Well, after weeks of waiting, we finally have the massive Crytek interview on Modding Crysis that we have been wanting to share with the community. In these 24 questions and associated answers, Cevat Yerli (Crytek CEO), Alex Marschal (Community Manager), Ben Bauer (Level Designer) and Craig Tiller (Network Programmer) have revealed many things that have up to now been top secret. The information they reveal here is quite detailed, in preparation for the release of a lot of additional information at next weeks Game Developer's Conference. Read on modders, and rejoice!
1. As most Obsidian Edge fans are aware, Crytek was founded in Coburg, Germany in early 1999 by Cevat, Avni and Faruk Yerli. Your early Mission Statement was that you wanted to be “Creating games which make history”. Do you feel that you achieved that so far?
With Far Cry we didn’t reinvent the wheel and that wasn’t our intention at all, but with its paradisiacal graphics, the open and long-range gameplay that allowed nearly every possible tactic (from stealth to action gameplay) and the very smart AI we created something that will be kept in mind by many players out there. So yes, we can say that we achieved our goal so far and we even want to extend that in Crysis.
2. On a Pre Far Cry Forum, Cevat stated that he wanted to build a strong modding community. How successful do you feel that Far Cry was towards that aim; did Crytek achieve their initial goals?
The initial goal was to provide our community all the necessary tools, files and documents to create their own mods regardless their genre. In the end we achieved this, but unfortunately some content (C++ for example) has been released too late which was one of the major reasons why our community didn’t expand even more. Nonetheless we have great modders in our community who not only do great work, but also help out a lot on our modding portal forums. We are very proud of the engagement of the community and we want to keep that for further games and hopefully achieve our original intention.
3. Did the relationship with Far Cry’s publisher restrict what you wanted to achieve in that respect?
Creating and releasing the SDK to the community was totally up to Crytek. UbiSoft just verified the content and gave green light afterwards, so no. J
4. Crytek’s final patch for Far Cry, Patch 1.4 was produced in conjunction with a number of members from the Far Cry community, including members of the Polishing Weevils. That innovative approach is unheard of in modern times and in the eyes of many people set Crytek apart from other games developers. Looking back, what are your thoughts on that collaboration?
It was more work than we have initially thought, but in our eyes it was worth it. The collaboration with some community members was something completely new for us and even we had to learn how to deal with the communication and the development. Both sites, Crytek as well as the patch 1.4 development team made great experiences during that progress which we do not want to miss.
5. In 2006 you agreed a deal with UBISOFT for your remaining Far Cry IPR. That can’t have been an easy decision to take given that you must have a tremendous amount of emotions tied into Crytek’s original title. Did watching the direction the Far Cry franchise was taken in (with neglect of the PC community) make it easier to walk away?
Giving away the Far Cry IPR was a logical step for us. It was our first project and we put a lot of effort and love into it, but we wanted to move forward – to take the next big step and make something unique and different.
6. Okay one question that we have to get out of the way, or no Obsidian Edge 2 or Crysis fans will respect us for not asking it: System Specs. If you are approaching Alpha (Feature Complete) are you in a position to hint at tentative minimum system specs at this stage? We know you have mentioned mid to high DX 9 rigs and placed a rough 2 year old time frame on them, but in terms of processors and GPUs can you pick out reference models that CE2 and Crysis should run on?
Reaching Alpha means that our features have been implemented completely and are working. It doesn’t mean our game is fully polished and optimized. Thus we still can not give out any detailed system specs except of the ones we already released.
7. With Far Cry, you made it clear that you wanted to support modding on your engine and it set new standards in easy modding with the intuitive yet incredibly powerful Sandbox editor. What have you learned from the Far Cry experience with mods, and what if any changes can we expect?
People were really grateful for the tools we provided for Far Cry modding. Since the community was not that big it was not easy for teams to find enough potential modders. Also the acceptance of mods in the community was not as high as expected. Many good mods have been released, but only few of them have been played constantly. It was not a matter of qualify of the mods, but something we had to improve in Crysis. The whole modding structure for Far Cry was good in general, but lacked quick provision of SDK, steady update, had compatibility issues and was not too easy to use for our customers. This is definitely going to be changed for Crysis, so everyone can access mods much easier.
8. Is this one of the reasons that you decided to take the unprecedented step of releasing the Crysis Pre-SDK to the Polishing Weevils for the production of Obsidian Edge 2?
Yes, definitely. Another reason we had a small modding community for Far Cry was that several tools were released late after the game shipped. It was not an issue of the mod teams not working fast enough. Also the content of the first SDK version was not quite satisfying for us. With the release of the pre-SDK we want to ensure that the final SDK is up to a state that satisfies us as well as the modders. There is no better feedback about content than from a very active mod team.
9. Those that are moving from CE1 to CE2 will be eager to see the SDK before/at the time of game release. How realistic are your targets of getting the SDK out in time for the release of Crysis?
We have set up a stable plan to release the SDK around the time of Crysis release. Ideally it will be available on the release day or even a bit earlier. We are aware of the necessity of having the SDK being available as soon as possible in order to grant a stable base for the upcoming modding community.
10. Modders are forever interested in making comparisons with mods and game engines. Within the mod community there is currently a lot of excitement about the Unreal3 engine and CryEngine2. What does Cryengine2 offer modders that other engines don't?
We offer the coolest community ever… next to a great engine, satisfying mod tools and a steady improving dev support ;-)
11. Which comes first in the cycle of tools you have put together for CE2? Is it a case of discovery e.g. “hey look at what we can achieve like this”, or do you have a requirement for a feature that the tool is built to satisfy, or both?
It is a good mixture of both. The tools are not only built for the modding community, but also are used internally for the development of the game. During its development we have several features that require specific tools, but we also discover cool new things from time to time with the currently available tools when fiddling around with them.
12. Are there any new features in the editor that you particularly proud of?
Sandbox2 is way more powerful then its previous versions but the feature I really like the most is the Flowgraph. It allows all kinds of scripting in an easy to understand graphical interface. For example complete mission structures, over special unique AI tactics, simple triggers up to a light which turns red at 24.12.07 at 23:59. The combination of specific entity functionality with logic, mathematical and token nodes allow the level designer to work very flexible without special code support.
13. What is the greatest improvement in work flow between CE1 and CE2?
A level designer for the CryEngine always worked close together with artists. Therefore we spend special attention on improving the workflow between the two departments. It is now possible to export geometry and the separate materials of an art asset. That allows quick adjustments of surfaces and shaders independently from the actual asset. The possibility to export selected objects from the editor to .obj and giving it to artists gives them detailed knowledge about the required sizes from design. No more back and for tweaks and way faster results.
14. What would you consider to be the biggest hurdle for modders making the transition from CE1 to CE2?
Getting enough time to discovering all our new features. J
15. As long as Official Engine Parameters for Crysis/CE2 have not been released, newly forming Crysis based mod teams are limited in what they can do. There are obvious planning stages these teams will go through, however something they could do now ahead of the release of Crysis is to 3D model. Can you comment on polycounts and its criticality within CE2 etc to give them a starting point for their models?
Weapons (1st person and 3rd person bind models)
1st person: about 6000 triangles (same as cryengine1; not more really needed – above, normal maps are not needed)
3rd person: about 1500 triangles
As we are using attachments we have to split the triangle numbers in the separate parts:
* Heads 3k triangles
* Body 5k triangles
* Attachments 1 k triangles
Max. 20000 polygons is our internal limit
Hard to answer – put detail were detail is needed. No real need to go crazy. If you only have a few buildings in your level you can spend more triangles, but you should be careful in City maps.
Between 500 and 2500 triangles for trees –whereas the ones with 2500 should not be used in a dense forest because of the filtrate – It heavily depends on the scenery you want to create.
Depends on the size and the complexity.
If you use one material, 300 polygons for a box are ok. This is the minimum number, one set of material should use in an object, as the setup for the renderer is much heavier compared to the actual rendering of these polygons. This also means you do no need LODs for objects lower then 500-600 triangles (given they only use one material).
16. How many LODs will be supported in CE2, are you sticking to just the 3 again?
We stick to the 3 LOD's - not a real reason to make 4 (just needs more memory). Polycount is not the big problem when rendering our datasets. Material changes and the resulting draw-calls affect performance much more heavily on modern graphics cards than pure triangle count alone.
17. Can vegetation be rotated or is it necessary to model many versions of the same tree to stop the "tree tiling" look.
We support vertical rotation of vegetation.
18. What are the texture resolutions for weapons, character, etc. in Crysis?
Weapons 1024x1024; Character head: 512 x 512 to 1024 x 1024; Character body: 1024 x 1024; Attachments: 1024 x 1024.
A general rule should be that you do not extend 170 to 190MB for the targeted Spec including mesh geometry. The last 60 MB (256 – 60 = 196MB) will be used for dynamic textures (shadow maps). You should therefore divide the available amount by the assets you want to show in the level.
A good advice is to keep the numbers of different materials per object very low and put more polygons into the object. The graphic card can a) handle polygons much better than loading different textures and b) can give you much more detail with lower memory consumption.
19. The number of materials per building:
From 7 till 20 materials.
20. The ingame height of a character unless the players want to bump their head on the doorway.
Real world size (means about 1.90 meter)
21. Gun clipping through walls, so what’s the thickness required before you can no longer see the gun?
There is no gun clipping in Crysis – all you need is a physics proxy.
22. Do breakable windows work in the engine on a DS? Do breakables work the same way as in CryEngine1?
23. What’s the height of a stair so a player can walk up the stairs without juddering/jumping?
Real world size (about 16 cm high and 32 cm deep)
24. Do Crytek have any plans to create exporters for other 3D applications? There has been conjecture that 3DSMax, Maya & Softimage are supported by the new Cry-Exporter, will other low end apps be supported? If not is it possible that sufficient detail could be released without license, allowing someone to create an exporter specific to whatever program they use? (e.g. Open Source the exporter code)
We will officially support 3DSMax and Softimage, but we will also provide the necessary information for the community to create and update exporters for other 3D applications.
25. Often in mods and maps, Server workload is important for playability and costing of producing the mod, for testing and release. Are there any plans for a Linux Server release or with the reliance on DX10 will it be targeted solely at Windows platforms?
We are still looking into this. Linux will be available for DX9 gaming, but if we decide for DX10 servers, then there will be vista dx10 only servers software in addition to Linux Dedicated Servers (for Dx9)
26. There has been lots of talk of the optimized Network and Server code you are utilizing for Crysis. Is it too early to say what single player effects will be available to Multiplayer modders? For instance, it possible to have a totally deformable / destructible multi player environment subject to reasonable map size and player numbers?
In principle, all of the single player destructibility will be supported in DX10 multiplayer but not DX9 – due to processing limitations and some tricks we might be able to pull to get latency down using DX10 hardware, but see above – it’s not there yet
27. Following on from this, do you anticipate that a Crysis mod would need to sacrifice any visual integrity in order to work in a multiplayer environment?
For DX10 – no, not at all. For DX9 – there’s no breakability, and care needs to be paid to optimize for low-spec machines.
28. In the past, mod teams have been reliant on having either C++ or LUA coders. While that option remains for more ambitious mods, can you describe improvements that you have made to allow entry level modders to access code based functions without the need to understand the code itself?
Mod teams can still use C++ and Lua, for simpler modding it is now possible to use Flow Graph feature, which is a visual events system that allow quite a lot of functionality without actually writing any code.
29. The gaming industry is rife with rumors that some publishers will hinder the growth or even existence of a Modding community as a means to ensure a market for their own expansion packs. This seems directly opposed to Crytek’s previous policy; are EA and Crytek in accord on the support you are showing for modifications?
Crytek and EA are absolutely on the same level of modding support.
30. Throughout the life of CE1, Far Cry community appreciated Crytek’s commitment to patches, even after 2.5 yrs. The Sandbox Editor however, never received any updates. Whilst we acknowledge that it was a great piece of software which you made a complete game from, some annoying bugs were not patched. Do you anticipate updating SB2 with patch releases as users discover issues?
We do hope that SB2 support will be much better; yes the plan is certainly to have Sandbox 2 patched together with the patch releases if bugs in it will be discovered.
31. What kind of mods do Crytek hope to see people create from Crysis and CE2?
We are happy about every kind of mod, no matter how big or small it is. But it would be interesting to see something completely different than FPS style mods though. Even though if mods have the same FPS setting it doesn’t mean it plays like Crysis. Each mod has its unique style and gameplay – some more and some less like Crysis. The community has so many different members with so many different opinions and preferences. I’m sure we will see a whole variety of different mods for Crysis. Pirates Multiplayers please! J
32. We have seen the recent unequivocal clarification regarding Next Gen Console development, reproduced below for our readers:
“We hope we aren't disappointing anyone, but contrary to any rumors that may be in circulation, neither Crytek nor any third parties are currently engaged in developing Crysis for console platforms. Our company's sole focus at this time is to complete Crysis for PC as well and as quickly as possible, so we can release it in a timely fashion to all who have shown such a strong interest in playing our game, while insuring we meet the high quality of game play they have come to expect. While we are gratified by the level of interest shown in Crysis by console owners and fans, and are of course interested in next generation consoles for potential future developments, it is the company's policy not to discuss future plans before the fact. We hope that clarifies the issue and thanks to all for your interest. Thank you, Cevat Yerli”
33. Once you have finished the PC version of Crysis, consoles are obviously an attractive market. At the recent CES, Microsoft was openly discussing PC to console interaction with respect to Halo. Can you ever see the day when a Crytek PC game would have a compatibility mode that would allow the migration of maps and modifications to other platforms and even perhaps support online play between PCs and Consoles?
It is a matter of how the development for consoles moves along in the future. Right now the system sounds pretty interesting, but there is lot of stuff you need to take into consideration. Playing a game on a console is very different to play it on a PC and people will get frustrated quickly if the compatibility system has not been balanced carefully.