By John Gaudiosi
MONTE CARLO—Cevat Yerli, co-founder, president and CEO of German game developer Crytek, recently was a featured speaker (for the second year running) at Imagina 2008, the annual 3D technology conference in Monaco. Following his discussion on the lessons learned from developing Far Cry and Crysis on CryENGINE and CryENGINE 2, he spoke about the changing face of game development.
Today's landscape has fewer independent game studios, especially on the heels of Electronic Arts acquisition of Bioware and Pandemic. Along with Epic Games and id Software, CryTek remains one of the top independent game makers in the world today.
"The challenge is in the balance of creativity versus funding," said Yerli. "The increasing budgets, more demanding platforms and customer behavior makes it difficult to sustain as an independent company. However, at the same time, new opportunities arise such as in casual online games, but also on games that are on simpler platforms such as Nintendo Wii, Xbox Live or Playstation Networks in the form of smaller game experiences, including but not limited to arcade experiences. I believe (digital distribution) is an opportunity to sustain independence and successful titles through these channels may even be more commercially lucrative than titles released through traditional retail business."
Other opportunities for development include mobile platforms and the professional modding communities. Yerli said the mod community for Crysis (www.crymod.com) is quite active. He added that "if a team would excel with a certain quality development, we would consider it as a professional product."
The advantages of being independent in today's game world is having full creative ownership of one's intellectual properties and the ability to be flexible with which direction to explore next, according to Yerli.
When asked if Crytek would be open to being acquired by a big publisher one day, he responded, "If it were a cultural fit, yes, but we would have strong requirements in addition."
But at this stage, having founded the studio in 1997, Yerli said he doesn't really think about leaving his independent state, although the studio has been approached numerous times since releasing the hits Far Cry and Crysis.
In addition to creating original IP, Crytek is building a business around its technology, but at a slower pace, at least for now, than companies like Epic Games and id Software.
"CryEngine 2 is actively being licensed, but at a lower frequency, intentionally, to fulfill our obligations, to learn from this and to sustain a qualitative landscape," said Yerli. "With GDC we will start looking into a multi-platform offering of CryEngine 2, which was the biggest demand so far and the single biggest difference between us and the competition. With CryEngine 2 now running on multiplatform, we offer the most complete 3D engine qualitatively and productively."
After spending three years developing Far Cry and learning a lot from the process, Yerli is looking forward to the new game from Ubisoft, which is being developed in Montreal.
"I honestly love the game Far Cry 2 and its development, even though the only relevance from Far Cry to Far Cry 2 is its name," said Yerli, referring to the new game's realistic setting in Africa and the absence of any sci-fi elements. "Everything else seems to be a new game, which I am looking forward to play."
Far Cry will also be heading to movie theaters—likely in 2009. Controversial film director Uwe Boll has wrapped the film version of Crytek's original game. Yerli said that licensing the film rights to fellow German Boll was the right business decision at the right time and they had good talks with the director.
"Unfortunately, we have not been involved in the film since very early when it was a script," said Yerli. "However, I think the script changed and improved radically since then, at least I hope it has, since I can't wait to see the movie. It will be so exciting to watch the Far Cry movie."
When asked about Boll's other videogame adaptations, Yerli said he has mixed opinions.
"Most importantly, I would say he is financially successful," said Yerli. "Critically, sure, they're not the best movies, but he knows that, too."
Since story was such a strong part of the development of Crysis—something Yerli admitted was not the case for Far Cry, which he said had a B-movie story line, the translation of Crysis to the big screen should be easier.
"A Crysis movie is definitely planned," said Yerli. "We are in active talks already. I think we will close this topic before the end of this year."
As a developer, Yerli said the goal is to mature into a multi-team studio with innovation and quality at its core. Currently, the team is looking into new challenges and also is evaluating Crysis 2, but nothing can be said and announced officially.
Given the fact that Far Cry took three years to make and Crysis four years, Yerli joked that the next game from the studio will be released in five years.
"No seriously, the biggest lessen learned from our previous games is to focus on efficiency in your organization," said Yerli. "The deployment of this efficiency is critical. I believe we will release our next game quicker than Crysis, so I estimate a two to three year cycle."