The Thoughts and Minds Behind Crysis 2

By Chris Faylor, Apr 09, 2010 7:00pm PDT

Crysis 2 is the "greatest product that is going to come out this year," David DeMartini, general manager of publisher EA Partners, declared before welcoming Cevat Yerli to the stage.

Yerli, one of the co-founders of Crysis 2 developer Crytek, then spoke at length about the upcoming sci-fi shooter sequel. He talked about why it's set in New York City. He talked about the changes made to the super-powered Nanosuit that players wear in-game and how players will be able to customize it. He talked about how novelist Richard Morgan came to be lead writer on the project.

In short, he talked about a great deal of things, offering additional insight into the game. So did Morgan and, after the presentation, executive producer Nathan Camarillo. So without further ado, I give you the thoughts and the minds behind Crysis 2:

    Cevat Yerli - Crytek CEO and President

    Richard Morgan - Lead Writer, Author of Altered Carbon

    Nathan Camarillo - Executive Producer at Crytek

Why New York City?

Cevat Yerli: Crysis 1 was featuring a tropical island, which was a mysterious setup, had its own arc, but lacked an emotional tie-in. People just said, "What? Apart from being paradoxical and fantastic, what's the real deal with protecting an island?"

The New York location allows us to elevate the location in a sense that is emotionally more relevant for us. New York is symbolic for the pride of mankind. New York is the city that we are most proud of. If the gamers cannot save New York... then no other city can be safe effectively.

Richard Morgan: Immediately there's a massive emotional charge to [New York], not just for Americans, I think, but internationally as well. We lock in an emotional charge from the word go.

Bringing Jungle Gameplay to New York City

Cevat Yerli: As we worked on Crysis 1, we achieved this jungle gameplay which made Crysis 1 stand out--a sandbox experience through the jungle. We said, "How can we transform this, both gameplay-wise and fictionally, in a more rich way?" So we elevated this into something called urban jungle [with Crysis 2]. The urban jungle stands for jungle gameplay, with verticality in an urban environment. You play out the different levels of height that are featured in the game. Also the artificial and organic [elements of the urban] jungle allow for you to take cover and run out of cover and etcetera.

Customizing the Nanosuit

Cevat Yerli: Players are able to customize and upgrade the Nanosuit 2 as they play through the Crysis 2 experience. You start the same as everybody, but you will finish differently based on your own progression.

The Story Behind The Story

Cevat Yerli: How can we actually elevate the experience of Crysis 1? How can we crack the nine-percent [review] rating difference to a perfect hundred? I know nobody's going to make a perfect hundred, but how can we aspire to get there? We asked the community, the fans, hardcore people like hardcore gamers, press people, family and friends, asked all around and said "What can we do?"

They said "Gameplay was great, visuals are there, but the story wasn't up to the standard to the rest of the experience." And so we said, "What can we do here? How can Crytek tackle this?" And so we looked around the community of sci-fi writers, and I looked at the books I've been reading in, and I said, "You know what? There's a kick-ass award-winning writer that I really would love to work with."

Richard Morgan: We're shooting for unpredictability, hopefully a story where you don't know what's going on and you don't know what's coming next and there'll be twists and turns and then you're thrown for a loop as a player trying to cope. We nailed that, pretty much. We got a twisty-turny narrative that hopefully will keep you guessing.

In the first game, the Nanosuit is just this amazing piece of kit. It does all these amazing things--it gives you survivability, power and so forth. As a science fiction writer, I'm interested in technology, but what I'm interested in is how it's kind of unpredictable. It's a very useful and sharp tool, but it can cut both ways. It can get out of hand. It can do things you didn't expect it to.

What we're looking at now is the Nanosuit actually becomes almost a character in its own right. It has an arc, and as the game progresses, the narrative builds. There is a narrative thread for the suit itself, which you, as a player using the suit, will have to get to grips with. The technology has a bit of mystery at the heart of it, the technology is not what it seems.

The suit itself has a destiny, an endpoint, and that destiny gets entwined with the destiny of the city that you're trying to save.

Three narrative threads--the narrative of the player, the character you become, the narrative of the suit and the technology that goes with it and what that is, and then the narrative of this place you're that struggling desperately to save--those three get wrapped up, webbed together and turned into a cable, and that's what pulls you through the game, hopefully.

Nanosuit Powers Combine

Cevat Yerli: We have been streamlining the experience of the Nanosuit that people have been playing in Crysis and making it accessible... but also more empowered than ever before. We tried to see how can a player express himself with less interface, less obstruction and more clear empowerment.

Nathan Camarillo: In Crysis 1, you had Armor, you had Stealth, you had Strength, and you had Speed. What we found is a lot of people were combining these together. People played in a specific style.

We really want to complement [stealth] cloak-style gameplay and armor-style gameplay. We still have what people were doing in Crysis 1, Speed and Strength, combined together. That's what we're kind of calling Power. It's kind of a layer that sits on top [of the two main modes, Armor and Stealth]. You choose when you want to give the suit more power, because what people would do is, they figured out "Hey, I can sprint [with Speed] and then if I really quickly switch to Strength then I can jump higher." If people are already trying to do that, why not put them together? While you're moving fast, you can jump higher.

The last bit is using your visor [with Tactical], like the binoculars in Crysis 1. How can I get more information about my requirement? We still have a wide variety of modes, they're just more focused on the type of tools that people use most often. What we wanted to be able to offer is like, if I'm cloaked and I'm hiding, I also want to be able to recon on guys.

Or, if I'm cloaked, I want to be able to jump really far. So, when I was playing the demo, what I did is I ran from the roof doing Power and then I would cloak in the air [with Stealth] and then kind of become a ghost as I'm jumping across. I would become invisible, and then I could land silently.

It's more refined. It's more focused, and we're trying to promote the kind of ways people using the suit, because the first suit was kind of an experiment, you know? It was new. Like Cevat said, Far Cry was one kind of game, and then Crysis was kind of like Far Cry but with a Nanosuit. That offered a certain set of decisions, but it's hard to see how your audience will react to that. So we looked at how people used in, and now we want to make it better.

Can It Do Whatever a Spider Can?

Nathan Camarillo: No [you can't climb buildings like Spider-Man]. We ride this fine line between what kind of super heroes we want to pursue. For me, one of the strong appeals about Crysis is that you're kind of a super hero but you're more grounded in reality. I didn't get hit by gamma rays and turn into something. I'm using technology to become super human. I'm becoming more powerful, stronger. I'm a guy with a purpose, I'm a guy with a mission. There's a lot of classic comic book heroes that are this way. The guys who had a motive and used something, guys like Iron Man or guys like Punisher, these are the guys that appeal to me. It's a different kind of appeal.

(Not) Comparing PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360

Nathan Camarillo: PlayStation 3, it looks just as good as [Xbox] 360. We're pushing the hardware of both consoles to the limit, probably further than anyone's pushed them thus far. The PC version is equally as good and it has its own benefits in some ways. But the goal for us isn't comparing each console to each other or console to PC, it's about giving each gamer the best experience for their respective platform. That doesn't mean that we're giving a different story or different levels or anything like this, but Crysis 1 is still the heralded benchmark of visuals on PC gaming, and we're gonna kick our own butt in that regard with Crysis 2. We're our own best competition in that regard. So PC gamers won't be disappointed, console gamers will be blown away. It'll be better than anything that they've seen.

Project Natal and PlayStation Move Support?

Nathan Camarillo: We're not talking about specifics right now, but you know, we're not done talking about Crysis 2 yet. There'll be plenty more information coming out over the upcoming months on unique things that we'll do.

On Storytelling in Games

Richard Morgan: I'm a novelist, that's what I do by trade, but I'm also a crazy enthusiastic console gamer for about the past seven or eight years. The thing about games that always struck me was there's a massive potential in them... All of things I value in literature, all of the literary values of storytelling and creating a fiction, all of those things it's possible to import into gaming.

The important thing, especially with [a] first-person dynamic [is that] the player comes to the game naked and uninformed. You start the game, you know nothing. You need a narrative that will play to that. You need a narrative where the character that you're stepping into is also pretty much in that position. So, for me, the narrative needs to have a sense of, it needs to be almost a free-fall. It's like the game begins, you're thrown out of the airplane, you don't have a chute, and you've got to cope.

There is that element [of] a noir narrative--usually, habitually you can't tell who are your friends, who are your enemies, what the hell is going on and how do I work this out. That's what I think you need from a good first-person narrative thread, is that sense of free-fall, that sense of "shit shit shit I've got to get to grips with this." There's a desperation to that that drives you forward.

Being Lead Writer

Richard Morgan: Lead Writer, it sounds and looks like a command post of some sort, but it actually isn't. I showed up in this kind of boiling storm of creativity--you've got the level design guys, you've got the art director guys, you've got the AI guys, you've got all of this creativity going on around you. As Lead Writer, you're like a lens. The idea is you've got to try and take all this creativity and try and refract it through the lens of the story. Make the fiction strong, don't scratch the lens, make sure that all of this stuff flows through. It's very much a case of building something that supports the gameplay but also is integral to it, so you're left with a whole.

Future Crisis (Get It?)

Nathan Camarillo: We have big plans for the [Crysis] franchise, but I really can't talk about future products.

Developed by Crytek and published through Electronic Arts, Crysis 2 is due out PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 between October 1 and December 31, 2010.

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