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Cry Freedom

Developer Crytek discusses creating new content from scratch.

As one of the most anticipated PC titles for 2007, Crysis has been getting positive praise from all corners of the industry. And with developer Crytek establishing itself as a development team to watch after the success of its first title Far Cry, the company and its IP are in high demand.

Crytek's lead artist Michael Khaimzon was recently asked to share his thoughts on breaking into the games industry at the London Game Career Fair earlier this month, so took the opportunity to catch up with him and see how development on the first-person shooter is coming along, as well as asking about those 'Crysis for next-gen consoles' rumours that refuse to go away... So how did your address at the London Game Career Fair go, and what kind of feedback have you had since?

Michael Khaimzon: It went perfectly. It was very interesting. Everyone there kind of liked it. A lot of students were asking plenty of questions and I was happy to answer them. I got good feedback.

It must be an encouraging sign to see so many people turn up, listen and ask questions - and be generally passionate about breaking into the games industry?

I gave two speeches - one for professional developers and one for the students - and with the students the questions might have been the common ones we get asked all the time in the industry, but thatâs fine. I think I might have scared them off a little by saying quite a few things about the industry that may sound a little bit more scary than the reality of it all. Itâs not going to break them, my comments might have been a test to see if they really want itâ¦

What are the realities of working on next-generation technology?

People need to be prepared for the reality of working on a big next-generation project. If you work on something thatâs challenging and new, youâre not working on existing technology but trying to develop technology in parallel.

You have to create assets and change them as you go because the technology changes alongside the project development. So there can be a lot of things that have to be reworked, thereâs a lot of extra hours to put in and it can be frustrating for people who are not prepared for it.

One of the main points I tried to get across was that you always have to be prepared to rework your materials for one reason or another. It may be a visual reason such as feedback from an art director who doesnât agree with a decision, or a technical decision where new technology has been implemented later in the project forcing you to go back and rework content. I just wanted to make sure that people know what to expect.

Was this the right kind of industry event to get that message across?

One thing that is very important is not the size or the type of event, but the technical capabilities to create the good conditions in order to get a message across. In well-equipped rooms itâs so much easier to make your point.

You're only in the UK for a day and now it's back to work. How's the development of Crysis coming along?

Yes, everything is perfect. Weâre on schedule and aiming for a Q1 2007 release. Weâve a few months left still to go, and weâre going to do everything thatâs humanly possible to finish it on time.

You mentioned in the LGCF speech that the level of realism youâre striving for in the visuals is very labour intensive. How do you balance that with developing the game as a whole and getting it moving forward to hit the crucial deadlines?

We spend quite a few months at the beginning of the project trying to establish pipelines. We don't start creating twenty vehicles before we've created one. Sometimes you make these mistakes. We actually made a few mistakes like this and it taught us that it's important to try a few tests first and then begin the actual development.

We also have quite a strong team so that even if we make mistakes we have enough confidence to throw away what we had before and rework the necessary elements. We are always ready for this situation because we know that our technology evolves together with the project. We have a very strong R&D team so we know we can handle any problems that might arise.

Crysis is a PC title, but as a developer are you attracted to working on the new home consoles at all?

I think there would be absolutely no problem for us to convert anything we work on to any console if we decided to. I mean, we have enough power, we have enough programmers and artists to convert such a thing, it's just a matter of making the decision.

Are there any aspects of home consoles that appeal to your team in particular? Something you'd really like to get your hands on?

I'm pretty sure it would be interesting for us to do stuff on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, we would just have to see how much sacrifice to the game we'd have to make. Or whether there would there be a sacrifice at all, maybe we could find a way to make the game look exactly like it does on PC on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

So in the future, is there a chance we'd see Crysis on next-gen consoles?

There might be. The decision is not mine to make. I don't know of any official plans to do so, I know there are rumours and talk, but I could not say anything concrete about it. That would have to be something you'd have to ask Electronic Arts.

How are you finding working with EA on Crysis compared to working on Far Cry with Ubisoft?

I think the difference mainly comes not from who we work with, but who we are as a company right now. When we started on Far Cry we didn't even have a name for ourselves, we had to prove ourselves. It was a big risk and people were asking if we could do it, and Ubisoft may have felt some pressure as to whether we could turn out a great game — you know, whether they should help us out here or there. But with EA they seem to be saying, 'okay these guys made Far Cry so they probably know what they are doing'. So the level of interference or feedback is different. From my perspective I don't see much of a difference between the companies, because we haven't had any big artistic problems on Far Cry or on Crysis.

Michael Khaimzon is lead artist for Crytek. Interview by Matt Martin

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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.