Executive producer, Crytek
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.