Ask Denver-based IllFonic about their debut first-person shooter, Nexuiz, and one word that keeps cropping up is “fast”. From the intense twitch gameplay to the relative speed with which its 10-man team have been able to conjure up such an accomplished title, IllFonic comes across as an indie developer restless to bottle its inspiration and share the results with as many players as possible, as quickly as modern distribution methods will allow.
Not that such speed signifies a corner-cutting approach or desire to bundle Nexuiz out the door in preparation for the next project. Rather, it is a slickness that begins with the toolset IllFonic utilize to capture their creativity and culminates in an arena shooter experience that the company’s Creative Director Kedhrin Gonzalez describes, in typical fashion, as “…insanely fast, action-packed and extremely competitive.”
With the arrival of Nexuiz for PC last week, IllFonic also revealed itself to be relentless – the version of the game now available via Steam showcasing the significant additional work the developer has poured into the project since Nexuiz first launched as an Xbox Live Arcade game earlier in the year.
Boasting numerous visual leaps and gameplay tweaks, the PC version further underscores IllFonic’s unwillingness to rest on their laurels in the quest to create a stand-out shooter, as well as affording them a powerful new platform via which to display their mastery of the CryENGINE 3 technology they used to produce the game.
When asked how Crytek’s next-gen ready engine has helped them realize their vision for Nexuiz, IllFonic are quick to praise one particular aspect of the multi-platform dev tool.
“I think the biggest lure, from my perspective, is the speed at which you can work.” says Gonzalez of CryENGINE 3. “I’ve never been able to work this fast in any other engine before – and I’ve used an insane amount of engines. Your speed going from Photoshop to Sandbox/3D Studio Max to Sandbox is just mind-boggling. It’s really difficult to make something look bad in CryENGINE 3. It makes everything look amazing, very fast.”
IllFonic’s Creative Director also praises CryENGINE 3 for removing some of the stresses associated with the development process, and is grateful that the people behind the engine are as easy to work with as the tool itself. “We were able to rapidly jump from a prototype phase to full quality production easily. The toolset allows users to create whatever they want without stressing too much. Since we are a small team of 10 developers, this was very important to us. CryENGINE 3 gave us the ability to make Nexuiz without many resources.
“Crytek is awesome to work with. The guys there are really nice, responsive, patient and understanding. We are generally able to get any questions we have answered pretty quickly and they help us across the board. It’s how licensing an engine should be.”
Summoning the spirit of classic arena shooters, Nexuiz pits up to eight players in quick-fire combat where a range of power-ups ensure there’s always a way to rewrite the rulebook on the fly.
Jumping into the game’s fun and frantic world, it’s hard not to be impressed by the visual feast on offer – a world of Victorian-styled sci-fi environments that have become all the more appealing in the DX11 version of the game with the implementation of CryENGINE 3 features such as Tessellation and parallax occlusion mapping.
“Tessellation is awesome because it’s so automatic.” says Gonzalez. “You don’t have to put too much thought into it. POM is amazing too. It receives world shadows. This is a huge deal. It’s also very scalable. You want to use POM for surfaces that don’t have silhouette details. Then use Tessellation for the things that are going to pop off the screen. It can really give you some awesome effects!”
And for players who want to see the full extent of how IllFonic have harnessed CryENGINE 3, there’s always what the developer affectionately refers to as “Stupid” mode. “It’s not called ‘Stupid’ for nothing!” jokes Gonzalez. “Every texture in the game is uncompressed. Every light source casts shadows. The particles are cranked. A lot of particles receive shadows. Lensflares have light shafts. Cloth physics everywhere. Mesh tessellation hotness. Super high quality environment probes. More mesh detail. More environmental props. It’s pretty stupid. In a good way!”
Whatever way you play, Nexuiz is a fresh take on the arena shooter that you’re going to want to experience for yourself on PC. And as they might say at IllFonic, the sooner the better.