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Exclusive Interview, Hasit Zala on Crysis 2

Earlier this week at Game Developers Conference 2011, we had a chance to sit down with Hasit Zala. Hasit is the Executive Producer of Multiplayer, working for Crytek UK on Crysis 2.

We spoke about what to expect in Crysis 2's multiplayer, the Nanosuit, the PC community and much more. Take a look below for the full conversation, and special thanks to Hasit Zala and Crytek for the chat.

To start us off, Hasit speaks about his role as Executive Producer of Multiplayer.

Hasit Zala (HZ): It’s the complete kind of development of multiplayer so, I run -- well basically, I look after development of the UK studio. So, Crytek UK who are developing the multiplayer of Crysis 2. So yeah, it’s the full kind of development of the multiplayer.

Curse: So, we were doing it a bit of research and it looks like you had previously worked on Timesplitters --

HZ: Oh yeah, yeah.

Curse: How has this experience kind of differed from that?

HZ: Yeah, so I mean -- we, uh, we were formerly Free Radical Design and we were the team behind the Timesplitters franchise. So, we wrote Timesplitters 1, 2 and 3 and uh, I kind of started off as lead programmer on that and became team lead, executive producer for it. But, the thing about the multiplayer for Timesplitters; it was famed on consoles for it’s multiplayer, and I think that’s one of the key reasons Crytek was interested and came in and took over. And so, that’s what led them to give us the multiplayer to do so, yeah.
So, [our] heritage has kind of always been multiplayer and that was something we kind of -- we were allowed to kind of come in and redesign the multiplayer from scratch. And today what you’re seeing, it’s kind of the fruits of our labor.

Curse: Awesome. So, as we get closer to launch, we’ve seen a lot of videos being pushed to the YouTube channel and so forth. Do you have any idea, can we expect more of that as we continue on?

HZ: Yeah, I mean, I think -- expect to see kind of a steady stream of assets coming from the marketing department, as they try and sort of like -- kind of fill in and inform the community of the depth of the multiplayer and the various things that the game has to offer. Because, um, one of the key aspects of the multiplayer experience is that it’s a very, very big offering. And there’s a lot of depth in the progression system, the way you can upgrade the Nanosuit and all these packages.

But the key thing is really bringing out how the Nanosuit imparts this unique flavor to the multiplayer arena.

Curse: Okay, so we’ve seen the Be Strong and Be Invisible trailers, so we can kind of expect to continue that trend?

HZ: Yes, absolutely.

Curse: Okay, looking forward to that. What inspired the 6 vs 6 multiplayer decision?

HZ: Yeah, we -- the key thing we started looking at was, the type of multiplayer that we wanted to create. And we wanted to create something that was much more, what we call ‘immediate’. A faster, more visceral paced multiplayer. And one of the key things, we really wanted to, in multiplayer, for people playing it -- was to really encourage teamwork. And what we found was there was a real sweet spot around like teams of 4 to 6 because those guys would self organize into teams, when you have much bigger kind of teams, we found that people didn’t really play as teams and they kind of fragmented. And we found 6 v 6 to be the kind of perfect sweet spot for that kind of multiplayer experience.
And then it really allowed us to spend our budget on kind of the visceral side of the gameplay; the destructibility, you know, you can kick cars in the multiplayer. You can do these really cool things, that you can do in multiplayer that you can’t do in other games. And that’s really where we kind of drove that decision.

Curse: Okay, awesome. And the maps, all the maps take place in New York City at various locations. Was that something that Crytek wanted to do from the beginning or did it kind of..

HZ: Actually, when we first started out, we were given free reign to really kind of explore where we wanted to go with the maps and locations. But, because we really wanted to make the multiplayer really a part of the Crysis 2 universe, it made a lot of sense to stay in Manhattan. And what we did was we started to take all the kind of, sort of like narrative aspects of the singleplayer campaign and embed it in the Crysis universe and so it made sense to stay in New York and really kind of exploit the...environments that you have in New York.
And really -- you know we coined this idea of the ‘catastrophic beauty’ of this alien destruction in New York and it really allowed us to kind of fuse that into it and come up with really interesting ideas of how the levels would go. And it made the whole experience from singleplayer and multiplayer much more netted together.

Curse: Right, right and we’ve been impressed that all the maps are in New York City but they’re all very distinct environments.

HZ: Yeah.

Curse: None of the maps seem to feel the same, they all have a unique flavor.

HZ: Yeah, I mean, one of the things we worked very heavily on was that each of the levels have a unique narrative and idea behind them. So, you know, on one hand you’re on the top of this kind of skyscraper which is just this oasis which has got this kind of greenhouse and it’s like this green oasis on the top of New York. And on the next hand, you’re -- you’ve got these two buildings that have kind of collapsed with all the destruction from the alien invasion and these two buildings have collapsed together. And this really old building has collapsed; this, like, old New York...classic style building has fallen into this city finance building, crushed into it and kind of fused together to create this really interesting kind of map that’s off kilter.
And it’s just ideas that we were looking for within the Crysis universe helped us to drive these interesting locations, and always each of the locations has a narrative and a story that gives it a different feeling from the last map you played.

Curse: Right, looking forward to that. You mentioned the Nanosuit before...the Nanosuit has such a wide array of features you can choose from, was it hard to narrow it down to the final cut?

HZ: Well, actually, I mean, we began in our kind of prototype phase and we prototyped a lot of upgrades to the Nanosuit. We ended up, after a period of refinement, to 21 suit modules. But each of these suit modules has three tiers, so there’s like 63 upgrade paths you can have for your Nanosuit.
And the key thing that we really drove into it was, uh, we really wanted the upgrading of the Nanosuit to reflect the style of play when you played the multiplayer. So, when you go and start playing the multiplayer, the game is instantly taking all of this telemetry of how you’re playing. And if you’re using the stealth options a lot, it really kind of upgrades your XP path along that path and starts to offer you these tokens that allows you to unlock abilities that enhance the style of gameplay that you’re choosing.

Curse: Okay, so everyone can kind of make it their own rather than having a pre-determined path..

HZ: Yeah, it’s like, exactly yeah. So, you know, on one hand, someone’s really into kind of playing the armor mode and starts collecting XP along that path which means he can really upgrade the Nanosuit with abilities that help him and his style of gameplay. And what it means is that it really kind of tailors the suit modules to the style of gameplay that you play with.

Curse: That’s great. Now, the first Crysis shipped with the Sandbox Editor on PC. Is that something that is going to be in Crysis 2 that you know of?

HZ: Well, uh, so the whole kind of modding side of stuff; that’s something that we’re going to be talking about later so, you know, hang on and you’ll hear updates when they’re officially announced.


Curse: Okay, that makes sense. So here’s a question we got from the community. Cevat Yerli recently said that PC users will have a, “PC version that’s a PC game”. Can you elaborate on that a bit?

HZ: I think it’s probably, I mean, what I can say at this moment is that Crytek has always supported the PC fraternity and it’s a platform that we see as really important. And, for us, we’ll be looking at -- we just released a PC demo and we’ll be looking at the kind of feedback we get from that and we’ll be taking that information from our users and the people playing it and, uh, we’ll be looking to bring that feedback into our game. So, it’s something that, you know, it’s a platform that we take very seriously and it’s a community that we want really to support.
And one of the key things, you know the dedicated servers, those things are really important. The PC community want them so we want to support the PC community so they have the best playing experience that is possible.

Curse: Right, and it was nice, you know -- of course you never want to see anything leak early -- but a developer build of Crysis 2 leaked early, and the PC community was very supportive in pushing that developer build away and not having anything to do with it.

HZ: We were, we were blown away - I mean, to start off, we were at this critical point in development. We were just kind of getting close to [finalizing] the game and, uh, so we were on a real high from all the hard work that that entailed and then we heard about the leak, which was really disappointing for us but instantly, on the forums, the kind of community and the feedback it just blew us away. The number of people on the forums all saying that ‘I’m not gonna go pirate this game, I’m going to go buy it and support Crytek for that’ ... we were just absolutely blown away with the community and the spirit of the community.
We want to thank the community for that and, you know, as Crytek we will always support that as a platform and environment for releasing games.

Curse: That’s great - now, you’ve done so much on Crysis 2, but if you can pick - what has been the most rewarding aspect of devloping Crysis 2's multiplayer?

HZ: Oh man, there’s so many things. I guess one of the keys things I find is; we’re Crytek UK and we’ve been doing the multiplayer and Frankfurt [Germany] have been doing the singleplayer and one of the most fantastic things about it is the synergy between the two teams and the way they’ve kind of come to work together to really get creative forces from both studios to really kind of fuse and come up with really cool ideas.
So you know, one studio came up with the idea of this ability to slide, so in Multiplayer you can do this really cool slide and, so that’s also in singleplayer. But then there’s this idea from the other studio coming up with the idea, ‘well wouldn’t it be great if you can shoot while you’re sliding?’ And, like, the two studios pooling their kind of creative resources together really helped the creative process of the game.

Curse: Right, that’s great. Well, is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers, some last comments?

HZ: Well, I guess, you know, the demo’s are out; the game is coming out soon. And I guess, we’re really interested to hear what people make of it and we’re waiting to see what peoples thoughts are on this game.

Curse: Okay, and they can leave feedback on MyCrysis.com?

HZ: Yeah, and this is a really important thing; we track a huge amount of data, how people are playing the game and we’re
really interested in hearing how people, you know -- what their thoughts are, so we’ve set up our own forums for this, the MyCrysis forums. When we’ve had our earlier demo’s, the kind of feedback we’ve been having has been fantastic and it’s something that we really actively look at and help incorporate, in terms of enhancing and fine-tuning the game.
For the latest news on Crysis 2, keep your eyes on our coverage at Curse as well as MyCrysis.com, the official community portal for Crysis 2.

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