GDC 2011: Crysis 2 Interview With Nathan Camarillo

Crysis 2 Interview With Nathan Camarillo

Crysis 2 is going to be one of the largest first person shooter offerings to the market in 2011. A longer-than-average campaign, healthy multiplayer offering and stunning graphics all add up to create a highly anticipated game, on that stands out in a year filled with fierce first person shooter competition.

During GDC 2011 in San Francisco, Crytek was on hand to show off their game on consoles and in stereoscopic 3D (which looks even better on gigantic televisions) and we had an opportunity to interview Nathan Camarillo who serves as Crysis 2's executive producer. Camarillo is a very intelligent and passionate individual and had a lot to say in the brief time we had during the interview. He is also impressively excited and enthusiastic about his game, something that shows in his answers.

The wealth of information for Crysis 2 pertaining to its story, weapons and multiplayer have all been made available in trailer form for viewing pleasure, and yes, it is a definitely a pleasure. For those who prefer reading, a hands-on of Crysis 2 can also be gotten. All very interesting things to read, especially after reading the interview below.

Game Rant: What were the priorities when bringing the sequel to Crysis to consoles?

Nathan Camarillo: That was the top priority. We wanted to make Crysis 2 on consoles as the goal from the very beginning and we couldn't do that with CryENGINE 2, that's what caused CryENGINE 3 to come about. We needed to re-architect and re-write parts of the engine so it could run on a multi-thread on a console and for the PC still be able to scale the visuals with the hardware. So the more hardware power you have available, the better it's going to look on PC. It's a tall order to do all three at the same time. That was the goal from the beginning: To simultaneously create a choreographed sandbox gameplay game like Crysis 2 and have it be multiplayer AND still look awesome.

GR: Could you tell a little about the design process for the sequel? From the transformation from having Crysis 1 more of an open world shooter and then transforming into, not exactly a linear game, but one where there is this path to take while allowing the player a multiple approach.

NC: With Crysis 2, we wanted to take the game to a new location or setting that had a lot more emotional relevance than the jungle island of the original. While the island had its own story and the island transformed over the course of the game, it wasn't a place you inherently cared about or had a very deep history or rich back story behind any of it. It was just an island in the end. While the story was good and the game was a lot of fun, the areas where the game shined the most was when you wandered through the jungle and get into an area of human population like the huts and villages. Places where people had made their mark. Then the sandbox changed and you could jump on things. It wasn't just sneaking around on the ground in the jungle, you could sneak on the ground, jump on a hut, go inside, cause a disturbance, and run back out.

We wanted to move to more of an urban environment that provided more opportunites for 3D traversal and 3D gameplay, so taller and lighter basically, with more tools and toys to play with like being able to kick taxis, throw explosive barrels and newsstands. Hard cover, soft cover, bushes, trees. To have all of the good elements to make a great sandbox game. So, in the end, we picked New York for that. And what we did... well, it was still important to us to have the same kind of playable space we had in Crysis 1 maps. So, Crysis 1 had big vistas and you could see, you know, island jungle go for really far, but you couldn't walk every square inch of that. A lot of it was things you could see, but never get to. It gave you a sense that everything went on forever. We wanted to do that for the city as well, so we took Crysis 1 maps and plopped them down into the early prototype of Crysis 2 to make sure the size of the gameplay area was still the same and over the course of the game, it was part of the circle of the choreographed sandbox concept.

We go from tighter, linear areas where we want to deliver the story to you or introduce new game mechanics or make sure you see something and then open them up into big action bubbles where you have 3 or 4 different routes. There's no set way to play through the space, you can move around, laterally or vertically. Any way that you like and really traverse the gameplay space and take advantage of the sandbox. To do part of that, the other thing we did as well, not just making sure the sizes were the same, we wanted to take the visual language that was in Crysis 1 that gave it the feeling of a jungle and adapt that into an urban metaphor.

Typically, cities are very linear with alleyways and streets and intersections. Everything is very hard angled, but because New York is under attack by aliens, that allows us to damage the city and transform it and change these very hard angular paths that are in the cities and make them more free form and organic and break up the ground terrain so there's undulation and little ridges and hills and all the things you could hide behind in Crysis 1. Like the pile of rocks turns into a pile of concrete or rubble, we want to have those same metaphors there.

This is why in the beginning we called it an urban jungle, it wasn't about being a concrete jungle, it was about taking the jungle concept and the small pieces of the jungle and finding a way to make those happen in an urban environment. So you still wind up with the same type and style we had in the original Crysis with using cover and moving from location to location and bring that into Crysis 2 with an urban setting.

GR: With the game market the way it is today, with first person shooters being a huge part of that, how do you think Crysis 2 will measure up competitively?

NC: I'm a fan of all games. I play a lot of games myself and I love first person shooters even if they're not the ones we're making. I think Crysis 2 will be a breath of fresh air for a lot of people. There's a general feeling that there's a lot of stagnancy in the last 3-4 years in the first person shooter realm. And there's been some minor innovations here and there, an occasional title will come out with something unique and cool that you haven't seen before or takes the first person shooter experience into something that's more into an RPG. That's more hybridization though, than giving players a new way to experience a first person shooter.

With the choreographed sandbox that was in Crysis 1 and that was an innovation there on PC, but a lot of console gamers never got to play this kind of game. That's what we wanted to do with Crysis 2, to get more people out there to experience the kind of gameplay that only a Crysis-style game can deliver. Giving you the powers of the Nanosuit with all the cool abilities and mobility of the suit and I think people will be really refreshed by being able to attack the gameplay space in the way they want and the playstyle they want. They can play the same map 4 or 5 times and it plays out in completely differently each time. They can take different approaches, use different weapons, it's never the same game twice. It's the same level and they all have enemies in it like the last time you played it, but depending on where you move and go and what decisions the AI makes, it's always going to play out different.

GR: It's a dynamic experience, it's not an endless sequence of scripted events.

NC: Yeah, it's not a linear "wack-a-mole" kind of game where you're walking through with a really shiny mallet with really mean, angry moles. It's not the same thing over and over. It's always dynamic and always different, you know? That's why we still enjoy playing it internally [at Crytek] after having worked on it for so long, we just love playing it all the time. You saw me, I was sitting there, I knew you were coming, but nobody was playing so I sat down, turned up the difficulty and played for a while. People seem to really enjoy not only playing it, but enjoy watching it.

So many crazy things happen and plus we're showing it in 3D on this gigantic screen. There's always a crowd around when someone's playing it, because it's different. It's not the same story over and over and over and if you walk away, you never know what you might miss.

GR: Any comment on the announcement of not having Online Pass for multiplayer?

NC: Did we announce it? It wasn't an announcement so much as it was someone asking me a question and me saying there was no Online Pass. *chuckle* We want as many people playing Crysis 2 multiplayer as possible, there's no real reason to do it or not do it.

GR: You do have a high level of confidence in your product.

NC: Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think people will want to play Crysis 2. It's a big offering, it's got a very long single player campaign, averaging 10-12 hours and people might take longer than that. Then you have the multiplayer with 50 hours of unlocks and leveling up and modules (to add to your Nanosuit). It's got such a high degree of replayability. You could play multiplayer for a while and might learn some tricks you can take back to single player and vice versa.

It's got a lot of longevity in that regard and the community will be really excited to play multiplayer and innovate and create new styles of play that we haven't even thought of yet. You know, just by them having so many tools available and it becomes this multiplayer sandbox. I think people will hold on to their copies of Crysis 2 and if they have a 3D TV? They're going to have an awesome time playing it, and if they don't...maybe they'll hold on to their copy of Crysis 2 until they get a 3D TV because they heard how awesome it is or maybe they've had the opportunity to see it in person.

GR: Were there any kinds of difficulties or ideas that shaped the gameplay?

NC: With Crysis 2, we wanted to push all aspects of the game forward and be really competitive in a really crowded marketplace with a lot of first person shooter games. You have to do everything well, you can't do anything poorly, so every feature we did, everything we created was always pushing the boundaries and if you look at the original plan for Crysis 2 and then ambitions for CryENGINE 3, we went even further than that. We're always pushing forward because that's what we have to do, that's what Crytek is about: Always pushing boundaries. We didn't have to make any compromises, we just had to work really, really hard to make that happen and hopefully everyone sees that in the final product.

The first person shooter genre has indeed seen a trend of monotony in certain ways. Games like Bulletstorm have been trying to take fresh approaches to the genre, but at the end of the day, a first person shooter game is going to be about your character shooting the bad guys. While that's not a theme that's going to ever change, the way it is implemented and how you're able to expand on and customize that particular experience is going to matter. Crytek and Nathan Camarillo want to show players that Crysis 2 is going to be a game that will deliver something new and after reading his thoughts, wouldn't you be inclined to agree?

Crysis 2 releases March 22, 2011 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

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