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Crytek goes mobile: The challenge of developing The Collectables
Going from developing Ryse to developing on the iPad -- Crytek's Hungary studio has made a huge pivot. Its head Kristoffer Waardahl tells Gamasutra all about the challenges.
Pivoting a console studio to a mobile studio isn't easy. Everything from your technology pipeline to your design sensibilities and way of thinking about your audience has to change. Just ask Crytek's Kristoffer Waardahl, head of its Budapest studio. The team's last game was Ryse, the Xbox One launch title so ambitious that other parts of Crytek had to be brought in to finish the project. Now, the studio has refocused on mobile, and partnered with DeNA for the launch of its first iOS game: The Collectables. The Collectables is an attempt to leverage Crytek's core competencies in terms of game design and technology in creating games that fit mobile play (and pay) patterns. It's a tactical squad shooter with touch mechanics, where special abilities come in the form of collectable cards: Players guide their squad through the levels, and then tap cards at the bottom of the screen to drop bombs, turrets, and the like into the middle of the action.
And while the scope of Ryse made the project overwhelming for the studio, mobile "reminds you a little bit of the indie times of PC -- small teams can become very effective, and become very successful as well," says Waardahl. Unlike triple-A development, "it's also so much fun because it's still very free... you can do a lot of games really rapidly, see what people react to."
One thing he has learned is that you can't make assumptions about what works for your game based on the success of others. Though Crytek has had help from DeNA's free-to-play experts, it's also had to find its own path. There are "no examples" of a game like The Collectables so far -- one that blends tactical shooting with collectable cards, Waardahl says.
That complicates things, because developers need to solve problems to ship games. "You're looking all over the marketplace to see what everyone's doing. There's no silver bullet -- that's number one. And if it were easy to do, then everyone would be doing it," he says. "It's very easy to get stuck in the survivorship bias: They're successful. We should look at what they're doing. But that's not right for our game!"
One thing Waardahl is clear about, however, is this: "Free-to-play should be free to play."
"We're super keen on making sure the game is free-to-play... There's no blockers or stuff like that, there's no gate where we're forcing anyone to pay," he says. Completing missions will get players card packs, and though the game does have performance-enhancing in-app purchases, he maintains that a bit of grinding will see free players through the campaign.
To successfully pivot your studio to mobile, there's one thing to keep in mind, says Waardahl. "It's the best way to do anything: Do what you're passionate about and make sure it's fun, and you should love it. If the game is fun people will spend time with it and people enjoy it. That's what we've been doing for 15-plus years, and that's what drives us."