Eurogamer: People wear rose-tinted nostalgia goggles.
Karl Hilton: The technology has moved on so far and you can't really believe the frame rate. Was it really that bad? Yeah, it was, actually.
Eurogamer: Games are slaves to technology.
Karl Hilton: They are. That's what makes it interesting. Other than CG effects in films, a lot of the technology to make a film, actors and scripts, those don't change, whereas everything you do in a videogame changes. In five years everything's changed.
Eurogamer: You say you're only as good as your last game. Your last game was Haze. Did reviewers' expectations result in harsh scores? How do you see it?
Karl Hilton: We were surprised by how poorly it was received. We felt it had a lot of good elements in, which just didn't seem to get picked up at all. But it's a fickle industry and things move quickly. If you get a few things wrong and people pick up on it... And Haze wasn't a perfect product. Clearly it wasn't. But it wasn't as bad as some of the reviews and feedback made out.
Sometimes you hit a sweet spot with a product and sometimes you miss it. We missed it. Perhaps expectations were beyond... Clearly were beyond what we were able to deliver. You're not quite sure why you build it up. Some games build up a lot of hype and benefit from it, and other games build up a lot of hype and seem to get knocked down by it. Haze certainly got knocked down.
Eurogamer: Were expectations fuelled because you had made GoldenEye and TimeSplitters? Did your heritage almost work against Haze?
Karl Hilton: People have a right to expect a certain level from companies. You build up your brand, and Free Radical was a good brand that stood for quality gaming. Maybe Haze wasn't of the standard we would have wanted, so people maybe felt the disappointment more sharply.
It's interesting. Obviously time will tell. Second Sight was another game we did that got pretty average reviews, but these days seems to be remembered very fondly. At the time when we launched that we were disappointed it didn't do better than it did because we felt it had a lot of good elements in it.
Eurogamer: Will that happen with Haze? When the dust has settled on this generation will people look back on it fondly?
Karl Hilton: I don't think anyone will claim it was an unrecognised classic, but maybe they'll treat it a little more gently than it got treated when it was released. That would be nice.
Eurogamer: Of the two potentials, TimeSplitters and an original IP, which is most likely to get signed by a publisher?
Karl Hilton: I don't think it matters what name you attach to it. What matters if you've got a strong game mechanic and a quality idea for making an FPS that is not going to be some generic me-too one.
Our job as a development studio is to go to publishers and excite them with an idea, and whether it's called TimeSplitters and has some sort of heritage from previous games and we bring in links from the previous games, or whether it's completely new IP but it takes our expertise in console multiplayer and maybe still has some of the twitch gameplay that TimeSplitters has, that's for us as a developer to excite the publisher about.
Then, whether you end up developing it as a new IP or not... You build up a brand and people expect from it, and then you don't want to limit yourself. As a studio we don't mind. We just want to make a real quality first-person multiplayer single-player game, and we want to make sure we're not just doing another one. We want to make sure we're bringing something interesting to it each time we do it. That's not easy.
What the setting is and what we call it, that's a secondary. We want to make sure the gameplay is fun and interesting, we're bringing something new to the market every time.
Eurogamer: Do you have a deadline for when you need to have a publisher for your new game?
Karl Hilton: You always want to get a publisher on board as soon as possible because you want their input into it and you want to start building up a campaign with them and get it out there. And then I can talk to people like you and tell you exactly what it is and start generating some excitement for it.
But ultimately, the good thing about Crytek is it's a big, stable company. We're not under time pressure to desperately rush something and sign it up regardless and make promises you can't deliver on. We can get it solid. We can get it right. We can talk to publishers and say, "This is why we want to do it." We can have those discussions and go back to them and make sure both sides are fully aligned on what it is you want to make and then go forward from there.
We're lucky in that sense. Obviously we've always got economic realities, but we're not working to a date after which it all goes wrong. It's about getting the right deal in place.