth if you adjust the settings according to what your computer is capable of and at the same time get an amazing looking game to boot.

That doesn’t resonate as well with the hardcore benchmark community that is constantly looking for the latest computer to run the original Crysis at maximum settings and see how difficult of a time it has trying to run it. Is this attitude understandable? Yes, but when it comes down to a game, you want to be able to play it with at least acceptable performance and you get great performance with Crysis Warhead as well as an awesome game experience.

Fast forward to today and Crytek is developing one of the most anticipated titles of the year, maybe even the most anticipated title of the year and that happens to be Crysis 2 coming just in time for the 2010 Holiday season for release on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and of course the PC. The interest level, or rather fascination level, with the game is extremely high because for the first time in Crytek’s over decade long industry pushing history they will be making a AAA multiplatform title with their new CryEngine 3 technology. The developer claims that CryEngine 3 does everything in real-time and ends the need for the division of staff members in a studio to form the number of development groups based upon the number of platforms a game is going to be released on. So instead of having three groups of people working on Crysis 2 (one for PC, one for 360, and one for PS3) there is one collective group that works on the game since the editing tools are so powerful that they optimize everything about the game on all platforms simultaneously. The only place division happens is in the R&D/programming department where the engine is developed and the different languages the 360 and PS3 use are intertwined so that that all other developers have a seamless experience. This is an absolute milestone of an achievement for not only Crytek but the entire global development community because as Crytek’s Carl Jones says “Now all you need is just much bigger desks.”

So you are probably asking at this point “How does this all relate to Stereoscopic-3D?”
Well, actually everything! But let’s start to drive that point home. Once you understand everything that Crytek is about you will realize that they are the most technologically advanced game developer on the planet. And they can demonstrate that with an amazing game experience that is full of innovation and excitement, they are a world class developer. In other words the Crysis franchise is going to do for gaming what the AVATAR franchise did and will continue to do for cinema. See where I’m going now? So while any reasonable person can understand this to be true once they are given the facts, you have to ask yourself how 3D is actually a key component of Crytek’s culture.

If you have Nvidia’s 3D Vision setup you can play Crysis and Crysis Warhead in amazing three dimensions. But those games are not natively done in 3D. CryEngine 3 on the other hand has the capability of doing 3D from the moment of a game’s conception on all platforms. You heard that right, 3D can be done extremely well on current generation consoles. Obviously the AVATAR game proved that but unfortunately from an overall gameplay quality perspective, it did not deliver what was expected. That’s where Crysis 2 steps in to fill the void – and more. Although the game is not officially announced as being a Stereoscopic-3D title, and we should know by E3 2010 for sure, it would be very hard to argue that it won’t be for a few reasons.

The most compelling reason is that at this year’s GDC event Crytek announced CryEngine 3’s native 3D capabilities. They were demoing content in 3D (I have not heard if it was Crysis 2 or not, but it likely was) and it was one of the biggest highlights of the show. And here’s another kicker, Crytek has publically declared that Crysis 2 has to be the flagship title for what CryEngine 3 can do. Since we know they have allied themselves with 3D in a big way, Crysis 2 HAS to demonstrate that. As if that weren’t enough to convince you, John Schappert, COO of EA Games (Crysis 2’s publisher) recently said in a financial earnings call that at E3 the publishing giant will "show a marquee title in breathtaking 3D." Although we’ll find out in what it is only a matter of days, Crysis 2 certainly fits that description. EA is so excited for the game that David DeMartini, EA Partners General Manager, said at a Crytek press event that Crysis 2 "is the greatest product that is going to come out this year." Whoa. No one will ever declare a statement like that unless there is supreme confidence that what is being achieved is absolutely groundbreaking. Just look at the competition this year: Halo Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Medal of Honor, F.E.A.R. 3, Portal 2, and more to be announced soon!

The people who have seen Crysis 2 in action on consoles in just the 2D format have been blown away by what they have seen. Some press have even declared that the Xbox 360 (from a technical perspective this is the lowest end system the game is being developed on) version alone is the best looking game ever made, including PC games in the equation! Crytek’s declared goal is to make Crysis 2 not just the ‘best looking game ever’ but also the ‘best game ever.’ Here’s the parallel: James Cameron’s AVATAR was an unparalleled experience in the cinema whether seen in 2D or 3D. It is also an unparalleled technical achievement whether considering 2D, 3D, or both. I’d like to suggest to you all that Crysis 2 is going to do the exact same thing for gaming once it releases this Holiday season. Crysis 2 is going to put Crytek in the minds of people as the company that truly kicked off 3D gaming. Any time a new technology comes around there needs to be a killer application to show it off. AVATAR did that for theaters and Crysis 2 will undoubtedly be the killer app for 3D gaming and be the kick start to 3D in the home. Sure broadcasting sports live in 3D for the home on the ESPN 3D channel is a big deal but being able to fully immerse yourself in a game where your instantaneous choices are reflected in the character’s movement is going to be an even more compelling choice for most people.

Regardless of the number of dimensions you play Crysis 2 in towards the end of the year, you will end up playing an incredible game. Still need convincing? Go and play the original Crysis on a very high end PC and just see what I am talking about. The only weak spot about that game was its narrative and fortunately Crytek has been very vocal about that and is more than just fixing that problem with the upcoming sequel. Crysis 2 is going to have the story be the focus of everything that goes on. The narrative is being written by acclaimed author Richard Morgan and he is very aware that story needs to be grounded in everything that players witness in the game. Just looking around in the environment (the game is set in New York City) will give you plenty of information about what has gone on and what might happen as you continue to play. Now just imagine how awesome playing a well told story, a fierce action experience, and a classic setting will all look in flawless 3D! It’s going to rock you to your core.

And I haven’t even mentioned that Crysis 2 is only one of five AAA projects that Crytek is currently working on.
There are all sorts of rumors as to what they might be, the most appealing one being a possible epic fantasy game. Remember, once 3D, always 3D as Jon Landau says. So it is very possible that with the six building locations there are in the Crytek Empire, they could have a huge scale project coming out every year – and all fully compatible with Stereoscopic-3D. With that number of games, Crytek will establish themselves as the leading 3D developer. Bring it on!

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