Time Lapse: 4 Hours in Under 60 Seconds

Scenes!

Crytek Lead 3D Artist Tom Deerberg brings an alpine environment to life. Over four hours of work are compressed into under 60 seconds as Tom places and manipulates TheClimb art assets to give birth to an idyllic mountain river stage. Achieved with CRYENGINE.

April 14, 2016 • 0 Comments

Alps - Diving into detail

By Finn Meinert Matthiesen, Principal 3D Artist for The Climb

In my last post I talked about the creative process behind our Alps setting. From selecting iconic elements associated with the region to the creation of a sense of scale and beauty, our goal was to present an environment that feels almost like a collage or a postcard of our favorite parts of the Alps. In this blog, I'll look at some of the ways that our artists delivered deep level detail on elements we brought together in Alps, to ensure you'll stay immersed and fully present in the game world.

One of the features that you might associate with the Alps is our cable car. In the game you have to jump on and climb around the cable car in order to reach a higher location in the level. You really get a strong feeling of vertigo and tension as you climb thousands of feet above the ground, and it's a bit like you're James Bond, just without a goon attempting to send you to an early grave while you're trying to find a good grip!

In VR everything that is in your near-field view has to be very detailed because otherwise it easily breaks the immersion. So when it came to making our cable car, we really had to increase the amount of detail for the surface structures far more than you might imagine, especially on the areas where you'll climb.

That meant we had to do a large and perhaps surprising amount of research. For instance, we had to find out what the top of a cable car looks like in real detail, so we could recreate elements like the air conditioning system and the rope mechanism. We added small details like individual signs and stickers and put real emphasis on micro-details like welding seams and screws that are positioned as they would be in real life. All these little fixtures have to feel authentic for the player to have that sense of really being there. They might seem trivial, yet it's that attention to detail that creates the consistency which is important to maintain the immersion in our world.

The cable car is just one example of how we had to go much further to deliver close-up detail than we previously might have. But we also paid that same level of attention to other elements, like the wooden platforms where you begin your ascent or a zip line you'll use to traverse huge gaps. But the most important part of the close-up scenery is the rock surface in front of you. After all, that is what you'll be looking at most of the time when you climb.

To get the required amount of surface detail, we used photogrammetry, a technique that allows us to take scans of real rock surfaces and transfer them into virtual space. This provided us with a great base to work from, as the proportions of the rock formations, even in the micro structure, are really accurate. By using this technique we were able to combine a wide range of rock surfaces to create larger, but still convincing, formations which scale authentically and easily.

Whether you're leaping from one surface to another, hurtling down a zip line, or clambering around a cable car suspended thousands of feet in the air, we hope that as you explore our Alps you'll get a real sense of immersion, scale, and beauty. And it's the detail that VR demands that underpins your sense of presence in our game world.

April 06, 2016 • 0 Comments

THE CLIMB 360°: ALPS ASCENT

Preview the ascent in our Alps climbing playground – the largest single environment we have created in CRYENGINE – with our 360-degree video.

Click on the arrows in the video's upper left hand corner or drag the cursor across the screen and check out the full panorama of our Alps setting as the camera rises through a game world stretching across 100 km of virtual space. Mountains tower over a serene lake, eagles soar over a fairy-tale castle, and wingsuit daredevils fly past cable cars – which you'll get to climb across in the game – as you control the camera direction and explore Alps. And while we're sure you won't be able to resist looking into the distance, don't forget to look down too... then imagine feeling the vertigo in VR.

Please note that the visual quality of this interactive video is not representative of the final game.

April 04, 2016 • 0 Comments

Alps – How we created Crytek’s largest environment in CRYENGINE

By Finn Meinert Matthiesen, Principal 3D Artist for The Climb

To work on our Alps setting was a great challenge and a great experience. The Alps is an area of outstanding natural beauty, a geographic wonder and the largest mountain range in Europe – so it was an obvious choice to provide the inspiration for our second location in The Climb. It contrasts nicely with our South-East Asia-themed bay setting, Bay, giving us a totally different visual appearance and composition. It also gave us plenty of scope to explore new gameplay elements, and we used the larger scale of the environment to increase the play space around the player.

For our art direction, we took the same approach as Bay in order to create a varied mix of different geographic and regional elements. Our Alps setting is not an accurate recreation of a real location, but a combination of various areas from Switzerland, southern Bavaria and the Austrian Alps. This approach allowed us to fully focus on creative level design and to come up with flexible environment art solutions without the need to always stick to or be constrained by reality.

Alps is the largest single environment we've created in CRYENGINE so far, with assets spread over 100km in our virtual space. We really wanted to capture the feeling of being in the real-world Alps, to create the illusion of being absolutely present in a huge, rugged, natural environment. That brought challenges, of course. For instance, traditional billboard background techniques that artists would usually use to efficiently get that sense of a large landscape are way more noticeable as fake in VR, and this can break your immersion. We had to really work at how we composed our scenes and we used more real geometry in the distance instead of using billboard assets only. This in turn demands more performance. VR is already quite resource hungry, so we had to optimize hard and make some improvements to the engine, particularly when it came to lighting and performance, to achieve the effect we wanted.


To take advantage of the scale of the environment, and give you a sense of feeling quite small in comparison to these huge rock faces, we start all of our routes high up on the mountains to maximize the impact of our vistas. You'll see mountain top after mountain top stretching out into the distance, huge glassy lakes beneath you, sprawling thick forests, and powerful waterfalls. Whenever you look around, or down, we want you to get a sense of the overwhelming size and power of nature. And as you explore and ascend the routes ahead of you, you get visual feedback on your progress and achievement as you scale the mountain – especially when you reach a checkpoint and you look down at where you've come from.



The Alps, in reality, are of course inherently impressive. But creating such a vast (and often desolate) landscape in replica detail can make the environment actually feel a little empty for the player when in VR. That's why we chose to take inspiration from our favorite parts of the Alps, and bring them together in ways that looked the most impressive while still making sense. Beyond our geographic elements like the woods, snowy hills and rivers which were all blended together, we also brought in fairy-tale castles(inspired especially by the famous Neuschwanstein Castle ), mountain trains, a Bavarian church, and the kind of alpine villages people might expect to find in a romantic and idealized interpretation of the Alps. In the real world, you might find more modern buildings serving tourists up on the slopes or, down in the valleys, industrial units, but we preferred to stick with the traditional timber-frame buildings that you might find on a postcard from the area.

We also fill our levels with plenty of life – from wing suit jumpers, who'll swoop past you as you climb up the rock faces, to eagles soaring across the sky, butterflies, bats, and more. You might even spot a deer or two. Our hot air balloons, which float serenely across the sky, are a nice visual feature. We take some liberties here again – for example, at night, people would only see the balloons when their burners are activated. But we liked the way they light up the sky in general, so we chose give each balloon a permanent glow.

It's been really great seeing how the team has come together to realize our largest environment yet. Constant testing is extremely important for us, and we spend a large amount of time in the VR environment to iterate on it and improve our perception of the virtual space. As we've progressed through development, it's been exciting to see how our own sense of presence when we're “in" the game has become incrementally stronger as we've added more elements and features to build up the game world. It's been a challenge – creating large vistas with immersive detail that run at 90FPS+ per eye has required a lot of effort, hard work and rethinking some of the processes of our craft. Hopefully the team's effort makes the difference when you get the chance to play The Climb yourself.

March 29, 2016 • 0 Comments

The Climb Dev Diary 2: Ascent is live

In our second dev diary, key members of the team behind The Climb talk about some of the challenges of creating a beautiful game in VR and how they overcame them.

Hitting 90fps, and the intense level of close-up detail required for a believable VR experience are all covered, alongside some absolutely delicious gameplay footage.

Creating a AAA quality game in VR comes with its own unique set of demands – check out the video and find out the new techniques and processes the team had to adopt to achieve their vision.

The Climb Team

March 22, 2016 • 0 Comments