Control Design in Crysis and Crysis 2
If you’re a regular reader of this blog then it will come as no surprise that I’m interested in the iteration of software projects – version 1 going into 2 and so on. I’m also into games – so its a double-helping of interest for me to look at iterations of games. I picked up Crysis recently and have been playing though. Crysis is a first-person PC game with a sci-fi setting where the player in enmeshed in a nano-suit that endows the player with the ability to call up special abilities such as stealth and armour. I’ve also picked up Crysis 2, the sequel and this time for Playstation 3. What is interesting is to compare the two as designed objects to look for points of interest. Here’s a screenshot from Crysis on PC:
In the bottom-left is the map and the bottom-right is the player status information. Looking first at the bottom-right you can see two bars – a blue one and a green one. The blue one is the suits energy. In Crysis the default suit power option is armour on, so when you are hit you take less damage. If you switch to other options (speed, stealth) then the armour option is off and you’ll take more damage if hit. So when you, say, go into stealth mode the blue energy bar depletes rapidly as the suit’s energy depletes. The other bar (green) is your health; when you take damage this drops down. Its a pretty good system except that in many cases you tend to stick to armour on as its the easiest way to play. Switching modes (via the mouse wheel) is easy, but still not as easy as just shooting.
Now on to Crysis 2. Here’s the PS3 screen:
Again the bottom-right shows us the player status information. Except that now there is only one bar – suit energy. There is no armour mode as default. The armour has been separated out from being a background option to a energy-eating R2 function. This means that to go into armour mode is a cost and not something you want to do all that often. On the surface this sounds bad, but its not. Going into armour mode becomes a gameplay function – something active rather than default to. For example when the enemy throws a grenade near you, a quick flick into armour mode and the damage done is minimised. The other advantage of moving the armour function out of the default is the special functions of the suit can be layered – so I can use super-jump while in stealth, whereas in Crysis they were only applied one at a time, in conjunction, provided I’m prepared to take the energy cost.
There are other cool things too from version 1 to 2. Stealth is much improved as refinements in the energy use of stealth mode so it uses goes up as you move as opposed to if you are still which makes it a much better gameplay device. It also feels more natural for a stealth mode; reward the player for slow, cautious movements whereas in Crysis the energy loss was uniform encouraging you to rush around more.
The other thing I love is 3D-ing of the HUD and the motion-movement you get on the whole HUD, as if it is a display in your helmet. This was not in Crysis – it’s a small thing but one that helps to build the realism of the game. Have a look in this video:
My point to all this is that Crysis 2 is much improved on Crysis. Not to run down Crysis – the point is that the improvements are build on the back of the first game, the experience of making it and the player feedback. Credit to EA for sticking with it and allowing it to develop. I’m hoping this feedback loop staying in effect – ‘cos if it does Crysis 3 is an instabuy!