During a jaunt to Frankfurt last week to give Crysis a good thrashing, we snagged a hold of Crytek boss Cevat Yerli and applied the thumbscrews.
Yerli is creative director on Crysis and the executive producer, and we have him to thank for coming up with the game's concept back in October 2003.
So what's Crytek's creative philosophy?
Cevat Yerli: There are two things. One is to make a big difference with what we do, and second is to push non-linearity. If you look at choice as making a difference, if you try to come up with ideas that unify visions, then you get things like the nano suit. The nano suit comes out of this, the breakable technology comes out of it.
Do you think there's not enough creativity going on in the FPS genre?
Yerli: Effectively the genre has been stagnating, even after Far Cry times. We're seeing the same experience over and over again. But what I think was the big breakthrough in the first-person shooter genre was the AI.
One of the things for game designers and creators is to make the user think before he does something. Then make him think through the options he has so he can choose something meaningful to overcome the challenge.
That inherently asks for an AI that can compensate for your choice, or can challenge and counteract your choice.
Our design stimulates you to think about a certain tactic. You come up with a tactic and when you use the tactic we have to react with AI. So we have to create systems that are flexible in any kind of situation, that you can come up with hundreds of ideas and the game still works.
Not only do you have to have strong AI but also level design to make the amount of choice possible.
Usually, the assumption is that you can make intelligent games by just putting better AI in, but that's not the case. You have to make better AI and better environment design and better level design in order to actually make the choices happen.
That's really where shooters have been stagnating. They've been focussing too much on technology like middleware. "I have middleware. I have physics middleware. If I have physics middleware and AI and rendering, I should be fine." That's the assumption.
But the true power is to use it creatively through better level design, better environmental art, to stimulate the player to make the choices. That's what's been missing. The technology has been there, but people haven't been using it.
You're very much a PC developer. Is that because that platform better allows you to express your creativity?
Yerli: There are two aspects. One is no limits, per se. From the beginning, I said, "We've come from PC, I don't want to constrain the creativity at this early stage of development".
But throughout the course we've said we can't realise a console version. We've been thinking about this of course, but then we said, "Even if we can, then we will lose quality".
For us, besides making Crysis, there was an underlying significant impact which is, when we finish Crysis, we also manifest the culture of Crytek.
The Crytek team made Far Cry and then they've been presented with the challenge to make something new again, to make sure they get in their mindset and creativity in terms of company culture that asks for technical and gameplay innovation long-term.
Instead of going for a sequel like Far Cry 2, which could have been easy in the minds of many people, we said, let's push CryEngine 2 and Crysis.