Product manager Collin Bishop talks about the goings-on at Crytek.
Crytek has been through quite a lot in the past few years. Several of its internal studios shut down, a couple of VR titles like Robinson: The Journey and The Climb were released, Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age became Hunt: Showdown, the list goes on. However, the company is still very much a presence in the industry thanks to its proprietary CRYENGINE software that allows for some cutting edge visuals. What’s the current state of CRYENGINE and Crytek as a whole?
GamingBolt had a chance to speak to CRYENGINE Product Manager Collin Bishop about the current state of the technology and much more.
"Looking out across the competitive VR landscape, you can see our games on several of the HMDs."
It’s been close to two years since we last interviewed you. How far has the CryEngine come along in that period?
The CRYENGINE itself has had a radical makeover on the Editor and Engine. The old interface everyone knew, which was associated with CRYENGINE 3, has been completely overhauled and moved over from MFC to the new Qt framework. On the graphics end we have pushed forward and integrated both the DX12 and Vulkan graphics API’s to allow for increased framerates and a larger selection of potential platforms.
For the designers we have implemented a new visual scripting tool named Schematyc to help build up advanced entity and level logic. Mixed with the all new volumetric clouds and the radically improved FBX pipeline we can safely say that CRYENGINE has made leaps in the past two years in regards to catering to a large audience of developers. Along with the pushes of designer and rendering, we have opened up accessibility to the industry leaders in the VR HMD market. Along with these changes we have also opened up the engine to be royalty-free to all developers and allowed for the full engine source code to be available to all developers for free on Github.
Crytek was once known as a studio that made high end games with breathtaking graphics. Crysis is now over ten years old. When can we see the next Crysis moment from Crytek?
At the moment our Frankfurt studio’s full attention is on Hunt: Showdown, which is a tense match-based first-person monster hunting game that combines our favorite moments from first person shooters and survival games. You can sign up for Closed Alpha on our website right now.
With the VR industry growing more and more, how has Crytek’s growth keeping up in that industry in terms of support and features?
Looking out across the competitive VR landscape, you can see our games on several of the HMDs. We have tackled the realm of VR head-on and released several demos along with two extremely successful VR titles, The Climb and Robinson: The Journey. Likewise, we have also partnered with Basemark for a VR Benchmark and done numerous research studies with Oculus on latency and movement in VR. In the end, the best way to test and gauge the progression of the tech is through production-proven developments such as our games. Rounding out the focus, we have continuously maintained Oculus, PSVR, Vive, and OSVR HMDs since CRYENGINE V launched in early 2016.
The advent of iterative consoles have put more burden on developers specially given how 4K adoption is still on the lower side. What are your thoughts on this and how is Crytek dealing with it?
The notion of up-scaling is one of the topics that requires numerous perspectives within development. We tackled the upscaling of Ryse: Son of Rome years ago when we ported from the Xbox One to PC and provided users with the full Ryse 4K experience.
"The entire concept of using the cloud for processing power is something that developers have been anxiously anticipating for years."
You have worked with Microsoft before. Do you have any thoughts on why DX12 hasn’t become a huge success as initially planned?
I would say based on some of the Futuremark results that were published this year that both DX12 and Vulkan rival each other with only the separation showing on certain GPU’s. We also have dabbled with DX12 early on to show how you can lace a full cinematic trailer in our VR experience titled Sky Harbor. We found that the large amount of instancing helped not only with the numerous particle simulations triggered throughout, but also the clouds and vegetation at the end of the film performed wonderfully in the most taxing scenes.
Another aspect was clouding gaming and the so called “power of the cloud”. Do you think consoles will ever see a future where they can use the power of the cloud to improve their processing capabilities?
The entire concept of using the cloud for processing power is something that developers have been anxiously anticipating for years. The direction will inevitably be that the consumer has a viewing device and the data is streamed to the device for interaction. You can already see some of this in the technology behind SpatialOS and how they are distributing the physics simulations across multiple servers for infinite scalability. Infinite scalability is what drives this conversation and gets people excited. Scale not only the worlds, but also the resources to handle the computation while only the rendered image and your input are handled by your device.
The PS4 Pro is on the market for a year now and the Xbox One X just recently launched. Do you think the launch of Xbox One X will expedite 4K support?
Competition is always favored inside of any market. Considering the focus and push from Microsoft, it can only be assumed that their competitors will follow suit. The titles each console promotes are also quite similar in terms of performance requirements and the graphical fidelity. In the end the customers will drive the tech through the sales.
Tell us one thing about the Xbox One X that was either shocking or surprising while you were working on it?
One thing that was a delightful surprise with the Xbox One X on initial usage was the amount of raw power it had underneath. We had to adjust some texture compression settings, but overall the optimization was minimal on 4K once we were up and running. Another thing that aligned closer with our core is the HDR support. With this you can really push the style and look of your scenes without having to redo all of the assets or compromise too heavily on framerate. As you can imagine we were glad to see this delta shortening, pushing us towards consoles reflecting the same development experience over time.
"Shortcuts are a way of life, but if we look at the strategy behind the Xbox, we can see a console that was engineered to tackle specifically 4k gaming."
Do you think Xbox One X’s compatability with Xbox One hold back its true performance in any way?
This is an interesting question considering the background of CRYENGINE and how we have to approach tackling legacy systems and deprecation of tools. Every gamer has this connection to nostalgia and their favorite titles. You can also lose titles too quickly, which will inhibit the growth of franchises, and this is where I see the older titles sitting in the competitive gaming landscape. If developers were not maintaining these older systems and having a form of compromise towards the legacy content, the backlash you would receive would outweigh any of the performance gains.
How close does the Xbox One X compare to a high end modern gaming PC?
The Xbox One X is very comparable to the standard gaming PC on the GPU end. It will be on the CPU end that you will find the PC to still be outshining the console. This will always be the scenario given you can trade out and customize the hardware. We can look at the AMD Jaguar CPU and how this lines up to the Ryzen line; however, at first glance, we see that the performance is roughly one-third or one-half.
What is the impact of x86 architecture in consoles? Have they ensured they are now closer to PCs in terms of performance?
Not only the alignment to modern architecture can be accredited, but also the workforce being a larger sampling allows for greater gains in this area. Regarding these consoles in particular and their performance they have the APU design in the Jaguar chip that allows for both systems to use the CPU/GPU interchangeably and share memory.
Can the Xbox One X run most games in native 4K?
Shortcuts are a way of life, but if we look at the strategy behind the Xbox, we can see a console that was engineered to tackle specifically 4k gaming. Most games will squeeze every last bit of performance out of the hardware, so I expect trade-offs between optimization and the hardware. Fortunately, the engineers also allowed the developers to access the scaling and checkerboarding rendering to futureproof the console even further.
"The Xbox One X is very comparable to the standard gaming PC on the GPU end. It will be on the CPU end that you will find the PC to still be outshining the console."
Which PC GPU does the Xbox One X GPU comes close to?
This will be a difficult answer to give since this will be heavily based on the core and memory clock speeds of the console. Several comparisons on the GPU have been thrown up in the air with developers likening the Xbox One X card to an AMD RX 580 or GeForce GTX 1060.
How much powerful do you think Xbox One X is compared to Xbox One and PS4 Pro?
The Xbox One X is certainly a worthy hardware upgrade. Its built-in 4k support allows us to achieve even more breathtaking visuals. Those that do not have a 4k display available to them still benefit from supersampling and the additional CPU/RAM power allowing to process more objects in the world.
Have you gone hands on the Switch? What are your thoughts on it?
Currently I have to say that I personally have not gotten my hands on a Switch console. But from what I have seen, Nintendo have managed to cater perfectly to their core gamers.
Many developers and publishers have been taken aback by its success. Do you have any thoughts behind its success?
I think one of the largest factors that has played into its success is the pricing of the Dev Kits for independent developers. They had a really good price point for indies and devs just starting out.
The other being the tradition and dedication of their fan base. Giving access to their hardware and driving the console with blockbuster titles from their own library is what makes the console accessible and inspirational all in one package.