Crytek Executive Producer discusses Exploiting Scale, Oculus, Framerate and CRYENGINE for The Climb

Founded in Coburg, Germany in 1999 by brothers Cevat, Avni, and Faruk Yerli, Developers, Crytek have created some of the industries most loved video games with Far Cry, the Crysis series, Warface and Xbox One launch title Ryse Son Of Rome. The renown developers are currently working on two virtual reality titles with Robinson: The Journey, a game where players assume the role of a young boy who has crash-landed onto a mysterious planet filled with amazing secrets, and The Climb, planned for release during the Oculus Rift launch window.

Touted as a jaw-dropping climbing experience, The Climb allows players to scale huge cliffs and mountains around some of the world’s most breathtaking locations all from the comfort of their own living rooms. We recently had the chance to speak with Crytek’s Executive Producer for the Climb and Robinson: The Journey, Elijah Freeman to find out more about their two upcoming VR projects and their partnership with Oculus VR.

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PressA2Join: Crytek recently announced a partnership with Oculus VR to release The Climb, how exciting is it to be bringing what looks like an amazing title to the Oculus Rift and can you tell me a little about the story behind the game and how the partnership came about?

Elijah Freeman: This is a very interesting question because Crytek has been working on stereoscopic rendering principles since Crysis 2. Because of this, it was natural for us to start the discussions with Oculus early on. We had pitched an idea, shared game development philosophies and let Oculus try our prototypes and a natural relationship emerged.

Jason Rubin spoke very highly of Crytek, especially the use of CryEngine, he went on to state that “The Climb is a beautiful combination of art and thrill that’s bringing an entirely new level of adventure to the Rift” Are you pleased with the current reception The Climb is receiving since it was announced?

Elijah Freeman: It is truly wonderful to build a VR game experience like The Climb and have players enjoy it as much as we do. We are very proud of what our team has accomplished. They work very hard and deserve any accolades they receive.

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As a development studio, Crytek are used to creating enthralling and unique experiences for players with titles such as Far Cry, the Crysis series and Ryse Son Of Rome, The Climb has a completely different feel to it when compared to your previous games, what made you decide to create a game of this nature?

Elijah Freeman: VR is a unique medium and the experiences created are intimate in nature. Our exploration into VR reflected Crytek’s talent and CRYENGINE’s strengths: first person and high visual fidelity. However, our over-arching intent is to build games that are fun and immersive. Our objective with prototyping was to establish mechanics that tied all of these goals together. The climbing mechanic emerged and had a natural content extension. The result was a free-solo rock climbing game that is as intense as it is beautiful.

Can you talk a little about the kind of work that goes into creating a game with Virtual Reality in mind, how different is it when compared to your previous projects?

Elijah Freeman: The development process in VR is flipped in certain aspects. For instance, we start with the experience, the feeling players should have when they’re playing our VR game. This is a new approach because in non-VR games we usually have the core gameplay that creates the most fun for the player first and form a world around that. In The Climb and in Robinson: The Journey we focused from the very beginning on how to capitalize on VR technology to completely immerse the player and have them experience something they never did before.

I can give you a different but more concrete example for how VR is different for us a developer: Lighting plays an even bigger role in VR than in traditional development. People are attracted naturally to lighter portions of the scene, so we needed to make sure the lighting was where we wanted. This is especially important because in VR you give up camera control. We’re trying to control where you look when you can look anywhere. We want people to make sure they see the entertainment, rather than look at the back of a cave when a dinosaur comes charging up to them, for instance.

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The Climb aims to test players nerves to the fullest while introducing some fantastic climbing experiences, can you tell me how the game will work with the Oculus Rift, what kind of things will players get to do throughout the game?

Elijah Freeman: The VR experience is in first person and the world has been physicalized in areas to increase immersion. The climbing routes have been designed to feel familiar and yet provide a challenge. We have built hyper-realistic environments to maximize the opportunity to experience nature at the peak of its beauty.

Climbing to the top of the level and the subsequent reveal has been designed to be visually and physically rewarding. In addition, you be able to asynchronously race and challenge your friends.

I imagine rock and mountain climbing to be an extremely intense experience, full of adrenaline pumping moments, how close to the real thing do you think you’ve managed to get and will fans of climbing get a kick out of The Climb?

Elijah Freeman: We are exploiting scale and verticality in The Climb. The VR experience is intense when you combine grip variety, technical moves and challenging routes the net result is a surprisingly authentic climb experience that will leave you feeling exhilarated.

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The ability to climb large rock faces from the comfort of your own living room is something else, what kind of environments and hazards can players expect to encounter when playing The Climb and do you have certain locations in mind for the game?

Elijah Freeman: The first location we’ve announced is Asia, which is inspired partly by Halong Bay in Vietnam, but also features other imagery associated with that part of the world. So there will be water-facing cliffs, boats circling beneath you, temples, and other cool features that all add up to give a kind of larger-than-life feeling to the environment. We’ll be announcing more of the settings soon, so stay tuned.

In terms of hazards and challenges, you’ll encounter lots of the same things real climbers would. For example, as you climb you’ll have to chalk your hands to ensure a better grip. Both climbing and making daring jumps will raise your heartbeat, while taking a moment to rest will decrease it. Depending on your heartbeat, you’ll have to use more or less chalk. Again, we still have plenty more to reveal on this front too!

What kind of frame-rate and resolution will you be aiming for with The Climb?

Elijah Freeman: With the recommended hardware for the Oculus Rift, The Climb will perform at 90 FPS and we will take advantage of the optimum resolution. In addition, The Climb will adhere to recommended specifications outlined on the Oculus website.

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As well as developing The Climb, you are also working on Robinson: The Journey for the PlayStation VR, which also looked unbelievably incredible, is it safe to say that your attention for the coming years will be focused on VR as opposed to the previous games Crytek have produced?

Elijah Freeman: VR is just a portion of what we’re doing, and we’re really pleased with the progress of all the other games we’re working on or currently operating. We have some really exciting things in the works that are non-VR related, and we’re glad to be able to share our focus between multiple projects.

Can you tell me a little about Robinson: The Journey? from what I’ve seen of it so far, Robinson looks breathtaking and an absolute dream to play and experience.

Elijah Freeman: With Robinson, we want to use the level of presence that VR offers to really make the players feel like they’re located in a different world. This means the freedom to explore a vast environment in 360 degrees of detail and to interact with their surroundings in fresh ways. Exploration is firmly at the heart of Robinson, and we’re using the power of CRYENGINE to ensure the sights and sounds all contribute to the sense that players have crash-landed on a mysterious planet and are discovering something amazing for the first time. We can’t say too much more at this point, but we’re certainly very excited about the game and we’ve been glad to hear others feel the same way.

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When I was a kid growing up in the 80’s playing video games on my Commodore 64, I couldn’t imagine the kind of progression that would come 30 years later, VR has the potential to be huge in today’s market, how do you see the future for Virtual Reality gaming and what are you looking forward to for the future?

Elijah Freeman: I obviously cannot predict the future. However, I am looking forward to exploring and developing the social aspects of VR; I can imagine creating VR games and teaming up with friends from all of over the world to share a virtual gaming experience that capitalizes on all of the benefits of VR.

Massive thanks to Elijah Freeman for taking the time to talk with us.

The Climb is planned for release as part of the Oculus Rift’s “launch window,” sometime during Q1 of 2016.

About Daniel Pitt

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Dan has been gaming for nearly 30 years and has survived everything from Nuclear Fallouts to Zombie Outbreaks but his main love is Survival Horror and don't we all know it. Favourite games include Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto, he can be regularly found cruising the streets of Vice City listening to the classics.

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