ELI­JAH FREE­MAN

Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, Cry­tek

EDGE - - ALTERED STATES -

Cry­tek has al­ready made its pres­ence known in the VR space with the am­bi­tious, if flawed, The Climb. Now the stu­dio is tak­ing on PSVR with first­per­son ad­ven­ture Robin­son: The Jour­ney. Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer

Eli­jah Free­man talks us through Cry­tek’s unique vi­sion for VR, and how the com­pany is main­tain­ing its rep­u­ta­tion for as­ton­ish­ing vi­su­als.

Many de­vel­op­ers work­ing in VR warn against dis­play­ing too much de­tail, but both The Climb and

Robin­son revel in it. What’s your view on that?

We want our en­vi­ron­ments to tell part of the story. And graphic fi­delity is one of our hall­marks. If you talk to any­one about a Cry­tek game they’ll say, “Oh, it’s go­ing to look beau­ti­ful”. But at the same time, when you’re talk­ing about a VR game, that’s not ex­actly an easy task be­cause now you have to run it in 60fps or 90fps na­tively de­pend­ing on the plat­form. So that means that we have to de­sign the game in a way that makes the best use of our de­tail in the most ap­pro­pri­ate way. Some peo­ple have done it in dif­fer­ent ways, and I per­son­ally don’t feel that there’s any wrong way to do this. If you build a good ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s a good ex­pe­ri­ence. We’re just fond of high de­tail and high fi­delity, that deep im­mer­sion, and the feel­ing that the whole en­vi­ron­ment is alive.

How have you done that with PS4 and PSVR?

We have some CryEngine voodoo that we’ve done to make some of the spe­cific things hap­pen the way we want them to. We went to the en­gine guys and said, “We want to have the high­est res­o­lu­tion pos­si­ble where we’re look­ing. How­ever, any­thing be­yond that doesn’t have to be at the same value”. So be­tween our tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor and the CryEngine team, they came up with a re­ally in­ter­est­ing so­lu­tion, and I think that it’s re­sulted in a re­ally good fi­delity for us. In ad­di­tion to that, our level de­sign­ers and artists looked at the game and said, “OK, when we’re mov­ing through the game at this ca­dence, let’s make sure that we have the draw calls re­duced at a cer­tain point”. So we limit the num­ber of draw calls that hap­pen if we want to en­gage the player with a lot of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­ity. And we also de­ter­mine where we need to spend our tex­ture bud­get. If it’s go­ing to be some­thing that the player can walk right up to in first­per­son, it should be in high res­o­lu­tion.

Have you no­ticed any ma­jor dif­fer­ences be­tween work­ing with Rift and PSVR?

I think it’s com­mon for peo­ple to just go, “Oh, they’re the same thing”, but they’re not – they’re com­pletely dif­fer­ent. It’s just dif­fer­ent re­quire­ments for each plat­form, but I wouldn’t say one’s bet­ter than the other. We spend our time just un­der­stand­ing what­ever the chal­lenge is and then ad­dress­ing what we need to do. And for any­body that’s been de­vel­op­ing games for a while, that’s al­ways been the case. And, as a mat­ter of fact, we like that kind of chal­lenge. We like to see if we’re able to mas­ter some spe­cific as­pect on a spe­cific plat­form.

How have you found PSVR’s dis­play?

It def­i­nitely has a unique crisp­ness to it. We found that the res­o­lu­tion on the Sony screen han­dled the [graph­i­cal] im­prove­ments we’ve made re­ally well, and we’re re­ally pleased with it.

At the mo­ment you’re only sup­port­ing DualShock, but given the shape of the player’s mul­ti­tool in Robin­son, pre­sum­ably you in­tend to add Move sup­port at some point, too?

The ba­sic gamepad works quite well, as it does in The

Climb. So we felt com­fort­able us­ing just the gamepad, and that ob­vi­ously hits the broad­est sec­tion of play­ers. That said, things like the Touch controllers help you feel like you’re more in­volved in the world, and ob­vi­ously we’ve thought about the Move controllers for Sony as well. So never say never, but right now we’re only go­ing to sup­port the gamepad.

And how about PS4 Pro?

Ob­vi­ously more power al­ways means an ex­cit­ing time for any de­vel­oper. We plan on sup­port­ing the Pro, but we haven’t done any­thing unique for that plat­form yet.

Robin­son will cer­tainly play on it, but what we’ll do in the fu­ture, I can’t say. We don’t have any plans right now to do any­thing ad­di­tional. But, like I said, any­thing’s pos­si­ble, and we’re look­ing for­ward.

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