Crytek ships CryEngine 5.5
Hunt: Showdown, Crytek’s GDC 2018 CryEngine demo. The developer has now released CryEngine 5.5 officially, and has begun charging royalties on commercial titles created using the game engine.
Originally posted on 22 March 2018. Scroll down for news of the official release.
Crytek has released a preview build of CryEngine 5.5, the latest version of its game engine and development environment, overhauling the UI of its Sandbox editor, and introducing a future-proof format for level files.
The update also enables the engine’s SVOGI global illumination system to be cached and run offline, makes it possible to create physics proxies in the Character Tool, and adds weighted blending for terrain materials.
In separate news, Crytek has moved the engine from its old, effectively free, ‘pay what you want’ model to an Unreal Engine-style royalty split, charging 5% of of the gross revenues generated by commercial games.
Sandbox Editor: decluttered UI, new level file format
CryEngine 5.5 partially declutters the UI of the engine’s Sandbox level editor, introducing dropdowns to show the windows open within a side pane; and adds the option to [Ctrl]-click to solo an item in the scene.
There is also a new format for level files, intended to make the Sandbox Editor “future-proof … inside the concept of collaborative editing and for the usage of version control systems”.
SVOGI: now supported on consoles, can be run offline
SVOGI, CryEngine’s voxel-based global illumination system, is now supported on consoles, and can now be cached to disk, enabling the GI calculation to be performed offline.
Ray traced shadows are also now considered a viable production to shadow maps, promising realistic soft shadows with “little performance loss”, and supporting transparent shadows for transparent objects.
Changes to the Character Tool and terrain system
Other changes to the art tools include the option to create physics proxies for characters directly in the Character Tool viewport, as well as simply editing their ragdolls.
Terrain generation, a major focus of CryEngine 5.4, gets a further update, with support for weighted blending of terrain materials – it works with up to three – as well as blending objects into the terrain mesh.
There is also a new displacement option in the terrain sculpting tools, which can be used as a stamp to add detail to terrain.
Updates to visual scripting, C# coding, and documentation
The update also adds further ready-made game components for use within CryEngine’s Schematyc visual scripting system, including a new VR camera and interaction component.
There are also new options for packaging content for release and backing up projects, plus a number of changes to C# scripting: you can find a full list via the link at the foot of the story.
Devs to be charged royalties on commercial games created in CryEngine
However, perhaps the biggest change in CryEngine 5.5 is that it’s no longer free to use.
On the release of CryEngine 5.0 in 2016, Crytek abolished its monthly rental fee in favour of a ‘pay what you want’ system, meaning that devs could access the source code for free.
The new update introduces an Unreal Engine-style royalty model, charging 5% of the gross revenues from commercial titles created with CryEngine after the first $5,000/year.
That’s more than for Unreal Engine: Epic Games charges 5% of gross after the first $3,000/quarter, which gives devs an effective royalty-free allowance of $12,000/year.
Developers who started work under the old model can apply to opt out of royalties for a project, but you have to do so before 30 June 2018, and you can’t use the CryEngine 5.5 source code.
Crytek has had well-publicised financial issues recently – and, GamesIndustry.biz points out, may be kicking itself that it didn’t make more money from the breakout success of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the most visible recent title to have been created using the engine.
However, although not unusual in the industry, the new royalty model seems an odd reversal of policy, and one that will do little to encourage studios to adopt CryEngine over its competitors.
Updated 24 September 2018: CryEngine 5.5 is now officially shipping. According to Crytek’s blog post, as well as the key features listed above, the changelog totals “over 1,000” smaller changes and fixes.
The firm has also announced that version 5.5 will be the last release to support 32-bit Windows operating systems, a decision it attributes to the 4GB memory limit for 32-bit OSs and lack of support for Vulkan.
Availability and system requirements
CryEngine 5.5 is available for Windows 7+ under the royalties model discussed above.