Ryse: Son of Rome debuted on November 22nd along side the launch of the Xbox One console. We are witness to Marius Titus,a Roman gladiator on a quest to avenge his murdered family. Mike Ybarra, studio head for Microsoft Studios and developer of Ryse: Son of Rome, granted us an interview recently regarding the game’s development. Mr. Ybarra was kind enough to provide us insight into the difficulties of developing a new game for a brand new console as well as some details on the remaining three dlc packs. We also have a very generous challenge presented to us. In responding to a question on easter eggs located in Ryse: Son of Rome, Mr. Ybarra noted that there are seven of them in the game, two of them on the Pax Romanum level (level six). According to Mr. Ybarra, neither of these have been found and we now have some INCREDIBLE INCENTIVE to do so. As you’ll read below, the first person to locate BOTH of these easter eggs and tweet him (@XBOXQWIK) the upload video via will receive a “a signed copy (by the dev team and myself) of Ryse: Son of Rome for their collection!” We also received information on the upcoming dlc, which we’ll hear more about this month along with its 250 achievement points. Be sure to read the complete interview below and definitely follow Mr. Ybarra on twitter as he frequently provides great information for us.
1. Ryse Son of Rome is both an Xbox One exclusive and launch title. Granted the Xbox One is your console. However, what difficulties did you face developing a game for a new console, that wasn’t even out yet, from scratch?
Releasing new IP for a new generation of console hardware on launch day is no doubt one of the hardest software/hardware tasks in the industry. It’s also one of the most rewarding for any team. We knew the goals of the game early: introduce a new IP that sets a new bar for visuals while delivering an experience core gamers would enjoy. As with any new hardware platform, there is a lot of experimentation early on to see what the limits are. Also, there was a lot of getting used to new hardware and the best way to work with it, including daily changes to the SDK and code environment/capabilities. With the improvements to the Xbox One hardware, it required us to rethink how we structured some pieces of code. For example, setting up the streaming install that allowed the player to play while continuing to download took us a while to think through. It takes an experienced team to deal with continual hardware and software changes, some risk taking and a bit of luck to pull it off.
2. To date, Ryse is the most visually stunning game I have ever played and that is with a resolution of only 900P. How was it decided to be 900P opposed to either 720 or 1080P?
We knew that the launch of a new console generation meant we needed a showcase experience that demonstrated the new visual fidelity and capabilities of the system. From the very first concept phase of Ryse, we knew making the game visually stunning was important. It’s really a set of trade-offs that are made across a wide range of different topics from effects, resolution, scripted/dynamic instances, etc. that when added up brings together both the visual and emotional experience you want users to have. I think the point that gets lost a lot is that it’s all a game of trade-offs. Resolution alone is not the final determination regarding if a game looks great or not, it’s one of many different levers and it’s up to the game teams to decide what is best for their unique game experience.
3. How did you decide on Marius’ story and the direction it would take? Without revealing any spoilers, was there debate with those who wished Marius would see a different ending?
Theater experience was a great plus for this type of acting, hence why somebody like John Hopkins, an experienced English theater actor, was such a great fit.
Crytek had a very strong story from inception. At first certainly many of us were surprised by the ending but Crytek was passionate that they wanted to portray the arc of great life. Crytek’s passion coupled with the surprise of the ending convinced everyone on the project that it was the right ending.
4. Of the 15 credited voice actors in the game on its IMDB page, only 4 have previous video game experience.(Summer, Leonitus, Oswald, Aguilo) What went into the cast selection and how was it determined the voice actors/actresses fit the part? For example, Rachel Macdowall was a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace and the daughter in Mamma Mia. These don’t exactly scream “barbarian leader” but she absolutely killed it as Boudica. And we don’t have to get into the obviousness of John Hopkins as Marius.
The story writers working with the audio department at Crytek did all the casting. This was great because the writers knew exactly the voice they wanted and so they choose who they liked. This was based on the actor, the reading and tone and not so much on who had a long established track record. As you point out this lead to some wonderful performances that really make Ryse’s story resonate. In addition, most of the voice actors also did the performance capture for their characters. Since this capture involved long takes with many different capture cameras rolling at the same time, the cinematics director looked for actors who could not only handle the physicality of the role, but were also used to performing entire scenes as a continuous take. Theater experience was a great plus for this type of acting, hence why somebody like John Hopkins, an experienced English theater actor, was such a great fit.
5. Ryse initially received criticism for its gameplay combat and its campaign story length (approximately 10 hours). Currently, the average metacritic score is 60 with 73 critics. Most of these reviews seem to be comparative in their reasoning with the “Well, it’s not like such and such game” as opposed to evaluating Ryse based solely on its
correlation of style/gameplay as it is. Have you seen this as well? What is your thoughts on the score and the process that they seemed to use in their grading?
Metacritic is a complicated topic in our industry. At first, it was hard to see the numbers as they were lower than we wanted. That’s always hard on any game team that puts a lot of time and effort into a game. On the other hand, we did see a lot of gamers saying they loved the game. If you look on Amazon, we are rated 4 out of 5 stars by direct consumers. While there were certainly things we wished we could have gotten in the game and we understand the key criticism, we are proud of Ryse and think it is a fun experience for our audience.
6. Easter Eggs – Now, personally I 1000/1000′d Ryse with all 5 challenges as well. I was able to find both the ghost ship and lady of the lake, although admittedly I needed help with the lady of the lake. These are the only two that have been seen so far. Any others we might be missing?
In the game we have a total of 7 Easter Eggs. I don’t want to give them all out (on 2/12 I released one on my twitter account) but I will tell you my favorite one is in the Pax Romanum level (6th level). I don’t believe has been discovered by any player yet. I’d be willing to offer the player who first tweets me (@XboxQwik) the Upload video of both Easter Eggs from the Pax Romanum (there are 2 in that level) a signed copy (by the dev team and myself) of Ryse: Son of Rome for their collection!
7. Any rumblings of a possible sequel and is it something you are considering doing?
I know this is not helpful to you, but we have nothing to announce at this time.
8. Mr. Todd Papy recently came on with Crytek after working on the God of War series. With God of War being known for such great gameplay (although the story lacks), would Mr. Papy be working on the sequel if you decide to launch one.
It’s great to see Crytek hiring great industry talent. However, we have no comment on any
future Ryse experiences at this time.
9. The season pass has 4 dlc packs and one has already been released in the Colisseum pack. Is there any release dates or launch windows you are aiming for in regards to the remaining three packs? What is your goal timeline?
We want to get content to customers as soon as we can and we’re hard at work doing that. You’ll hear more about our next DLC plans this month.
There’s lots of other really incredible stuff happening that I unfortunately can’t talk about yet, but we’ll definitely share more in the near future.
10. Dlc content – With the colisseum pack being maps/equipment, will any of the remaining packs feature any story/single player content, i.e. back story of Boudica or a great leader like Vitalion? If specifics are not able to be released, can you tell us the direction you are headed in?
Right now, I can’t comment on where this is going but we have some exciting DLC in the works. Stay tuned…
11. Will their be achievements in any of the dlc?
Yes, you’ll see 250 achievement points in our next DLC.
12. Functionality – As of now, if you are in a party chat with friends and attempt to play online you are notified that Ryse only supports parties of two and are forced to leave your party in order to play with player you are matched with. Any plans on an update to allow us to remain in a party and still play online co-op? Also, will there be a way to halt the automatic recording of game clips.
We have no plans to update Ryse specifically but it’s something we should evaluate. As announced by Marc Whitten (via Xbox Wire), the party and chat system in Xbox One is getting a major update in March which will improve a lot of key scenarios all based on feedback from the Xbox community.
13. Are there plans for any future live episodes like the four released in conjunction with Machinima? Also, what led to Martin McCready being selected as Marius over John Hopkins for the live series?
Currently we have no plans for additional live series episodes. We would have loved to have worked with John Hopkins for the live series but unfortunately his schedule did not allow for it.
14. What are your goals as a studio for the Ryse franchise and its future? Your personal goals?
I can’t comment on future plans but what I will say is that we all hope customers continue to enjoy Ryse and the visual showcase it delivered. My personal goals as a Studio Manager for Xbox are to bring exciting new experiences to our fans. I’m a pretty serious gamer myself so it’s thrilling for me to work with new teams on games that I, personally, want to play, like Ryse and the upcoming Sunset Overdrive. There’s lots of other really incredible stuff happening that I unfortunately can’t talk about yet, but we’ll definitely share more in the near future.
A free signed copy of Ryse: Son of Rome for finding an easter egg! – You guys better get going. Be sure to update your twitter feed with Mr. Ybarra’s account @XBOXQWIK. He routinely announces new information and every now and then you may be lucky enough to get a nice QR or Xbox Live code. The 250 achievement points sound especially intriguing. That amount means approximately 15-20 achievements which would lead one to believe we’ll be seeing some story mode content. If you haven’t played Ryse: Son of Rome, be sure to pick it up at the Xbox Games Store. If you have, I’ll be seeing you online for the challenge. Best of luck
Thanks to Mr. Ybarra