Harder to wow with visuals now, says Crytek dev

Nicolas Schulz says quality of graphics across industry has made it harder for games to stand out

Crytek's 2007 shooter Crysis solidified the studio's reputation for technical prowess and cutting-edge graphics. But in an interview with Dark Side of Gaming to promote the PC release of Ryse: Son of Rome, Crytek Frankfurt principal rendering engineer Nicolas Schulz acknowledged that it's become harder for graphics to drop jaws in quite the same way they used to.

"I think with its advances in material quality, lighting and the quality of facial animations, Ryse is extending the boundaries of real-time graphics quite a bit again," Schulz said. "Generally though, as opposed to the times of the original Crysis, we as an industry have reached a quality level now where it is getting increasingly more difficult to really wow people. That said, there's still enough areas to explore and we will definitely keep pushing the boundaries as much as possible."

Despite the potential diminishing returns, Schulz said the company continues to invest in improving its CryEngine technology. Beyond "further enhancements to overall image quality," Schulz said the company is focusing on making the engine more accessible and quicker to produce games with.

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Latest comments (13)

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend3 years ago
Harder to wow with visuals now, says Crytek dev
Graphics should not be the milestone a game is judged by and I am glad this is becoming more clear to developers. IMO game play is the most important part and graphics should be there to enhance that game play.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 7th October 2014 6:29pm

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Tucson K Bagley Junior Artist, Dreamgate Studios3 years ago
Maybe try "wowing" players with interesting, rewarding or innovative mechanics and punchy gameplay instead. That could work.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 3 years ago
For me an Involving narrative, immersive environments and intuitive game play are the three fundamentals, graphics are an important part of that especially when providing immersive environments but I think all three are needed to give a game that wow factor these days.
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Show all comments (13)
Graphic fidelity us important, but it still needs the bread and butter of solid gameplay mechanics and related immersion, and is it fun?
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Jordi Rovira i Bonet Lead Engineer, Anticto3 years ago
As a graphics programmer I have to admit graphics have reached the point where average users can't really see the innovation. They can't tell if a game has dynamic global lighting or not. They can't tell if there are 100 realistic pedestrians on screen or just 30. This is a technical feat of the graphics industry, and also its doom because now other fields are taking the interest of users. And this is good!

Of course I am talking about graphics from a technical point of view. Graphics from an artistic point of view are still a key point to sell a game, as many daring indies have proven.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jordi Rovira i Bonet on 8th October 2014 2:17pm

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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee3 years ago
Surely you're not expecting the principal rendering engineer to not care about rendering? :) This is what I expect to hear from him on the subject, which is quite true. The standard has been raised tremendously across the board, I think better and better off the shelf solutions can only contribute to that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 9th October 2014 1:00pm

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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 3 years ago
Maybe try "wowing" players with interesting, rewarding or innovative mechanics and punchy gameplay instead. That could work.
It does. But that's also becoming harder to do.
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 3 years ago
It isn't harder to make games stand out if you just forget about the ASSUMPTION that games are all about graphics.

Sorry boys: your days as the premiere game pioneers are over now. Today it's all about gameplay.
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Henry Durrant Programmer, SUMO Digital3 years ago
Game-play should always trump graphics.

Just that now you can't sell your game on screenshots alone anymore.

Although it does mean that if you do go for photo-realism instead of more abstract or illustrative visual directions, you need to put in a hell of a lot of effort just to get up to the perceived norm (without looking old or cheap).

I'd expect more and more projects to go "TF2" and choose style over realism.
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters3 years ago
Since when did gameplay become the responsibility of a Principal Rendering Engineer?
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Igor Galochkin Game Programmer 3 years ago
To me graphics has always been a problem rather than an advantage in games, because it just forces me as a gamer to buy a new graphic card or even a new computer. Since I don't want to waste more money on hardware than it deserves, I simply don't buy new games until they are 3-5 years old and finally the hardware to launch them is cheap enough. I usually play games on the lowest graphical settings, so all the efforts of graphics programmers are wasted on guys like me.
There haven't been any games released in the last 15 years better than Alpha Centauri or Jagged Alliance 2 anyway so why bother anyway.
But well, I know Crytek is targeting different demographics, the one which finds it cool to pay for visuals. Technology for the sake of technology itself, regardless of how primitive the message is which this technology conveys. They care so much about the form but care so little about the content. Like Hollywood summer blockbuster movies. But that's what monetizes because visuals catch attention and excite even the dumbest or the youngest audiences who would simply not understand any complex messages.
It's great that they have finally reached their limits with graphics. At least this might to some extent stop or slow down the graphics arms race and save money for everyone.
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Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 3 years ago
Until we get to the point where we'll se LA Noire level facial acting or better everywhere (this will also depend on actors) I can't really see myself pay for GPU. Also, I think VR will be an important aspect to consider going forward. It made a game like Half-Life 2 look better (including the player characters despite somewhat dated lip sync etc) than 2D, while Skyrim looked far worse (admittedly this game still relies on unofficial VR support and with the Bethesda's legal battle with Oculus is unlikely to see any official integration anytime soon). I guess for VR, FPS,FOV and depth of view is really important, and detail would have to be distributed differently than on a flat screen, so it is going to be interesting to see how VR may affect the money value per pixel for the next couple of years.

But I really look forward to the day the industry can finally take advantage of the full range of an actor's talent. Then perhaps we'll see animators move on to games with more stylized art where they get to be actors rather than make up artists.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Petter Solberg on 8th October 2014 8:23pm

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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 3 years ago
Well, you can say what you want, but all in all, gamers still grade a game by it's graphics.. See how people get upset when they are told a game doesn't run on 1080p/60fps, even though they have no clue to what that actually means. Yes it's easy to run a PS3/xbox360 game on 1080p/60fps these days, but they seem to forget that the bitchers want better looking graphics, which means more detail and more objects.. Then they start bitchting about that PC games can easily run 1080p/60fps, good luck trying to get Battlefield 4 on ultra running on 1080p/60fps on a mid-range PC (which already has a graphics card almost the price of a nextgen console (ok, shy of a $100)..
And gameplay? I haven't seen gameplay changes over the course of 10 years (or more), it's all just a rehash. But that's ok, it's very hard to actually think of something original, because IMHO everything has already been done..

Also I don't see VR saving the business, I too own a Oculus DK2, but even though VR is great, I still just want to play games on the regular screen.. Both are just different experiences..
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