Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The problems with Crytek

Crytek Logo

Crytek has been one of those gaming companies that has always managed to impress the gaming community with their games, so it is a little perplexing to read all of these rumors about them having a really bad time as a company as has been reported by various gaming sites. Things like the apparent cancellation of the Ryse 2 and them not paying their employees in time, mark a very difficult time for the creators of Crysis. Today we are going to see some things that may have contributed to their current state of affairs in a way that we can theorize about what went wrong, so let's get started.

The first Crysis game. Can it run Crysis?
Back at the day, this was the poster child of high end gaming.

1) Going away from what fans loved about their games

From the first time they jumped into the gaming scene and made the first Far Cry, Crytek became the new cool thing in video games with their open world style and action packed games. For a time there, we went from playing linear first person shooters to actually exploring a game world where we could do almost anything to survive. Take Crysis for example, in that game you were first thrown in a jungle and you had to make your own tactics without any cues or tips. If you saw some enemies on a cabin you had to make your own way to dispose of them or else you were dead meat. That kind of thing resonated with gamers and made Crytek very popular in a very short time.

After that they somehow changed. As their games made their entrance into home consoles, they felt that they could no longer do their own thing began inspiring themselves on other successful shooters at the time. This lead them to turn away from their unique style and more into the "broader audience". Their games even though they were still good, began to feel like ordinary shooter games. Some say that there was a technological barrier preventing them from making the real next Crysis on home consoles, but it is more likely that they thought that their original style wasn't going to do well with a generation that was oriented to quick game play with an emphasis on online multiplayer. So in the same way that it has happened to other companies, Crytek games tried to roll with the crowd, but failed to get that smashing success that they were waiting for as fans were turned off by their new game play styles and the broader audience was too busy playing other well established shooters. It's a story that the gaming community has seen countless times.

Crytek Homefront
A great concept that fell short because of bad timing.
2) Bad timing

Crytek games have always been high quality experiences, but most of the time they had been drowned by the current trend, especially in the shooter craze that we experienced in the previous generation of consoles. Games like Crysis 2 were often compared to Gears of War, while other games like Far Cry and even Homefront were sandwiched between games like the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series and later by EA's Battlefield 3. This is a bad thing that always happens in the gaming industry and it seems that it will never change. There is always a point in a video game generation in which some games get to the top and most of the time stay there until the very end when the trend pool seems to reset and the industry balances itself prior to the beggining of a new cycle. Crytek tried to take the crown out of the hands of the industry leaders at the time, but could not do it.

This was redemption, a Crytek new I.P that was cancelled.

3) Lack of new I.P

Every time we hear the name Crytek, we think about Crysis and previous Far Cry games and while both are excellent series, there is always this impression that they have a lot more to give. It is likely that many gamers think that the people that gave us such a brilliant game as the first Crysis would be able to give us something new while following their own style. In an open world gaming environment, anything can happen. They can write a clever story, develop any gaming mechanics that fit in to that game world and create a new game that can put them back into the competition. Some would say that Ryse: Son of Rome was a step in that direction, but although the game was good enough, it was a previous Kinect game project that got beefed up and changed for the Xbox One launch, so it doesn't count.

Another worrying thing is the line of cancelled games that the company has, it seems that new ideas were coming, but got lost in development hell. For some reference see this list made by IGN that shows all of Crytek's games and notice how many of them are cancelled. The sad thing about this is that almost every one of those cancelled games seem to be new ideas.

CryEngine 3 logo
After this one, Crytek won't be naming their engines with numbers.

Wrapping it up

Right now, as far as the rumors go about the game studio current situation, it is very unlikely that the things explained in this blog entry can be fixed any time soon, but with time they can be. One thing they can do is to use the current console generation side by side with the PC gaming scene and make a comeback as the Crytek we all knew about. It would be unrealistic to expect a super powered Crysis game made in the same way as the first one, because this would cause problems between the console and PC versions (ask Ubisoft about that kind of thing), but they can bring that feeling back without having to go all out on technical aspects. They can also make new games that could serve them well if they point to the right trends and market. Their CryEngine is powerful so they can use it to bounce and make a comeback, but for now, let's just wait and see.

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