Game Modes: Chill, Train and Compete!

The Climb came from a simple idea inspired by climbing in real life – that the climbing motion would be fundamentally cool in VR. And it was! Since it was first prototyped in whitebox, we took that core mechanic and turned it into to a full-scale production sports game with real depth, complete with a range of game modes to help you learn, practice, explore, and compete. In this blog, we'll take a look at the game modes you'll get to experience in The Climb, with additional insight supplied by Game Designer Niklas Walenski.


Train

The Climb's core game mechanic is intuitive, but we know there's a lot that's new with the game. It's a new way to experience rock climbing in a game, VR is still a massively new “thing," and we're aware that The Climb might just be a player's first experience with an HMD. In The Climb, you will have moments when you need to physically lean forwards to reach a grip or look around a corner, which is most likely a new game mechanic for most players. So rather than throwing you straight into the game, we open up with a tutorial that explains the basics, so you can comfortably and easily play the first level in the game. After you've translated what you've learned into beating the first stage, we'll give you a second tutorial which introduces some of the more complex moves and grips you have to take on.

In addition to the tutorials, which you can replay at any time, we also have a training wall available as an endless wall. In this mode, you simply keep on climbing, and grips get more and more complex as you ascend. It's a good place to experiment with different ways of playing, to brush up your technique, and to see how far you can go.

"Our training walls are very clean, minimalistic, and kind of futuristic in design. It makes for a nice contrast from the environments in the other game modes, and the design decision is quite deliberate – we want you to focus on the climbing and your technique, rather than being distracted by all of the pretty stuff we fill the game stages with. For instance, if you want to perfect how you negotiate crumbling grips but then a plane zooms by, you might be distracted and look at the plane instead."

Niklas Walenski, Game Designer, The Climb


Compete

Our main game mode is Free Solo mode. In each of our environments, we have three ascent difficulties to master, each featuring different routes and split into stages with checkpoints. With multiple ways up the rock, secret routes to discover, and a few Easter eggs to find too, there's plenty to discover as you improve your time and score on each stage. The Climb isn't just about beating all of our levels though – it's about how you can get quicker, climb more smoothly and efficiently, and compete on the leaderboards. You can also download ghosts from your friends and other players on the leaderboards to compete against, although it'll always come down to you against the rock. All of the game mechanics – including chalk and stamina – come into play, so while there are only a few physical inputs on the controller, as you shoot for quicker times and a better “flow," there is real depth to the gameplay, which will lead to real competition to be the best. The Climb isn't just about getting to the top – it's about doing it quickly and with style too.

We score your performance in a range of different ways. Of course, time is probably the most obvious, and we think the competition will be really intense. It certainly is in the studio! But we also score you on your 'flow' across a range of other mechanics. Can you beat the stage without dying? Without chalking? Without rewinding? Did you climb smoothly? Did you use harder grip types? Did you do cool stuff like huge leaps or hold onto grips with the trigger just half-pressed, something pretty tricky to do? There's a huge range of ways for you to improve your score on every level. "

Niklas Walenski, Game Designer, The Climb


Boulder

We have two bouldering stages in each of our locations. Now, they are shorter… but don't be fooled, these are the hardest challenges in the game. Inspired by real life bouldering, which is often considered far more intense and challenging than climbing on a wall with a rope, our bouldering stages are devilishly difficult, with extremely tough grip placements. They are as much a test of your skill as your problem solving ability, and the challenge is made harder because we take away your chalk, which gives you extra grip, too. You'll try and die, and die again. But when you own the boulder, it's a real achievement.

It's kind of the Dark Souls bit of The Climb. It's very definitely a firm (but fair) challenge, but there will be points where you might think it's impossible! Completing them will take a lot of practice and real skill, but it's really addictive. It gets to the point that making the next grip feels like a real accomplishment, let alone completing the level. We really wanted to capture that feeling of achievement in bouldering, putting you into really intense runs where every grip you make feels awesome."

Niklas Walenski, Game Designer, The Climb


Chill

Tourist mode is available for each of our locations from Free Solo mode. In this mode, there are no scores or achievements, and some of the additional game mechanics which require your attention as you play are stripped away – you're free to climb each route at your own pace as you immerse yourself in the environment. It's a great way to explore new routes in each location and take that knowledge back into competition – or simply enjoy climbing at a more relaxed pace rather than going for high scores or quick times.

Tourist mode is great if you want to show the game off to friends or family who aren't very experienced with gaming, or indeed VR. It strips the game back to its core mechanic and is a chilled way to explore, climb, and feel immersed in the game world. We kind of call it 'Grandparents' mode in the studio – it's super-accessible – and it provides a nice change of pace from the main modes in the game, as well as providing a good way for you to explore different routes if you want to improve your rank on the leaderboards. "

Niklas Walenski, Game Designer, The Climb

Whether you want to chill or compete, how you play is up to you. But topping those leaderboards will be a challenge for even the most experienced gamers.

The Climb Team

April 20, 2016

Time Lapse: 4 Hours in Under 60 Seconds

Scenes!

Crytek Lead 3D Artist Tom Deerberg brings an alpine environment to life. Over four hours of work are compressed into under 60 seconds as Tom places and manipulates TheClimb art assets to give birth to an idyllic mountain river stage. Achieved with CRYENGINE.

April 14, 2016

Alps - Diving into detail

By Finn Meinert Matthiesen, Principal 3D Artist for The Climb

In my last post I talked about the creative process behind our Alps setting. From selecting iconic elements associated with the region to the creation of a sense of scale and beauty, our goal was to present an environment that feels almost like a collage or a postcard of our favorite parts of the Alps. In this blog, I'll look at some of the ways that our artists delivered deep level detail on elements we brought together in Alps, to ensure you'll stay immersed and fully present in the game world.

One of the features that you might associate with the Alps is our cable car. In the game you have to jump on and climb around the cable car in order to reach a higher location in the level. You really get a strong feeling of vertigo and tension as you climb thousands of feet above the ground, and it's a bit like you're James Bond, just without a goon attempting to send you to an early grave while you're trying to find a good grip!

In VR everything that is in your near-field view has to be very detailed because otherwise it easily breaks the immersion. So when it came to making our cable car, we really had to increase the amount of detail for the surface structures far more than you might imagine, especially on the areas where you'll climb.

That meant we had to do a large and perhaps surprising amount of research. For instance, we had to find out what the top of a cable car looks like in real detail, so we could recreate elements like the air conditioning system and the rope mechanism. We added small details like individual signs and stickers and put real emphasis on micro-details like welding seams and screws that are positioned as they would be in real life. All these little fixtures have to feel authentic for the player to have that sense of really being there. They might seem trivial, yet it's that attention to detail that creates the consistency which is important to maintain the immersion in our world.

The cable car is just one example of how we had to go much further to deliver close-up detail than we previously might have. But we also paid that same level of attention to other elements, like the wooden platforms where you begin your ascent or a zip line you'll use to traverse huge gaps. But the most important part of the close-up scenery is the rock surface in front of you. After all, that is what you'll be looking at most of the time when you climb.

To get the required amount of surface detail, we used photogrammetry, a technique that allows us to take scans of real rock surfaces and transfer them into virtual space. This provided us with a great base to work from, as the proportions of the rock formations, even in the micro structure, are really accurate. By using this technique we were able to combine a wide range of rock surfaces to create larger, but still convincing, formations which scale authentically and easily.

Whether you're leaping from one surface to another, hurtling down a zip line, or clambering around a cable car suspended thousands of feet in the air, we hope that as you explore our Alps you'll get a real sense of immersion, scale, and beauty. And it's the detail that VR demands that underpins your sense of presence in our game world.

April 06, 2016

THE CLIMB 360°: ALPS ASCENT

Preview the ascent in our Alps climbing playground – the largest single environment we have created in CRYENGINE – with our 360-degree video.

Click on the arrows in the video's upper left hand corner or drag the cursor across the screen and check out the full panorama of our Alps setting as the camera rises through a game world stretching across 100 km of virtual space. Mountains tower over a serene lake, eagles soar over a fairy-tale castle, and wingsuit daredevils fly past cable cars – which you'll get to climb across in the game – as you control the camera direction and explore Alps. And while we're sure you won't be able to resist looking into the distance, don't forget to look down too... then imagine feeling the vertigo in VR.

Please note that the visual quality of this interactive video is not representative of the final game.

April 04, 2016

Alps – How we created Crytek’s largest environment in CRYENGINE

By Finn Meinert Matthiesen, Principal 3D Artist for The Climb

To work on our Alps setting was a great challenge and a great experience. The Alps is an area of outstanding natural beauty, a geographic wonder and the largest mountain range in Europe – so it was an obvious choice to provide the inspiration for our second location in The Climb. It contrasts nicely with our South-East Asia-themed bay setting, Bay, giving us a totally different visual appearance and composition. It also gave us plenty of scope to explore new gameplay elements, and we used the larger scale of the environment to increase the play space around the player.

For our art direction, we took the same approach as Bay in order to create a varied mix of different geographic and regional elements. Our Alps setting is not an accurate recreation of a real location, but a combination of various areas from Switzerland, southern Bavaria and the Austrian Alps. This approach allowed us to fully focus on creative level design and to come up with flexible environment art solutions without the need to always stick to or be constrained by reality.

Alps is the largest single environment we've created in CRYENGINE so far, with assets spread over 100km in our virtual space. We really wanted to capture the feeling of being in the real-world Alps, to create the illusion of being absolutely present in a huge, rugged, natural environment. That brought challenges, of course. For instance, traditional billboard background techniques that artists would usually use to efficiently get that sense of a large landscape are way more noticeable as fake in VR, and this can break your immersion. We had to really work at how we composed our scenes and we used more real geometry in the distance instead of using billboard assets only. This in turn demands more performance. VR is already quite resource hungry, so we had to optimize hard and make some improvements to the engine, particularly when it came to lighting and performance, to achieve the effect we wanted.


To take advantage of the scale of the environment, and give you a sense of feeling quite small in comparison to these huge rock faces, we start all of our routes high up on the mountains to maximize the impact of our vistas. You'll see mountain top after mountain top stretching out into the distance, huge glassy lakes beneath you, sprawling thick forests, and powerful waterfalls. Whenever you look around, or down, we want you to get a sense of the overwhelming size and power of nature. And as you explore and ascend the routes ahead of you, you get visual feedback on your progress and achievement as you scale the mountain – especially when you reach a checkpoint and you look down at where you've come from.



The Alps, in reality, are of course inherently impressive. But creating such a vast (and often desolate) landscape in replica detail can make the environment actually feel a little empty for the player when in VR. That's why we chose to take inspiration from our favorite parts of the Alps, and bring them together in ways that looked the most impressive while still making sense. Beyond our geographic elements like the woods, snowy hills and rivers which were all blended together, we also brought in fairy-tale castles(inspired especially by the famous Neuschwanstein Castle ), mountain trains, a Bavarian church, and the kind of alpine villages people might expect to find in a romantic and idealized interpretation of the Alps. In the real world, you might find more modern buildings serving tourists up on the slopes or, down in the valleys, industrial units, but we preferred to stick with the traditional timber-frame buildings that you might find on a postcard from the area.

We also fill our levels with plenty of life – from wing suit jumpers, who'll swoop past you as you climb up the rock faces, to eagles soaring across the sky, butterflies, bats, and more. You might even spot a deer or two. Our hot air balloons, which float serenely across the sky, are a nice visual feature. We take some liberties here again – for example, at night, people would only see the balloons when their burners are activated. But we liked the way they light up the sky in general, so we chose give each balloon a permanent glow.

It's been really great seeing how the team has come together to realize our largest environment yet. Constant testing is extremely important for us, and we spend a large amount of time in the VR environment to iterate on it and improve our perception of the virtual space. As we've progressed through development, it's been exciting to see how our own sense of presence when we're “in" the game has become incrementally stronger as we've added more elements and features to build up the game world. It's been a challenge – creating large vistas with immersive detail that run at 90FPS+ per eye has required a lot of effort, hard work and rethinking some of the processes of our craft. Hopefully the team's effort makes the difference when you get the chance to play The Climb yourself.

March 29, 2016

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