Crytek Already Preparing for PlayStation 4's Launch
If you know anything about PC gaming, you've probably heard of Crytek, the envelope pushing company that busted out a game so graphically intense in Crysis that most computers spontaneously combusted upon trying to run it. The intense hardware requirements of the game resulted in underwhelming sales upon its initial release, though the game has sold over 1.5 million copies to date now, 18 months after its release, as more and more PC gamers finally acquire the capability to simply run it.
Crytek is at it again, building on the framework of Crysis' Cry Engine 2, with the forthcoming Cry Engine 3, which they say will be perfect for the upcoming PlayStation 4, despite their limited knowledge on the system. The Cry Engine 3 is the first rendering engine being built for the next generation consoles, and was recently shown off at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco.
One of the key features touted by the Cry Engine 3 is its scalability, which will make it perfectly suitable for the varying capabilities of the 3 next generation consoles, as well as PC game development. Whereas many engines have difficulty achieving full compatibility with specific hardware, such as the Unreal Engine, or are simply too weak or too powerful for the hardware, the Cry Engine 3 will attempt to make all of these problems a thing of the past.
The scalability will play a huge role in games developed for multiple formats, allowing easy and flawless portability between different hardware systems. This should make the engine ideal for PlayStation 4 gamers, as they should see the full benefit of the PlayStation 4's power, whereas PS3 and Xbox360 cross platform games have been very similar, with developers unable to fully maximize the PS3's power with their game engines. In fact the scalability makes the engine perfect for even current generation systems, so we're likely to see PS3 games using the Cry Engine 3 before the PS4 even launches.
Some of the features that will be present in the Cry Engine 3 include:
- Integrated vegetation & terrain cover generation system
- Real time soft particle system & integrated FX editor
- Multi-core support
- Real time dynamic global illumination
- Deferred lighting
- Natural lighting & dynamic soft shadows
- Volumetric, layer & view distance fogging
- Screen Space Ambient Occlusion
- "Uber Shader" technology (I can get down with some uber technology)
- Eye adaptation & high dynamic range (HDR) lighting
- Motion blur & depth of field
- Parametric skeletal animation
- Facial animation editor
- Subsurface scattering
- Dynamic pathfinding (plenty of games that could use a dose of this)
- Natural world effects
- CGI quality time of day system
- High quality 3D water
- Dynamic volumetric light beams & light shaft effects
- Streaming environments
- Integrated multi-threaded physics engine
- Interactive & destructible environments (for all us gamers who love blowing stuff up)
- Rope physics (this one sounds rather underwhelming)
- Data-driven sound system
- Dynamic sounds & interactive music
- Environmental audio
These are just some of the advanced features that are coming with the Cry Engine 3. Screenshots and demos from the show were running on current generation hardware, so naturally they don't show off what the engine will look like running on a PlayStation 4, but it's an impressive looking engine nonetheless.
An Epic(Games) Battle, No Cry(tek)ing Allowed
Not to be outdone, Epic Games is also working on an upgrade to their popular Unreal Engine, now in its third iteration. The Unreal Engine 4 is planned for the PlayStation 4 and other next generation consoles, though the engine was given an incredibly wide window of possible release, anywhere between 2012 (the PlayStation 4's probable release date) and 2018. We have to believe the engine is coming much sooner than 2018 (which would actually set it more in line with the PlayStation 5's probable release), as gamers and developers alike have expressed concerns over the Unreal Engine 3, over both its texture pop-in, and its over-saturation in the marketplace.
One technology which may or may not make into the PS4 is ray tracing. Ray tracing is a stunning rendering technology that creates near photo-realistic images (and yeah, we've heard the term photo-realistic graphics in gaming for a long time, but this technology really does push that line, at least in still images, as we've yet to see it in a game, though several demos have been released showcasing the technology in action), naturally at a massive computational cost, making it unusable by present gaming systems, including computers. Whether or not PS4 hardware will be powerful enough to allow for ray tracing is an unknown at this time.
What we know is that these are just the first of many future rendering engines and technologies which will be used for the PlayStation 4, and that many more will surface once the system's specs are detailed. Get ready to wipe plenty of drool from your chin once the first screens of the PlayStation 4 start gloriously bombarding us in the near future.