Today, we'd like to present you with an inside look at Eidolon, a CryENGINE2 project developed by a team working with Le Fresnoy (the French national studio of modern arts) and Enodo. In addition to the recent trailer and screenshots, we also have an interview with Balthazar Auxietre, designer and animator on the project!
Why have you chosen to use the CryENGINE for this mod?
I’d never actually played Crysis before working with the CryENGINE; I only found out about it when I started looking for a real-time engine with which to create my project. I decided to use the engine for several reasons:
Firstly, I realised its creative potential after seeing several video projects created with the engine. I was obviously very impressed with the quality of the rendering, but what particularly interested me was that the engine would allow the creation of vast open environments, complete with rich and abundant vegetation.
I found it interesting that these environments weren’t the typical military universes present in most modern games, but rather idyllic natural paradises. That made it possible to emphasise the exploration and visual discovery of the environment, so much so that the player’s contemplation became the principal element of the action.
The last thing that made me choose the engine was the fact that there’s an active modding community working with the software which is proudly supported by Crytek.
It was then that I realised that it would be possible to work on the project with a small team by using Crysis-esque environments to tell a completely different story.
Can you give us more information on the plot?
The narrative concept behind the mod is to allow a player to travel inside the brain and the memories of a character saved and stored in a virtual paradise. Eidolon is the name of the foundation that wishes to commercialise this project, and the player participates in a demonstration of the system, which is still in its prototype stage.
The system, however, is defective, and rather than loading the demonstration, the player is instead sent into the mind of Professor Samuels, the inventor of the project who died for having created it. Each reconstructed zone of his brain corresponds to a specific environment where the player will meet someone whom the character cared about (their wife, their friend, their father, their son, etc). Through these meetings, the player enters into the intimacy of Samuels’ memories and fantasies. Piece by piece, they will discover his personality and mysterious past, in order to finally construct a sort of virtual legacy.
Will it be possible for us to "play" this mod at some point in the future?
It’s not planned for the moment, because the project was only developed with the use of a virtual reality headset in mind. It would be possible to release the mod for exploration using a mouse, but that would require a lot of work, notably optimisation. That said, the installation will be shown in exhibitions in France, and I’ll make an announcement on the site once I have the dates of these.
How long did the production of the mod take?
Just under six months, with a part-time team of four to five people.
Which aspect of development was the hardest?
The hardest thing was to develop the interactive aspect of the mod. We didn’t really have any specialised programmers, and each time we tried to create a complex function that wasn’t built into the engine, we had to give it up due to time and skillset constraints.
What advice would you give to other developers looking to realise their ideas?
Honestly, I don’t have any specific advice to give as I’m still really a beginner in this field (this is the first mod I’ve worked on). It’s different for everyone… but I will say:
- If it’s not just a hobby for you, go all the way with your projects and be perserverant! Even an average finished mod gives more credibility than an unrealised awesome one.
- Even if it’s not easy, the CryENGINE is a formiddable tool that’s worth using in original and non-coventional projects.
How exactly did this project in its current form come about? Were there discussions, or was it rather a set idea from the beginning?
Coming from cinema, I’d always dreamed of creating an interactive fiction which, by using game technology (notably FPS) would make the player an actor in the fiction and not simply a spectator. I also wanted to create an experience that was completely immersive thanks to a head-mounted display. These two things combined to form the basis of the project that was born thanks to Le Fresnoy, the national studio of modern arts, which is a French cultural institution that supports the creative industry using new media and technology. They supervised the development of the project and helped financially with the installation. However, the project couldn’t legally be shown by Le Fresnoy, so we contacted Enodo, a French CryENGINE licensee, who were interested by the project and even gave us technical support.
On an artistic level, the project has hugely evolved since its inception. With the lack of engine knowledge, starting off was quite difficult. I quickly learnt that the engine has lots of features but also lots of constraints, and that made me rethink certain ideas that I’d had at the design stage. Luckily, the extremely creative team provided support, and eventually realised even some of the strangest project designs! At the same time, the assets and environments present in the Crysis game inspired me for some sequences. I tried to adapt the script to fit certain new ideas, whilst staying as close as possible to the original plan.
And finally, will this team be developing other projects using this engine?
The experience of this project has been extremely fulfilling for me, and I’d love to continue working with this team on the CryENGINE. As I’ve progressively learned more and more about the engine, I’ve realised its enormous creative potential and I’ve got plenty of new ideas for projects I’d like to work on. If anyone is interested by what we’ve done here and would like to participate in the development of future projects, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Conception - Balthazar Auxietre
- Level design - Fabiolo
- Flowgraph - Lenox47
- 3D Modeling - Willy Le Bleis / Marc Héricher
- Trackview - Balthazar Auxietre / Anna Leysens / Marie Larrivé
- Sound recording & editing - Moea Latrille / Emmanuel Sabroux
- Voice cast: Myriam Ajar / David Forgit / Georges d'Audignon / David Bouchacourt / Michèle Contal
- Video editing - Benjamin Girard
We hope you've enjoyed these insights into the development of the project! For any French CryDev users, the original interview is available en français here.