Having despaired over technology complaints involving the PC-only first Crysis game, the main man behind Crysis 2 now dares to withstand the harsh judgments of console gamers.
But PC gamers, don't expect Crysis 2 to be dumbed down. The people behind the game say that won't happen.
The Hurt Of PC Gamers
Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crysis studio Crytek, used to ask a basic question about the last big game his company made. "I would ask people, 'Did you play Crysis?'" Yerli recalled in an interview with Kotaku last week. "The answer often was, 'I don't have a PC that is powerful enough.' I was kind of hurt by it."
Crysis had been touted as a game that you probably wanted to play on the most expensive home computer you could find. It wound up scaring a lot of people away.
Yerli would be tempted to push the people who said they couldn't play the game, to see if they really didn't have a computer that could run. Maybe their problem was with the drivers needed to run the game. That's common high-end PC gaming stuff.
"I said to myself, 'This is a battle I cannot win,' Yerli told Kotaku. "So the only way to approach more gamers and deliver to more gamers was to go to the console market."
But bringing Crysis 2 to consoles would introduce new anxieties.
The Brutality Of Console Gamers
"We also realized the console market is more brutal," Yerli told Kotaku, making it clear that he didn't expect bringing his series to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 gamers to be a cinch. "It is a more competitive space. The consumer is more brutal. There's not much middle ground there."
"They won't steal your games as much," Kotaku suggested, trying to stress a positive, given Yerli's laments about the alleged rampant piracy of earlier Crysis games on PC.
"On the 360, I'm not so sure about that," he said with a laugh.
For Yerli, one of the differences between PC gamers and console gamers is the difference between a minute and 10 seconds. On consoles, he said, "we have to make sure split seconds they accept Crysis and not reject it. That's the brutality of the market. In PC games, you have a bit more time, maybe a minute left before you get rejected. In the console it feels like you have 10 seconds to tell me why you're awesome."
That console gamer, in other words, has less patience and demands a more streamlined experience.
Yerli was willing to brainstorm what making a game hospitable to a console gamer's more hurried judgments might mean: "It can be we're going to start with a big boom and have a fast tempo. And, like don't make them think too much. Offer some choices, but lead him a little bit. Hand hold a little bit, but don't be linear. You saw [in the demo] that there were a lot of opportunities for exploration and tactics, yet it was quite fast-paced. Then again, he could have been slower and played slower."
When Streamlined Doesn't Equal Dumbed-Down
What PC gamers fear, though, is that the games they love get simplified when they are brought to the console market. Many PC gamers see console gaming as the kiddie pool. Yerli know this and assures that Crysis 2 will still offer a satisfying swim, just one influenced by a console gamers' expectations.
Isn't he talking about dumbing the game down?
"No" Yerli replied. "That's exactly what it is not. This is a tighter experience than ever before. Tightness and pulsating speed doesn't necessarily mean linearization or dumber. That's what people often say: if it's linear, it's more dumb. It's not. If it's more linear it can be more dumb, but our point is not to be more linear; our point is to be more fast-paced, more intense."
Skeptics might already wonder if this can truly be. Crysis 1 offered the PC gamer a first-person character armed with a Nanosuit that had four special powers; Crysis 2 simplifies that scheme to just a toggle between two modes (albeit with multiple modes within them).
"One of the most important things we did was streamlined the original Nanosuit 2 to make him a simpler choice-maker" Yerli said. "In Crysis 1, when we reviewed what didn't work with the Nanosuit, some people said there were almost too many choices to some degree. Two of them were too many. We had four and two of them are too much. People gravitated into making combos of stealth play style or armor play style. Because we saw this is actually interesting telemetry-wise."
That streamlining, he argued, makes the Crysis series better for it.
"The console market's pressure of streamlining the Nanosuit will ultimately benefit PC gamers," Yerli said. "Because streamlining the Nanosuit to be easier to access and more powerful to master ultimately allows a Nanosuit for everybody. That harshness of reviewing that would have not come if we had not been threatened by the console gamers' split-second decision-making."
Like divorced parents arguing for custody of a loved one, PC gamers and console gamers are often wary of the other side's influence. Cevat Yerli and the rest of the makers of Crysis 2 are in the middle, allowing themselves to be tugged by both groups, no longer just loyal to the PC side.
If they can create a game that satisfies both crowds, they will have succeeded. It will be a special harmony, and an impressive weathering of passions that don't always match and don't always demand the same thing.
Crysis 2 will be out for PC and those darned PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles later this year.