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Tech Focus: Crysis 2 and the future of CryEngine 3

Crytek discuss the past, present and future of CryEngine 3 with Digital Foundry.

Digital FoundryIs there any interest from non-game companies in things like fast architectural previews?
Carl Jones

Similarly to the film industry - real-time, interactive graphics can benefit almost any industry or production.

An obvious group are architects - being able to explore their designs, not just fly through them in pre-rendered CG. With CryEngine Sandbox real-time tools as well, you can change your designs instantly, as you are experiencing them - this is nothing new for CryEngine game developers, but it is a sea-change for architects and their customers.

Imagine buying a car, shopping online, or having some construction or decoration work done and being able to experience what you will be buying, and even request changes to it, in real-time. You'd get more choice, better value for money and it'd be fun! It's the future!

Digital FoundryCryEngine 3 is "next gen ready". Can you tell us exactly what that means? How quickly do you envisage CE3 being ready for a next gen console once the dev kits are out there?
Carl Jones

We've been considering the next generation and what it will likely consist of for many years now, so everything we did in CryEngine 3 has been with an eye on future hardware architectures.

Some recently advertised "next-gen" features in other middleware are running in an unplayable tech demo on a supercomputer. But a bunch of these same features are available right now, in the current generation, in Crysis 2!

We've been waiting for the next generation of consoles since we released Crysis 1, as the high end PC features we invented back then will be pretty standard on next gen consoles, we believe. Developers can work with CryEngine 3 right now, running real-time GI, sub-surface scattering, movie quality camera effects, etc. in vast worlds with extreme complexity and be confident that the technology they are working with will be scalable to the next generation.

Digital FoundryWhat's the future for CryEngine 3? Are you hoping to develop it significantly over the current generation, and how much room do you see for CE3 improvement on the current consoles?

Some recently advertised "next-gen" features in other middleware are running in an unplayable tech demo on a supercomputer. But a bunch of these same features are available right now, in the current generation, in Crysis 2!

Carl Jones, Crytek.
Tiago Sousa

I think we already tapped a large part of the consoles' resources and hardware potential. But there is still quite some potential to push it further, especially from art side, since it was their first game with this engine iteration. I'm quite confident they will learn to push our engine to its limits by carefully using their resources. From the tech side we will of course keep optimising and improving further, there is no such thing as the best optimisation/approach, performance and quality is always a moving target.

There were also some areas we wanted to push further, for example minimising memory transfers, but we just lacked the time to make it happen.

Digital FoundryYou've already licensed CE3 externally - what kind of valuable feedback have you had from developers using your tech and has this led to any direct improvements in the features and performance of the engine?
Carl Jones

We're always improving the engine - we never stop! But we've certainly been working with our licensees to make our engine easier to modify at all levels, we've been supplying more and more samples for developers to get a head start at the beginning of their projects. We've now got really great documentation, which was certainly a weakness a few years ago. All of this is based on us listening to our licensees and ensuring we focus on delivering what they need as quickly as possible.

Digital FoundryWhat is your view of Cloud gameplay streaming and now that OnLive has been active for a while, and can you go into more detail on how you would approach using this tech?
Cevat Yerli

As I mentioned in the past already I'm convinced that Cloud gameplay streaming certainly CAN rule the future gaming market IF applied correctly. I think current applications are pointing in the right direction but still need some major adjustments. In general cloud gameplay streaming needs to become a more user friendly and commercially viable solution in order to appeal to the mass market.

Digital FoundryIn your presentations, you seem to be targeting 2012 for the arrival of next gen architecture. Is this still your target or have the goal posts shifted since you gave that talk?
Cevat Yerli

I still believe that we'll see a wave of next-gen platforms in 2012 and 2013 (not all at once though!)

Digital FoundryPC GPUs are already orders of magnitude more powerful than the hardware found in the consoles. When we shift to a new console generation, will we see current PC GPU power being utilised more effectively? Shouldn't that already be happening with DX11?
Tiago Sousa

What the user sees is merely the end result of additional GPU power together with much more memory available. Which API it comes from, doesn't really matter.

I'm a strong believer that we should already be at Avatar quality in real-time, but the mass market (not everyone has the highest end cards or cpus for example) is significantly delaying this next step. The transition to a new console generation that is far less memory-bound, will allow for less painful QA/maintenance of PC assets versus console assets from an art perspective. Ideally, you want to have the same asset everywhere and not have artists making custom assets, or even levels, for specific platforms.

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Richard Leadbetter avatar
Richard Leadbetter: Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.