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Crytek Interview, Part II of III

By Neil Schneider

MTBS is pleased to be joined by Jens Schöbel, Technical Designer (and stereoscopic 3D wiz) for Crytek, developers of the upcoming Crysis 2 video game and CryENGINE 3 game engine!

Jens Schöbel, Technical Designer, Crytrek at FMX 2010

Crytek first made headlines in stereoscopic 3D gaming with a demo they did on an iZ3D monitor at GDC 2009.  They later demonstrated CryENGINE 3 running in stereoscopic 3D on the big screen at SIGGRAPH 2009.  Now Crysis 2 is getting set for release in the new year, complete with native stereoscopic 3D support on PC and console (Xbox 360 and Sony PS3).

Today, part two of our mystery tour to find out what they have cooking in 3D!  Check out part one if you haven't already.


1. Which stereoscopic 3D hardware and display solutions will Crysis 2 support on PC and console?

Currently we support several output modes like side by side, a lot of anaglyph modes and the upcoming HDMI 1.4a that is perfect for stereo 3D.  Other modes that we support are interlaced and dual head output.  Very important: our CryEditor.  You are able to develop inside the editor in S-3D to review everything in front of your screen.


2. For 3D HDTV users on XBOX and PS3, which resolutions will be available in stereoscopic 3D mode?  What is the expected frame rate, and how will it compare to the 2D version?

The CryENGINE 3 Stereo 3D rendering only has a minimum effect on the performance compared to the 2D version.  From the beginning on, that was one of our main goals. To make it crystal-clear: you will hardly realize a performance loss at all if you turn on S-3D.  Another goal of ours was to support the same formats in 3D like in 2D.  But, people investing in 3D hardware will of course get a much better depth experience.


3. Cevat Yerli, Crytek's CEO & founder, is proud that the performance hit for the 3D is only about 1.5%.  I'm going to take an educated guess, and say you are not creating two unique camera views to make the stereoscopic 3D work.  DDD (Tridef Ignition Drivers) on PC, and Trioviz on console use depth maps to create a 3D experience without losing the performance.  Are you using a similar technique?

That's right, we use depth maps ... and some internal developed techniques we don't want to reveal right now ;-)

Original Crysis with iZ3D S-3D drivers on PC

4. What I liked about the original Crysis was how appropriate it was for stereoscopic 3D gaming.  Walking through a lush jungle with branches and twigs coming out of the screen - it was really cool!  How would you describe the Crysis 2 3D experience?  Will there be out of screen experiences?  What flexibility will the gamers have to adjust how Crysis 2 looks in 3D on PC and console?

As stated earlier, I am responsible to give you a healthy gameplay feeling. That means that we will keep most of the objects inside/behind the screen. From time to time more important things like important HUD indicators will come towards you out of the screen. But we keep this to a minimum to avoid eye sickness. To make a point: What Avatar was for films, Crysis 2 will be for games.


5. Can you describe the creative considerations you had for Crysis 2 in 3D?  Did you do anything differently this time that you wouldn't have with a strictly 2D version?  Did this impact the story in any way?

No not at all. From a story point of view both the 2D and the 3D version are the same. Just the experience itself is different. 3D lets players experience the effect of depth in a very interesting way which of course also affects the gameplay a bit. But we are carful that these changes do not separate the gaming experience of S-3D and 2D dramatically.


6. For the gamers that want it, will the PC version offer the option of doing complete left and right eye renders?  Are you looking at modes that cut back on some of the visuals in exchange for old fashioned left and right rendering for 3D on console as well?

I only can repeat this sentence: Crytek's always wanting to be cutting edge - meaning cutting back visuals is NOT an option for us.  Rendering twice would mean a performance loss.  To avoid that we would have to render with less quality which does not fit into Crytek's philosophy.  Thus there was no way around developing new techniques to close the performance gap and still be at top notch graphics.


7. Sony has really gone to the edge for stereoscopic 3D gaming with 20 in-house titles getting set for release.  Xbox has some top 3D minds in their ranks, but the company has been somewhat reserved towards 3D in the media.  As a game developer and an artist, are there some console developments you would like to see happen?  Has your effort to make and market Crysis 2 in 3D been any harder than it should have been? Why or why not?

You need fresh ideas that go further than only using stereo 3D as a special effect. As an artist I'd like to see works from Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Child of Eden) or Keita Takahashi (Katamari) in 3D. They are very open to address new ways of fun in games and that would help stereo 3D a lot as well.

To answer your question about our efforts: One of our biggest villains was the lack of stereo standards. There was no standard way to get visuals out in 3D on a specific hardware solution. For instance the iZ3D was one of our first monitors. It has dual input and it gets the left image and a gray map, some kind of difference between left and right. Out of those two pictures the right picture is generated. A dual head output  is much easier to handle for developers since it simply works with one picture with correct colors for left and one with correct colors for right. This solution works best with projectors. Anyway this lack of standards had also one big advantage: It made us implement several modes and made me learn the math behind anaglyphic rendering.


If all goes to plan, part three will be up by Tuesday of next week!

Just a reminder (sorry for the shameless plug), The U-Decide Initiative is a study of gamers' opinions and intentions around stereoscopic 3D gaming.  An important part of this study is which 3D experiences excite gamers the most with different types of games.  A draw of over 50 prizes will happen when the study is complete (free 3D HDTV anyone?).  Please remember to complete the survey because this will play an active role in shaping games to come.  Both traditional 2D and experienced stereoscopic 3D gamers are welcome to participate.

Share your remarks below!