Crytek: Lens flares “very important“ to Crysis 3

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Crytek didn't spend too much time talking up the visual side of Crysis 3 when EA gathered press this week in San Francisco to see the game . But there was one technical detail Crytek was proud enough of to call out: lens flares.

“You might notice that we have some pretty badass lens flares in the game. I think we probably invented the most insane lens flare system ever conceived in any game engine,” Senior Creative Director Rasmus Højengaard said during the presentation.

When I had a chance to interview him later, I asked: why does Crytek care enough about lens flares to talk about them?

PCG: You mentioned lens flares during the presentation, I thought that was an unusually-specific element to bring up. Why spend development time devoted to lens flares?

Rasmus Højengaard: You could ask that about a lot of stuff Crytek did. Why spend time on this? Right? It's just one of these things where... Some things we just end up going completely over the top with. We have a lot of different technologies where the bandwidth of that technology goes way above and beyond what any other game technology has.

And lens flares was just a funny example that I was thinking about today, because earlier today I'd been talking to Cevat [Yerli], who's the founder of Crytek, about lens flares in particular. I thought it was worth mentioning, I just thought about it when I saw these huge lens flares down from the corner there, looking up at the screen. It's something that people do as an afterthought, normally, but it's actually such an important visual element of a sci-fi game.

When you have a setting where the big stadium lights are lighting up this thing with gargoyles all over the place and fog and spaceships flying in, you have these huge anamorphic lens flares being drawn in between the trees, it's actually a very important visual element in the frame. And the way that we use it and the way that we can... Because it's simulated, it's not just a little sprite being slapped on top of everything else in the game, it just... It's like movies like Solaris , right? It's really important, it plays a huge role...

Sure, it's part of their style, their visual language...

RH: Yeah, exactly. It's part of the whole visual language that we're conveying. And the fact that you're behind this visor, there is actually a logical reason behind the lens flares. Actually, there's no logic in playing a first-person game where you look through your eyes and you have lens flares. A camera has lens flares, right? Or you need some kind of layer between that light source and your eyes. So it's just one of those things. A bit of a spur of the moment thing, I thought it was worth mentioning.

So would you say Crytek is the world leader in lens flare technology in games?

RH: Yes. For sure. Nobody has been that insane other than us, I'm sure.

Here's our preview of Crysis 3 based on what we saw ourselves.

Evan Lahti
Global Editor-in-Chief

Evan's a hardcore FPS enthusiast who joined PC Gamer in 2008. After an era spent publishing reviews, news, and cover features, he now oversees editorial operations for PC Gamer worldwide, including setting policy, training, and editing stories written by the wider team. His most-played FPSes are CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Rainbow Six Siege, and Arma 2. His first multiplayer FPS was Quake 2, played on serial LAN in his uncle's basement, the ideal conditions for instilling a lifelong fondness for fragging. Evan also leads production of the PC Gaming Show, the annual E3 showcase event dedicated to PC gaming.