Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint about rewiring things and punching people, I'm on a weekly gaming podcast called The Crate & Crowbar, I wrote these two short stories in the Machine of Death collections, and I used to write articles like these for PC Gamer. I'm now prototyping two new games, Heat Signature and one about grappling hooks.
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Just got round to revisiting Crysis on my new machine – the torture-test for high-end hardware. And it’s good news: everything on maximum at 1600×1200 purs along at 30fps. I say maximum, I haven’t tried the hack to enable all the DX10 stuff under DX9 yet – I will do.
After I first played it, I wrote a post about how I’d change all the Nanosuit’s augmentation modes if it were up to me, but it was lost in the great hard drive failure of recently. Replaying now, I find that I agree with myself entirely, and repeat my thoughts here for your amusement:
Cloak: the problem with Cloak as it stands is that it provides an extremely effective but rather tedious way to play. Cloak, run forwards ten metres, lie down in the nearest bush, decloak and wait for it to recharge. That’s fine in the middle of tense combat against multiple enemies, but most of your time is spent exploring a new, densely forested area where you don’t know if there are enemies are not. You instinctively want to approach cautiously, as you should, but the cautious option just takes a really long time and often turns out to have been pointless because there was no-one around anyway.
I’d like a Cloak mode that drains suit power at a rate proportional to how visible you are. I.e. how much work it has to do to keep you hidden. If no-one’s actually nearby and looking in your direction, it drains no power because it doesn’t have to do anything. But if you’re right in front of someone and they’re looking right at you, it drains rapidly because it’s having to render you entirely invisible. Your suit already knows how clearly you’re being seen by enemies – there’s a meter for it in the bottom left of your HUD.
It’d let you explore safely when you don’t know if there are enemies around, and when your suit power starts to drain, you find cover and look out for enemies. But if you’re in the middle of a firefight and want to slip by your enemies, you only have a small window to do so. Right now, I can just walk away from any firefight at any time, which makes them all a little easy.
Speed: at the moment this makes you go a little faster, makes your sprint speed preposterously fast, and then has a third, in-between speed for when you’ve run out of energy but are still sprinting. Your super-fast sprint exhausts all your suit energy in a second or two, which makes you feel a bit like you’re running on five year-old Duracell batteries. It’s one of those design decisions where they wanted to give you an extreme ability, but couldn’t find a way to balance it without an extreme nerf, and the result is rather awkward.
I’d want that third fast-but-not-crazy-fast speed to be the normal movement speed in Speed mode. Speed. The super-jumping of Strength mode should be part of Speed mode instead, and I really liked Jedi Knight’s system of being able to charge a jump by holding the key before releasing – so that you can still do small hops. None of this should drain your suit energy, but it also shouldn’t regenerate unless you’re standing still.
Holding the Sprint key wouldn’t make you go any faster, it’d slow down the world around you instead. The only games that don’t need slow-mo are the ones that already have it.
Armour: here the problem is that if I know I’m about to be taking fire, the absolute last mode I want to be in is Armour. Because it’s the only mode in which shots drain your suit energy, which deprives you of the only two effective ways to escape a sticky situation: cloaking or super-sprinting.
Clearly, it shouldn’t. Instead of absorbing damage like an extra health bar, it should work the way armour normally does: full energy means you only take half-damage, no energy means you take full. Energy neither regenerates nor drains when in armour mode.
Except when you press Sprint. This would render you completely invulnerable until you run out of energy, but you move like the walking tank that you are: slowly. It’d let you pull stunts like cloaking to the middle of the road when you see an enemy Humvee coming, then switching to Armour and going invuln to make them crash into you. Or similarly, surviving a head-on vehicular collision that results in an explosion fatal to everyone else involved. Or throwing yourself off a huge drop and surviving. Or wading towards an angry tank, planting a detpack on it, and blowing it up right in your own face.
Strength: so the problem with Strength mode right now is that it outright fucking sucks. It should be the coolest mode, but everything you do in it drains nearly all your energy, and is woefully less effective than simply shooting people. Also, shooting people drains your energy. Jesus.
As I say, jumping has no place in this mode, it shouldn’t be about mobility, it should be about hitting stuff. A Strength-mode punch or melee attack should always kill, obviously, and furthermore should flip a Humvee like it ain’t no thing. Hell, you should be able to flip a tank if you can get right up to it and hold ‘Pick up’ long enough. I have no objection to Strength mode steadying your grip with weapons, as it currently does, but causing that to rapidly drain your vital suit-juice is just the most despicable and moronic form of the Limit Everything design philosophy.
Sprint mode would be a kind of murderous charge, barreling forth shoulder-first and canoning anything you hit flying out of your way – including vehicles and walls.
grey_painter: Some one definitely needs to mod Crysis with those improvements. Not enough games where you feel like an invincible god in a large open area.
Chris Livingston: Wow, did you superpunch that lady right in the mush? I must not have played that far because I don't remember getting the chance to do that.
Lack_26: One advantage of Strength is that you can quickly switch to it, use the melee function on your gun and smack through the wall of a house pick up a startled Korean and throw him through the other wall. Or you know, you could put strength on, run at the building and sometimes if you hit, say a barrel, it and you are propelled through the building basically flattening the whole thing.
Iain "DDude" Dawson: well said.
roburky: I don't think I agree with your cloak proposals. I liked the rhythm of the cloak mode. You got a sense of how far the next piece of cover would need to be, you could look at a base from above, and plan your route through it to the objective.
If the energy usage changed wildly from moment to moment, you'd lose all sense of how long you had left. I don't think it would work.
Tom Francis: That's exactly what I want. That kind of planning is the problem for me. I can plan out a route, and it'll just work, every time. Even if guys are standing right next to my cover, or I'm not quite in it, the time it takes for them to cotton on is more than enough to regen enough charge to make it somewhere else.
I don't want to know for sure that I have ten metres of total, impenetrable invisibility. That's too much certainty. I want some capacity for my plan to go wrong, so that I have to improvise. I want to think "I can make it to that bush so long as that patrol doesn't come my way," or "Shit, there's more of them than I thought, I can't go that way now." Or "Don't turn round, don't turn round, don't- fuck!"
Right now all I think is "Sorry suckers, Cloak mode coming through! Good luck finding the cause of that twig-snapping five hundred meters behind me!"
Tom Francis: Chris: I wish. I take out my frustration at not being able to punch NPCs by punching slightly to the left of their heads, turning to face them before the blow lands, then taking screenshots. If they happen to be stumbling around in a shaky elevator at the time, the effect can be quite persuasive.
Ludo: With these modifications Cloak would be pretty tense and difficult tool to use but on the other hand combining Strength and Armour sprint modes would be a recipe for immortality (and glorious destruction.)The stealth option might seem a little weak in relation.
I'd like to see the ability to stealth kill someone from behind with your hands while cloaked, this would give it more offensive potential, and would let you play like Sam Fisher.
Tom Francis: Oh, good point, that should definitely be in there. You can grab them while cloaked as it stands, but throwing them away is an awkwardly slow process. As for revised Cloak's effectiveness, that's down to the factor by which your level of 'Scrutiny', we'll call it, drains your suit energy. If you'll permit me to get mathsy for a second, I would actually have Scrutiny dictate the acceleration of your energy level towards zero, rather than it's speed. That is, if you're suddenly being seen, your energy doesn't immediately plummet: it drains slowly at first, then starts to drain faster. I'd want it to act as a big soft cushion of time to decide what to do in response to the fact that you're not going to be able to make it as far as you thought.
Right now, in the few truly difficult situations - i.e. more than eight enemies on Delta difficulty - no mode is a viable alternative to Cloak. You can't weather the damage in Armour, escape their fire in Speed or kill them quickly enough with Strength. Certainly you might live long enough to reach cover in some of these modes, but Cloak has them beat on that too: you can stroll to a bush ten metres away without taking a shot. It's the ultimate armour, the perfect escape, and the most convenient mode to grab people by the throat.
Failing the changes detailed above, my second choice would be to rename the other modes, "Recharge My Cloak Bar" mode, "There's No-One To Cloak From And I Lost My Car And I'm Bored" mode, "Let Me Jump Over This Low Wall So I Can Do Some More Cloaking" mode and "Cloak" mode.
SenatorPalpatine: Good stuff. They should put you in charge of Crysis 2. Also, they should make Crysis 2.
CloakRaider: I like your idea of the holding shift to become invulnerable while in armour mode for a while, I can see that being infinitely fun. But yes, the energy need for the reduction of recoil in strength mode is obscene, it should be a bonus you get while in strength mode, while being more vulnerable, rather than an active ability that drains your energy.
I also agree with your stance on the speed mode. It's generally worse to use sprint while in Speed mode because it'll only get you a few meters, but it'll remove almost all your energy which could have been used elsewhere.
But I disagree with your point on cloak mode. I think it's fine as it is, mainly because it is useful having it when a patrol is going past, when standing still makes it use very little energy. I think that having it reduce more when enemies look at you make it worse, but I don't know to what extent you would have it reduce when in full view. The same amount you lose by sprinting? Well, I think that cloak mode is fine as it is.
But I do agree with your point on armour mode, seeing as the energy lost through the fire you take could have been better spent using speed or cloak to escape and pick them off from a distance. I believe that some of these can be changed in the console in-game or in the files. I certainly remember there being a command to remove the energy lost while firing in strength mode and speed bonus and energy lost in sprint while in speed mode.
Tom Francis: That's a good point, I should see how hard it is to actually do this stuff instead of just yakking about it. The logic editor looks awesome to play around with.
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Bret: Wow! I had no idea random spam comments were the solution to Crysis's problems. The things you learn.
Also: that did not have the video I was looking for. That monkey was nowhere near underaged. And I'm pretty sure the dinosaur was a guy in a suit.
In fact, if you are not being sarcastic, then you are in for a treat. You may well be the only person on the internet not to know about it.
Also, Tom had a link to them on a sidebar once.
DemonDoll: Wow, I really like many of the suggestions here.The biggest problem by far is that it would be totally inaccessible to non-veteran gamers. Going from a sprint to an abstract "use special function" that totally changes depending on the mode would too difficult for many people. That said, I beat the game on Delta and agree that as it stands most of the suit's capabilities are either necessary in a binary sense (strength to jump onto a ledge), hardly worth it (speed to cover ground a tiny bit faster, all the powers that don't fit the other 2 categories), or just annoying (the steady hands from strength really help when sniping but the energy drain is annoying and totally unnecessary). It is sad that each and every suit power (except default armor) is something that I associate with a large cost and small reward. I don't agree with each of your proposals 100% but would be somewhat interested in playing a mod of Crysis where the suit wasn't just a piece of bling.
Jason L: The idea of the cloak mode drawing power proportional to whether eyeballs happen to be right this instant turned in its direction hurts me in the ludonarrative dissonance. It's probably good gameplay, and therefore more correct, but even fictional logic aside it would bother me to see my energy usage flickering through essentially no fault of my own. I don't even care that the game already does it with a 'here's looking at you' bar, though it's a perfectly good point.
Alternative proposal: Your suit does not magically know where human beings are and then not tell you. Instead, per a suggestion in another post, we import the tagging from Far Cry (if it's not already there; it's been a long time since I played Crysis a little). Cloak works poorly against untagged enemies (reduced but still large detection radius/proc) and extremely well against tagged enemies; fictionally, it mimics your background near-perfectly along a finite number of defined vectors, at the computational/optical cost of imperfect mimicry in other directions. There are various models that could work for the power drain, but off the top of my head I would put it on the order of the inverse of the number of tagged enemies; the suit is routing its effort more efficiently if you've done your homework.
This per-enemy bonus is then filtered through a multiplier related to the visual noise within, say, two meters past you on the vision ray (as baked and tagged on object properties; could be number of poly edges under 90 degrees, UV score on an unsharp mask algorithm or both in some combination) and twice those within a meter of a ray drawn from the enemy to you. Like an octopus, be in front of a bush or a pile of scrap and you're virtually invisible. Be in front of a clean car door or a smooth boulder or worst of all, skylined, and you're fooling no one but yourself. Be through 10m of dense greenery and the technical line of sight simply doesn't count. It sounds complicated but I don't see what would make it difficult to implement; presumably they're already casting rays at several Hertz for LOS, and the qLOS calculation would only be triggered on successful LOS checks. Actually, I assume they're already doing qLOS calculations based on alpha mapping or something...
In any case, possible or impossible, this pipe dream would hopefully create a secondary landscape separate from the LOS landscape, somewhat similar to the 'skiing' landscape in a Tribes game, allowing players to move and hide 'in plain sight', which is badass and surely the point of Cloaking rather than hiding, against intuitively clear sets of objects ('Could I see the Predator against that?').
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