The next generation of consoles are almost upon us and one title that seems to be firing on all cylinders is Crytek’s Ryse: Son of Rome. Crytek are masters of pushing the hardware to its limit and there is no doubt they are pushing the Xbox One as much as they can to produce a stellar game. Ryse Son of Rome will also be one of the few Xbox One games that will be using Kinect and SmartGlass to further enhance the gameplay mechanics.
To know more about this intriguing new IP from Crytek we caught up with Mike Read, Producer of Ryse: Son of Rome. Check out our conversation below.
Ravi Sinha: Ryse was originally scheduled for the Xbox 360. Now it will be coming to the Xbox One, and we can see how functions like mandatory Kinect support have been leveraged for the gameplay. However, what was the original intent for the game given that Kinect is still optional on the Xbox 360?
Mike Read: The game you see now is very different than what we showed some years ago as a purely Kinect-based title. There were a series of prototypes that were put together and the version that we are showing now is what ultimately ended up as the winning idea in the end. The option for Kinect integration is ultimately left up to the developer as to how far they want to take it. We experimented with a series of things including things like hand gestures as a method of control.
At the end of the day we found that things like this took away from the player experience we were trying to deliver. That’s not to downplay the Kinect at all. It’s a very powerful device and with the standard inclusion of this with the Xbox One it will be interesting to see what kind of things developers will be able to pull out of it in the years to come.
"What we showed at E3 was a small slice of what we had planned to deliver for the final game. Unfortunately, we had to make a series of cuts to the demo to make it a more enjoyable and polished experience for both the visuals and the gameplay."
Ravi Sinha: The story is supposed to span an entire lifetime (at least the protagonist’s). What kind of play-length can we expect?
Mike Read: The story in Ryse will focus on a segment in the life of Marius Titus. While there are references to his past throughout the story, it will not follow his entire lifetime. As for the length, we are still going through the initial passes with the gameplay itself and will talk more about that soon.
Ravi Sinha: Ryse has certainly looked intriguing with all its conflicting elements such as hack and slash gameplay and commandeering troops for various purposes. However, there is a worry that the game is all flash at the moment, especially with all the QTEs showcased.
Mike Read: What we showed at E3 was a small slice of what we had planned to deliver for the final game. Unfortunately, we had to make a series of cuts to the demo to make it a more enjoyable and polished experience for both the visuals and the gameplay. After E3, we took note of the response to it and felt that we could have done a better job in explaining where we were going with the combat systems. We feel that coming into Gamescom last month helped to dispel some of the negative views people had on what we presented with regards the “game playing itself” or being “nothing but a series of QTE’s”.
Ravi Sinha: How many soldiers will you be able to command in the final game? Will there be a chance to lead thousands of warriors to their doom? And how free-form will be your command over the soldiers? Will it be context-sensitive depending on the situation?
Mike Read: The focus of the game will be on Marius and his story and therefore the focus will be mainly on him. There will also be elements like we showed in our E3 demo where you will command a group of men towards objectives. I wouldn’t say that these are free-form at all, but integrated gameplay segments as you progress through the story.
"There is a SmartGlass component that will be available for Ryse that taps into the cloud content sharing and menu capabilities. There has been a huge step up from the time Smartglass was introduced until now. One example is that it now provides experiences like full menu integration."
Ravi Sinha: Is Ryse primarily centered on hack and slash gameplay, or will we other gameplay elements? Maybe turret sequences where you take control of a catapult yourself or something along those lines?
Mike Read: The primary focus is indeed on the hack and slash style of gameplay, but there are some other elements like the utilization of pilums in combat, testudo formations, archers, etc… In addition, there are other weapons that the player will be able to interact with throughout the single player campaign and multiplayer.
Ravi Sinha: Will the character in the game be able to level up and gain new skills? And how all of this ties up in the internal micro transaction system?
Mike Read: There are two sides for both SP and MP. For the SP side you can unlock executions using XP. The unlocking of executions also transfers over to the MP side and vice versa. Also for SP only you will have upgrade options for things such as health bars, health regen, XP gains, and focus bonuses.
For the MP side, your character earns in-game currency in addition to XP. It’s important to note that in-game currency microtransactions only apply to MP. As you progress in experience, you unlock the ability to purchase more powerful equipment and additional execution moves that provide greater rewards.
Equipment is purchased in the ‘booster pack’ style where you receive a random assortment of gear with different stat bonuses in each pack and then you choose which items to equip on your gladiator from your collection. Equipment packs and executions are purchased with the in-game currency that you can earn by playing or you can supplement your earned currency by purchasing more via the Xbox Marketplace.
Rashid Sayed: Are you looking at integrating SmartGlass feature for Ryse? If yes, can you please share details about the same?
Mike Read: There is a SmartGlass component that will be available for Ryse that taps into the cloud content sharing and menu capabilities. There has been a huge step up from the time Smartglass was introduced until now. One example is that it now provides experiences like full menu integration.
What you see on the menus in game is replicated in the Smartglass app giving you the ability to see your own and your friends progress, manage inventory, and upgrade your character and abilities whether you’re playing the game or not. In addition, all of this information is stored on the cloud allowing you to perform this functionality regardless of whether you’re in your living room or on the road.
" Given the amount of work we put into our previous titles in pushing PC hardware to its max, we were more than ready for what the Xbox One had to offer. There are always a number of challenges and compromises from many different areas when working with new technology and ways of doing things, but nothing that our team hasn’t been able to handle."
Rashid Sayed: Judging by the recent vidoc, you guys are putting in every effort to make the game feel as realistic as possible. Can you please tell us what aspects of Xbox One’s architecture are helping you achieve the same?
Mike Read: The massive leap in hardware is the most obvious thing that has helped us bring things to life with visual fidelity never seen before on a console platform. One of the big advantages over previous console generations is the graphics capabilities. Disregarding any speed improvements the modern architecture of the system and DX11 support means we can now do on console what we could do on PC.
Another advantage is having effectively a PC architecture for the CPU side of things, this allows threading models and optimizations that have been done on PC to be used, and allows faster prototyping of any of the more ambitious optimizations we have put in place.
Ravi Sinha: How difficult was it to modify the CryEngine 3 for the Xbox One? Were there any compromises made along the way?
Mike Read: Given the amount of work we put into our previous titles in pushing PC hardware to its max, we were more than ready for what the Xbox One had to offer. There are always a number of challenges and compromises from many different areas when working with new technology and ways of doing things, but nothing that our team hasn’t been able to handle. One thing people tend to forget is that there are a lot more moving parts with this from us developing an engine, alongside a game, mixed in with new hardware, and new development tools to support that.
There is no silver bullet to developing a game and the challenges we face here only help to put us in a forefront position in understanding the new pipelines we’ll be dealing with in the next generation.
Rashid Sayed: Coming back to Kinect Commands. Can you please explain the different types of commands I can issue to my troops?
Mike Read: The Kinect component of Ryse is focused around voice commands to issue support orders. We tested a number of different things including gestures, but it was something that just didn’t feel natural in the end. Players will have the option of either calling out the commands or pressing the RB on the controller to issue them. One of the things that you can do was highlighted in the E3 demo when you issue orders for Archer support and firing the catapult at the end of the level.
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about multiplayer and the different modes that players will be able to take part in?
Mike Read: At launch there will be a single mode available we are calling “Gladiator”. Gladiator is a two player co-op mode set in the Colosseum and will come with 11 different tile sets at launch. We’ve also added the ability for the player to create their own experience using the challenge editor to mix and match maps and events into custom playlists. Optionally, these can be shared amongst your friends or in a public capacity with the world. Each of these challenges will have their own leaderboards associated with them.