Remember Crysis?

Of the “But Can It Play Crysis?” meme fame?

Man, that game looked great. Still does. Whatever happened to the tech powering that? That… CryEngine or whatever?

Well, I was writing a comment on Quora (this is gonna be the source of a lot of my blog entries from here on out) and decided to illustrate the issue with a little history lesson.

Not about video games though.

About makeup.

As with all things, you need the best to get the best, and CryEngine is FAR from the best in 99.999999999% of cases.

Potential for sheer visual fidelity isn’t the only factor at play, just ask Jack Pierce (May 5, 1889 – July 19, 1968).

Jack_Pierce_working_on_Boris_Karloff

His method for producing monster movie makeup was the best of its age when he made the effects for the original Frankenstein. Like, “properly putting the fear of God into people” level best-there-was.

You know what else it was? Time consuming. Labor intensive. Expensive as all get out. But when you needed the result to be visually stunning and cost was no object? Send for Jack.

There was a period after making Frankenstein where Jack Pierce really had it good. Work was flowing in like the Mississippi River. Fame, and a lack of similar but cheaper options, made him the go-to guy for monster make up.

But all good things come to an end. After 20 years of employment at Universal, he was hard-pressed for work and summarily fired from Universal Studios in 1946. His reign was at an end, partially precipitated by his refusal to change methods to cheaper, faster, easier methods that still produced results that were good enough to meet the studio’s needs. It didn’t help matters that he was a very difficult person to deal with, and in possession of a perfectionist streak longer than the Grand Canyon.

He was replaced at Universal by Bud Westmore (yes, of those Westmores), whose work wasn’t quite as stunning but still delivered the results Universal was looking for and still entertained audiences, and Westmore worked faster, cheaper, and easier than Pierce. In the end, Pierce’s results were much more impressive, but those other little factors brought him down, and Bud Westmore was truthfully the better choice.

All of that is to say this: you can have something with the potential for the best visuals in the world, the likes of which have never been seen before, and even can routinely deliver it… but if there’s an option that produces 80% of the quality for 50% of the time, money, and effort, producers will gladly take that dip in quality to save on those other things.

A fellow Quoran, Mike Prinke (go read his stuff, it’s all excellent), said of CryEngine:

CryEngine is the DeLorean of game engines, promising an unbelievably cool and stylish concept, innovative for the time that it was initially created, and putting on a great show with Crysis, the one game it was tailor-made for. Outside of that one product, and products very similar to it, it is hilariously impractical.

Kind of like Jack Pierce that way.

Anyway, that’s basically what happened to CryEngine. It’s expensive, time consuming, difficult to work with, and you can get much easier, faster, cheaper results that are nearly as good for a lot less grief with a competing engine.

Why use CryEngine when you can use something a lot less aggravating?

Answer: people don’t.

So CryEngine got thrown aside, and CryTek languished. I’d be more broken up about it, but apparently the staff at CryTek is utterly insufferable according to a bunch of accounts I’ve read, so they get a bit less sympathy from me.

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