Interview with Crysis 3 writer, Steven Hall
Analog: The previous game was written by Richard K. Morgan, with a closely iednovelization by Peter Watts. What was it like working in a universe where these two had already done a lot of world building? Was there anything of theirs that you were particularlyexcited to build on?
Hall: I really enjoyed working with the idea of the ‘post-human’ that Richard put into the world. I focused on that a great deal, I wanted to look at what that meant for the characters. Prophet has had to sell his humanity one piece at a time for upgrades and dangerous technology, for the power he needs to keep being this hero and saving the world. His story has a little of the Greek tragedy about it—he’s close tobeing an modern-day demigod, but becoming that has cost him everything else he had, and everything he was.
Analog: One of the main differences between writing for games and writing novels is that games are necessarily collaborative. How was that process? Do you feel like you managed to leave your mark on the series? If so, how?
Hall: The process was collaborative in a very healthy way, there’s a good story team at Crytek and we bounced things back and forth a lot. Crytek had a framework for what they wanted Crysis 3 to be, but I had a lot of freedom to work within that. I’m struggling to think of something that I really wanted to do that I wasn’t able to. I’d like to think that I’ve left my mark, I spent a lot of time working with the main characters, hopefully you’ll know and understand them a lot more after this final installment. I also did a lot of work developing the Ceph—players who are willing to do some digging will get answers to a lot of unanswered questions this time around. More than people expect, maybe.
Analog: Science fiction is one of the most popular genres for games. Why do you think that is, and what do you think games can do to reach out to science fiction fans who might not necessarily be gamers?
Hall: Prioritise storytelling. And I think that’s happening; game stories are becoming more sophisticated all the time. I think games will begin to appear more on science fiction fans radars now the storytelling is really coming of age.
Analog: “An armored super-soldier fights an alien invasion” is a pretty common set-up for a lot of games. What elements do you think help Crysis 3 stand out from the pack, story-wise?
Hall: Well, it’s a very human story in a lot of ways. There’s amazing action and a gigantic alien invasion sure, but at heart this is a story about Prophet—what’s happened to him, what he’s become and if there’s enough of him left to go through all this one more time. It’s about personal choices and consequences as much as anything. As I said, there’s a real tragic element to the story, I don’t think you see that too often in action games.
Analog: Heinlein’s _Starship Troopers_ and Joe Haldeman’s _The Forever War_ cast a long shadow over the plots in the gaming industry. Are there any surprising science fiction influences that might have helped inform your writing in the game?
Hall: Nineteen Eighty-Fourwas a big influence. And John Carpenter’s They Live was on my mind a lot! They Live was a lot more pronounced in the early going, but I think you can still spot its influence in there.
Analog: Your novel, The Raw Shark Texts, had some multimedia elements to it. Did that influence your approach to writing the game at all?
Hall: I did a lot of extra work on the deeper story with this game, lots of things that you can find around the levels and spend time putting together, figuring out and decoding. The idea of being able to dig deeper and deeper is something I’ve always found very exciting, it’s there in The Raw Shark Texts, and it’s present in Crysis 3 too. I love making things for obsessives, because I’m an obsessive myself.
Analog: Is there anything you learned from working on the game that you’re going to take back to your prose work?
Hall: There’s a lot of technical thinking and problem solving required at every stage of writing for games. It feels like that level of focus and practice going to be very useful in the future. Actually, it’s proving useful already.
Analog: Were there any science fictional ideas you got to include that you’re particularly proud of, and that might be easily missed as someone plays through the game?
Hall: There are quite a few, but I shouldn’t give them away—they’re all much better for being stumbled on accidentally. I’m looking forward to being able to talk about then when the game is out. I’m very pleased with the ending, but we really can’t talk about that!
Analog: A weirdly specific genie grants you the power to change one thing about storytelling in games, forever. What do you change?
Hall: I don’t think there are any fundamental issues with storytelling in games that people aren’t already finding ways to solve. Maybe I’d get rid of the idea of games being an inferior storytelling medium. But then, I think that’s going to happen anyway.