Crytek is best known for the Crysis and Far Cry games, which are set in the modern era. What did it offer to you as artists to go thousands of years into the past with Ryse?Abdenour
We wanted to recreate the Roman era with our own twist. It is filled with works of art that are mostly hand-crafted and contain an enormous amount of details. This was made possible by the sculpting brushes supported by many classic tools only found in ZBrush.
Visiting this other world was a joy and a welcome change of setting and style. I requested to move over to the project the moment Crysis 3 was done. Researching the cloth and armor and then mimicking the way they were built and the materials they were made of was a fun and rewarding challenge. Especially with the better tech and hardware at our disposal.Florian
It’s a lot of fun to try recreating the look of something hand-crafted. It’s really important to focus on how things might function or how they were made.
With Ryse there was also a strong contrast between the factions in terms of technology. On the one hand you have the very low tech, tribal barbarians. All their stuff has a very handmade and individualized character to it. Then there is Rome, which feels almost sci-fi in comparison; especially with the extra Art Deco twist.Chris
It was a great opportunity for me to push myself into an era I had not really looked into. It allowed me to focus on creating the assets in a crafted way as well as considering their function in the Ryse universe.
As an Xbox One exclusive title, what impact did the next generation console have on the art of Ryse?Abdenour
It meant being able to use much higher resolution textures and assets. We could go into much more detail with our ZBrush models, which is visible when you see the final assets.Lars
It was a much appreciated hardware boost by both artists and programmers alike. We could all of a sudden have real-time simulated cloth on the characters, physically-based shaders and our facial setup could be way more complex to do wonders simply not possible before.
As an artist, a higher polygon budget and texture resolution for our characters is always welcome. But when you're given the possibility to add more details you also have to be smart with your workflow, since putting these extra details into your work can potentially drain a lot of production time.Florian
One of the core pillars of the game was the “6 feet to 6 inches” idea: We wanted to really own that range and let players experience the intimate and brutal nature of melee combat in Roman times. But this wasn't just about boosting details and increasing texture resolution - we needed to really sell our characters up close. This meant a lot of new tech and features, such as an intricate facial animation system, real-time cloth and generally loads of secondary motion. Also, much better shading and lighting, etc.
A lot of these things required us to change and adapt our workflows. For example, with cloth we had to figure out how much folding and wrinkling we could add as baked-in detail without clashing with what the simulation was doing.Chris
With the next generation came the need for more detail and characters that could survive both close to the camera and within the cinematics. For me it was a leap towards a new set of workflows that would allow me to attain the level of detail that we were focusing on.
Of course, Ryse was also a Day One title, meaning you didn't have the benefit of years of experience with the platform's systems and capabilities. How did that affect your work?Abdenour
The console turned out to be very similar to a PC, so it didn’t affect us as much as we thought it would. The biggest problem came from not knowing the exact console specs until very late in the production. It meant we had to make our assets whilst being careful to not go crazy on polygon counts, etc...
The main part of our work ethic was to make the game mesh as close as possible to the high resolution asset while not wasting one triangle. Every polygon counts!Florian
The tricky thing was figuring out just how much we could squeeze out of the new platform. Some of the new features had to be developed from scratch but at the same time, the system’s specs kept changing. Certain features and character budgets weren’t set in stone until well into production.
Developing for new hardware is always tricky. In the beginning of production the final hardware was still in development so we had to rely on estimates when it came to polygon counts and texture resolution. We decided to texture the high polygon version of the assets for this production, which gave us much more flexibility to change the in-game version's polygon count and UV layout if needed. We could always just re-bake all necessary maps from the high-poly model.
It also meant that a lot of tech had to be tried out and developed in parallel with production. I think flexibility is the key word when there are so many unknowns.