In 2000, Crytek, then still a tiny company, attracted attention at ECTS with a certain tech demo at the NVIDIA booth. It was called X-Isle, a fly-through of a level which showed a lush island inhabited by enormous, realistic-looking dinosaurs. It was this demo that eventually evolved into the game we are honoring today: Far Cry™.
In an interview with Turkish publication Sabah last year, Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli reminisced: “Far Cry was built from scratch in three years, while building the company, while understanding how to make games, and we created the first next-gen shooter in 2004. And we were in the next-gen cycle. People started working on their games a year or two years before us, but finished at the same time or even later than us; that’s how hard we worked. That was the proof of real-time iteration being at the core of working faster and developing us and the game at the same time.”
Released in March 2004, in partnership with Ubisoft, Far Cry is an exciting first-person shooter that follows the complex and bitter Jack Carver, who is stranded on a mysterious archipelago, searching for a journalist who went missing after the boat they were both on was destroyed by mercenaries. Without giving too much away, Jack discovers that certain experiments are being conducted on the island’s native population by a company called Krieger Corp., and is plunged into a genetic conflict in which no science or rules seem to exist.
Early concept art of Jack Carver by Ray Leung.
Working with the original CryEngine, the Far Cry team created the game between 2001 and 2004, but only after E3 2003 did the pieces begin to fall into place. “In June 2003 we hit the core gameplay and agreed we had the recipe to shape the rest of the game,” says Michael Endres, then 3D Artist and now LnD Manager. “It felt like we had to throw away all the levels we had so far and start from scratch, just to make sure it became a coherent product.” Magnus Larbrant, then Concept Artist and now Senior Art Director, adds: “I remember that, early in the production, we made the AI shout ‘Hey you in the shirt!’ when they spotted the player. It makes sense because all other characters were running around without a shirt on; little details like that really made the game stand out and pull together in the final stages.”
The team behind Far Cry was, compared to game teams now, incredibly small – but also really close. Tim Partlett arrived at the start of the development process as a freelancer, and was scheduled to do a short stint with Crytek in Germany before leaving for another job in Canada. "The team, from the CEOs down to the juniors, impressed me not only with their ability, but with their generosity of spirit. It was like a family, and I was immediately welcomed into it. People were always wandering into the Mocap room to see if I needed help or just to chat." Tim never did make it out of Germany, and went from freelancer to full-time employee once Far Cry was completed. Tiago Sousa, then Effects Programmer and now R&D Lead Graphics Programmer, also has a fond memory to share of working practices in the growing studio: “Being at the office late at night, calmly working on some game details, before being spooked half to death by a colleague… The look on my face must have been priceless!”
Crytek staff in the early days.
It’s those moments that come up repeatedly when asking for anecdotes: inside jokes, nights out to unwind, and sharing a passion with similarly dedicated professionals and friends. The result was a game that set the bar for many years to come in terms of graphics and storytelling, and still continues to spawn multiple sequels and spin-off games.
The outstanding graphics, innovative gameplay, and a devoted team full of talent proved to be a winning combination. Far Cry received critical acclaim, with review aggregator Metacritic weighing it with a score of 89/100, and typical comments praising it as “one of the best first-person shooters ever made.” In publications including PC Gamer, GameSpot, and GameInformer, Far Cry received a score of 95/100, and was described by 3D Avenue as “a game that received hype, but lived up to every last damn word of it.” In 2004, Far Cry won several big prizes such as the ECTS Award for Best PC Game, German Developer Awards for both Innovative Technology and Best Graphics, and the Develop Industry Excellence Award for New PC IP. In February 2014, Far Cry Classic, an HD remake of the original title, was released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms, showing that the game still warms the heart of many dedicated fans across the globe.
“If you think about it on paper, it’s quite an impossible story,” says Cevat. “There were basically three guys with no idea how to make games but with a great tech demo on our hands […] and we wanted to beat our competitors. Today, if you were to write this all down on paper and bet on it, I don’t think anyone would take those odds. Even if three guys came to me and said “Here’s what we have, and here’s what we want to do,” I’d say: “Did you even make a game before?!” I would believe them because I went through it myself, but for anybody else, it would be hard to believe.”
Happy birthday, Far Cry!