Crysis 3 Interview With Rasmus Højengaard
Back last week at EA’s Showcase event I got all fanboy excited to be one of the first to see Crysis 3 running. It was always going to look gorgeous and it was obvious from just watching it that the new “hunted has now become the hunter” theme has changed up the gameplay quite a bit too. These changes were always going to be good. I wanted to know what they were going to do about the one thing, that for me at least, that let Crysis 2 down. I wanted to know about how the story and characters will be treated this time around so I grabbed Crytek’s Senior Creative Director Rasmus Højengaard for a quick chat.
Looking back from when you finished development on Crysis 2, at that point when you then jumped over to start work on Crysis 3, what sort of feedback did you take from the community to then incorporate it into the new game?
Well there were a couple of things. First of all we wanted you to have a clearer understanding of what the context and conflict was, and who you were immediately in the game. It needed to be clear, and not as arbitrary or convoluted as it was in Crysis 2. We wanted you to understand the motivation, and why you’re behaving a certain way.
We wanted to broaden the gameplay style; we definitely saw some advantages in the gameplay style of the first Crysis, and again in Crysis 2, but it was about using those things at the right and proper time for the game, rather than kind of try and push one agenda through the entirety of the game. That’s why for us the concept of the ‘seven wonders’ is great, because that gives us this palette of different approaches, moods, and the science if you will, to support each of these different ways of pushing gameplay or pushing story, or whatever it is. That makes it actually easier for us to make the game because we did our homework very early on, and also we have a development team that’s very strong, which really understands what we’re trying to do here. This means that they are almost self-sufficient, they just do awesome stuff and it fits exactly what the initial vision was, even without any creative direction basically, and that’s great to see.
We’re also pushing the story a lot; we want to simplify it in the sense that the depth comes from the characters rather than the complexity of the concepts going on in the world, which is a bit of a different take on story-telling as well, which is another thing taken from Crysis 2.
You’d mentioned during our preview just before about having a new writer for the game…
Yeah, well for a variety of personal reasons Richard Morgan had less time to do these things, and we also wanted to push this more personal character-driven story, which isn’t really how Richard Morgan writes books. There was another writer we decided to then go with because he does that really well, and we’ll be revealing soon who that guy is, but he’s an amazing writer, and a joy to work with.
With the first game it was almost as though it was just a clear cut ‘these are the bad guys, shoot the bad guys’, and I felt as though I couldn’t connect to the story or characters on a personal level. You mentioned during our walkthrough about making the main characters much more vocal; are these changes in order to connect the player a lot more with the characters in the story?
It is. Both with the characters and the fiction in general we want the player to walk away with a much deeper understanding of what all these Ceph guys are about; not necessarily that you like or dislike them, or understand what their greater motives are, but just how they function as an entity. It’s always good to have context within the action of a game – this goes for the Cell as well, and for Prophet; you need to understand where he’s coming from, but we layer story differently in the game. Some things will be presented right in your face, and this is stuff you cannot miss for the life of you, then you have stuff going on in the level while you play – there’s a bigger risk that you might miss that because you’re blowing something up at the same time, so it can’t be the most important bits that we put there.
Then you have ambient story telling; stuff written on walls, messages, reactions from the environment from your actions, and finally you have stuff hidden away in emails or far away, and you have to be a bit of a die-hard fan to want to go looking for that stuff.
One thing we spend a lot of time on is figuring out how to layer our story telling, so people who might have played the previous ones, and people who might sit with you who have questions like ‘what the hell was that all about?’ might get a better understanding. I think we also learned a little bit that sometimes it’s better to boil things down, and be rich about what you’re explaining, rather than trying to make things as big and complicated as humanly possible. We’re definitely trying to add context with everything that we do, whether it’s on the major story level, or the story going on with the characters, or even the actions taking place in the game… just being sure everything is interconnected.
It’s the same thing with the hacking ability, and the shooting Ceph weapons ability, it all ties into a bigger theme; it’s not something I can go into detail about now, but it ties into Prophet’s motivation as a person, or whatever he is inside that suit. Then you have all the other characters reflecting that back by having completely opposite motivations, or opposite opinions. It creates friction, but it’s also great potential for these characters to support each other’s motives and so on. By tightening things up, and having less breadth, we can add a lot more depth and that’s always a good thing, right?
I would say that we’re definitely attempting as a company to treat story-telling differently in our games; that goes for all the games we work on as well.